As a chef, when a lot of your produce comes from a walled garden that has its own, season-defying microclimate, it can create some unusual problems. ‘We grew kiwi fruits, which we harvested in November, stored, and served at Christmas,’ explains Gravetye’s George Blogg, ‘but no-one would believe that they were grown here.’ Undeterred, he and gardener Tom Coward are working on peaches this year and continuing to exploit every growing opportunity across Gravetye’s large kitchen garden, orchards, hothouses, polytunnels and foraging spots. ‘In summer, we have a ridiculous amount of veg,’ says George, whose team is often busy preserving, brining and drying such ingredients in order to use them over winter. In total, this beautiful Elizabethan manor house is surrounded by 1,000 acres of lakes, forest and wild flower meadows. Forty of these are managed gardens, famously first cultivated by the pioneering 19th century horticulturalist, William Robinson. Hotel guests and diners can explore throughout and, on fine days, eat on various, gorgeous, outdoor terraces – albeit from a simpler, garden-driven lounge menu. ‘The nearest house is a mile away and we’re not under any flight paths,’ says George, ‘One thing Gravetye offers is escapism.’
However, to experience his cooking at its most intense, you have to book for the full, formal, blowout dinner in Gravetye’s wood-panelled restaurant. A late-summer plate of sea bass with various iterations of razor clam and courgette is relatively straightforward, but in his pursuit of powerful flavours George’s cooking can get pretty complex. A key dish pairs sliced and semi-dried heritage tomatoes with ewe’s cheese served shaved and as a sorbet, cured pork jowl, muscovado fluid gel and a foam of tomato consommé. In such dishes, George turns Gravetye’s homegrown ingredients into something quite extraordinary. Dinner from £65; gravetyemanor.co.uk.
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