Hush Heath Estate

Hush Heath Estate is a wonderful, perfectly manicured vineyard in Staplehurst, Kent. I was lucky enough to win a VIP wine experience so my friends and I were treated to a private tour and wine tasting.

image The vineyard is absolutely beautiful, we got to walk around the many acres of land and look at the vines and orchards, it was  tour and work out in one. Hush Heath also boasts a beautiful woodland and they have worked hard to encourage wildlife including owls and deer.

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What I really liked about Hush Heath, was that you got a real sense of the pride and care that goes into each and every bottle of wine or cider that they produce. The owners, who live in a house overlooking the estate, are really involved in the wine making. They care about their produce and it shows. The vineyard is perfectly manicured, they have looked back through historical records to name the vineyards after the names they had on the farm maps in the 1820s. Our tour guide, Cheryl, was wonderful. She told us that the owners light candles underneath the vines when there is a frost or fog so that the grapes are not damaged…We all began to understand why the price of the bottles can seem expensive; it really does reflect the care that is put into them.

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We got to see the bottling and labelling process, the tour was really informative and our guide was able to answer all of the questions that we had.

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The vineyard has a beautiful shop which sells their range of wine and ciders. The ‘flagship’ bottle is the Balfour Brut Rose, it’s a delicious sparkling wine and could definitely hold its own against many champagnes. The bottles of wine are named after the owner, Richard Balfour-Lynn and his family, a really cute idea. They work together to run the vineyard.

Our favourite wine was the Chardonnay. Perhaps tainted by experiences of Blossom Hill growing up, I’m not usually a Chardonnay fan. However, this Chardonnay was so light and delicious that we had to buy a case of it. At the moment if you buy a case of 6 then you get one bottle free – who can refuse an offer like that? The bottles range from around £14 for the wines to £35 for the sparkling wines. The ciders are also tasty and very reasonably priced, we really enjoyed the still cider too.

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The tour was really fun, the vineyards were just wonderful and the tasting was delicious and relaxed. Our tour guide, Cheryl, was fantastic and really took care of us. The pride that the staff take in what the vineyard do is very clear and if you’re lucky enough to taste the liquid gold then it is clear why.

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Elvey Farm

Elvey Farm is a beautiful guesthouse and restaurant in Pluckley, Kent. They pride themselves in championing local produce. We decided to visit for Sunday lunch…

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To drink: We kept it local and had a bottle of Kentish wine from Biddenden vineyard. The Ortega is a delicious, it has won local awards.

To start: Toby had a tasty ham hock terrine and I had some smoked salmon and black pepper. Both were fantastic, I was a little disappointed with the small portion size for the salmon but I am a little greedy…

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Main course: As it was Sunday, roast lamb, pork and chicken were available. All were served with roast potatoes and vegetables. I went for roast pork and Toby had roast lamb, both were perfectly cooked and the portion sizes were great; we felt full but not sick (as I sometimes tend to feel after eating too much roast dinner).

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Dessert: Toby had a Kentish cheese plate and I went for a dark chocolate orange ganache with clotted cream and berries. The orange ganache was delicious and not too heavy.

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We finished off with a pot of Pluckley coffee, absolutely fantastic.

We were both really impressed with Elvey Farm. The service was faultless, the staff were so friendly and helpful. We love that menu doesn’t have too many options, they offer a few dishes and they do them well, whilst also championing local produce. The place itself is surrounded by the beautiful Kent countryside, what’s not to like?

Bee’s Knees Granola

I love breakfast cereal. Sometimes I take cereal in for lunch at work and I’ve been known to have a bowl for dinner… Recently I’ve been enjoying lots of granola and museli. Rude Health and Dorset Cereals both have tasty offerings but I think I’ve found something special in Bee’s Knees Granola. Being a fan of local Kentish produce, I saw the packet at Pluckley Farm shop and had to give it a go…

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I was not disappointed. The granola is tasty and nutritious, it is a little more expensive at £3.99 for 500g but made with Kentish apple syrup and rapeseed oil it will not disappoint. I’m a huge fan of nuts (haha) and love the mix of flaked almonds, sesame seeds, linseed and sunflower seeds. Mornings can be quite traumatising, running around getting ready for work; thinking of all the things that you need to do, so if you fancy a little breakfast cheer on a grotty work morning then give Bee’s Knees Granola a go!

Private Chef

We are very blessed to have a fantastic set of friends that like us, appreciate good food and wine.  One of these friends was about to celebrate their birthday and rather than us going to a restaurant for fantastic food, we had the fantastic food come to us by hiring a private chef. Chef Neil, treated us to a superb evening of divine food.

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Our starter was insanely good; Tartar of mackerel with pickled cucumber and citrus cream. It was terrific, I was a little unsure about having the cream with the mackerel but it lifted the flavours so well. We paired this with bottle of Sancerre.

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Our main course was pan-friend wood pigeon in butter with turnip and prune gratin and sweet roast onion. We paired this with either Chardonnay or Beajolais. It was tremendous, the wood pigeon was perfectly cooked – rare, which is how we like it. The gratin was delicious too.

For dessert we had raspberry and champagne jelly with sweet almond cream. The sweet almond cream was divine. We paired this with Bollinger champagne.

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We then had an English cheeseboard with tomato chutney and port.

You might think that having someone come into your house and cook would be quite invasive but it wasn’t at all. Chef Neil was friendly, he didn’t mind us nosing in the kitchen and was an absolute professional. It was lovely to finish dinner and not have a messy kitchen to contend with.

There were 8 of us and we all paid £40, we provided the wine ourselves. For incredible quality food, this was much cheaper than going out and we could make as much noise as wanted to, drink as much wine as we wanted and didn’t have to worry about trains home etc.

If you’re looking for a fantastic and memorable evening, we would all  recommend the experience.