Dine Online Discovery
Mills Hotel Battle, East
Every so often we
chance upon a place that's not
known, tucked away perhaps, but
which offers something unique as
well as being great value for money.
The other day we found a country
house hotel in the depths of rural
Sussex, well off the beaten track.
The moment you arrive you know
it's going to be special. The first
prospect is of ancient buildings,
all higgledy-piggledy, but with
generous Georgian windows overlooking
a small lake.
The small lake at the front, pretty
as it is, merely prepares you for
the large and beautiful lake at
the rear of the property which
seems at an almost dangerously
high level relative to the house.
This because the hotel is on the
site of a former gunpowder mill,
and the height of the lake used
to provide the power to drive the
mill wheels. Now all is tranquil,
and there's a lovely electric Victorian
pleasure launch which must be perfect
for summer picnics on the water.
asked for a sneak preview of some
of the rooms and of the ones I
saw, all were different, furnished
with lovely antiques and books,
making you feel like a guest at
a traditional English country house
party. The grounds are part of
the the original battle fields
of the Battle of Hastings when
William of Normandy conquered the
Saxon King Harold to gain the throne
of England in 1066.
We called in for lunch, which
was quite busy for a midweek afternoon,
but not so surprising when you
find that Chef Daniel Ayton's well
planned menu costs £14.95. There
are six dishes to chose from in
each of the three courses and I
think the locals must be guarding
a closely kept secret!
The starters were all classics,
well chosen for lunchtime, but
each had a little twist of originality.
We had two home made charcuterie
dishes - a superbly constructed
game pie with generous slices of
duck, pigeon and other meats which
must have sat under a ton weight
to get them all to stick together
and amalgamate without having to
be drowned in jelly.
My son had the rillette of pork,
again this had the copy book texture
and both dishes had their own delicious
hone made chutneys - red plum to
match the darker game pie, and
apricot to partner the paler pork.
Our friend had the roasted pepper
and tomato soup which had the most
concentrated flavour and velvety
texture. I noticed a very prettily
arranged tomato and mozzarella
salad with generous parmesan shavings
and pesto dressing being delivered
to the next table.
a tough decision (he'd dallied
with the roast Romney Marsh Lamb,
a local speciality) our friend
thought he'd get off lightly with
the salmon, but this was a generous
tranch served skin side up, well
caramelised and presented very
gracefully with spinach and pasatta.
My son had seared calves liver
with a red onion confit that tasted
as if very good balsamic had been
used in its preparation - he would
probably have preferred the traditional
mash instead of the Puy lentils
which he claims to have tired of
- the poor boy lives in the South
of France, breaks your heart doesn't
it! But the side dish of saffron
infused potatoes we all had were
a real delight.
A breast of guinea fowl had a
lovely brown finish to the skin,
but it was the garnish of lightly
panfried chestnuts and artichokes
that really took my fancy. I'll
see if I can cajole Daniel into
letting us take a peek at his recipe
There's a warning on the menu
that all the desserts are made
to order "for maximum presentation".
I asked the waiter if the kitchen
boasted a dedicated pastry chef. Rather,
he said with a gleam in his eye, and
I hope you've left room.
We were glad for a little pause
- if really compromised you could
always run around the lake - but
when the puddings arrived they
were yet another piece of evidence
to support the view that there
is a serious revolution going on
in pastry cooking in England. A
few years ago you wouldn't have
found this style and quality outside
a few places mainly in London.
The inspiration of great chefs
like Albert Roux and Anton Mosimann
is diffusing throughout the country.
Just take a look at this selection:
- Passionfruit Delice with a
Zespri sorbet and raspberry coulis
- Lychee and coconut creme
with a mixed fruit berry
- Selection of Powder Mills sorbets
with mixed fruit (Nick had this
and loved it!)
- Muscat wine panacotta with
roasted fig and orange sesame
- Bitter chocolate silken tart
with tangy mandarin sorbet -
divine, I had that one!
Dinner Menu: 2 courses £22.50,
3 for £25.50
Single rooms £60 - £75
Doubles £85 - £120 Junior Suites from £150
Room rates include full English breakfast and VAT.