Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Wild Boar Week and The Gallivant Hotel, Rye

We are slap bang in the middle of Wild Boar Week, a celebration of wild boar in beautiful Rye, East Sussex.

Starting this weekend on Saturday 26th October until this Sunday 3rd November – Wild Boar Week has a number of exciting events, woodland tours and culinary deliciousness taking place across the area and recently I was lucky enough to be invited to enjoy a preview of such activities.

I travelled from London St Pancras station via Southeastern changing at Ashford and taking the Southern Railways route on to Rye. These tickets were kindly, complimentary, however can be purchased for a very reasonable £11 return – taking only 90 minutes.

Our home for the next 24 hours was to be The Gallivant – a stylish, shabby-chic hotel by the glorious Camber Sands beach – a place that, for me and I’m sure many Londoners, has fond memories of childhood days spent on this long, golden beach.

The Gallivant is an elegant beachside retreat – decked out in whites and blues and with rooms so comfortable, you immediately feel you are welcomed into a home away from home. You can read more about my stay here on Thursday 31st October, when a second post will be live.

Back to Wild Boar Week; after settling into my double room, I joined the three other guests, our lovely host Diana, and a gentleman who was to give us a comprehensive introduction to wild boars, Mike Peplar and his charming wife, Tracy for a bespoke wild boar dinner that is available throughout this week at The Beach Bistro, the on-site restaurant.

Mike and Tracy Peplar moved to the area a few years back and have become so enchanted by the local woodland, living off of the land, foraging that they have bought several acres of the area and you can read about their adventures at Peplars in Rye.

We enjoyed a wild boar themed menu devised especially by The Beach Bistro’s head chef, Trevor Hambley.

Our starter included gorgeous whole local scallops, cooked through to succulent perfection with just a touch of caramelisation on the outside, to make them a little bite from heaven. Coupled with a crisp sliver of bacon, a concoction of Kentish apple puree and some greenery and then completed with the wild boar component; a risotto cake filled with rich, meaty boar-flavoured rice. The risotto had been shaped into rounds, covered in breadcrumbs and deep fried and all dressed with a tiny bit of balsamic glaze – all to die for and a put together beautifully to make a very pretty plate.

For the main course it was a real meaty treat and once again a very attractively plated dish. Generously thick slices of perfectly tender, pink-centred wild boar, meaty and gamey without the earthiness of meat such as venison were fantastic, a revelation. The piece de la resistance though, had to be a very British classic – a suet pudding filled with slowly braised, beautifully soft and melt-in-the-middle boar leg meat in a rich and unctuous gravy. Suet puddings are such a comforting food, and this absolutely transformed me to childhood in an envelope of warm fuzzy happiness. This simple dish was completed with a side of seasonal vegetables – it was all that was needed against such wonderful cooking.

Our dessert was a shared affair and a glorious one at that. A gorgeous pear tarte tatin was the centre piece of this board of confection and was absolutely gorgeous coupled with the homemade vanilla ice cream. Brandy snaps filled with a pistachio mousse and dipped in pistachio shards were not only innovative, but delicious too – I’ll be trying to re-create these at home. Cinnamon donuts too, were an unexpectedly divine addition to the selection of sweet treats and iced berries with a warm hot white chocolate sauce poured over them were another example of the simple yet impressive and effective style of cooking that prevails at The Beach Bistro. A triumph.

Following a hearty breakfast at The Gallivant, Mike Peplar led our group on an enjoyable woodland tour of a few hours. Mike showed us wild boar tracks, and other evidence of their presence within the woods – such as the random huge holes that they dig around the woods, which can make them unpopular with local farmers!

As well as talking us through some interesting facts about wild boars, Mike was able to identify the different types of tree, flowers and the like as well as a shared interest amongst our group – mushrooms. We saw some exquisite looking fungi, some of which almost looked magical and it has certainly picqued my interest on the matter.

You can find out more about Wild Boar Week and any events taking place here: http://wildboar.org.uk/

On Thursday 31st October I will posting a further review, detailing more about my stay at The Gallivant and The Beach Bistro, but in the meantime you can read more about them here:

For timetables and station information or to purchase tickets online, visit www.southeasternrailway.co.uk and/or www.southernrailways.com

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