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Archive for June, 2014

While living in Saskatchewan I became a huge fan of the show, “Gordon Ramsay’s Best Restaurant”  on Netflix. Although I wasn’t initially a huge Gordon Ramsay fan, I was very quickly won over by him on this show. The premise of the show is that diners from all over the UK submitted votes about their top local restaurants within the UK. The show broke up the restaurants into different categories:

Best English: The West House (http://www.thewesthouserestaurant.co.uk) and The Milestone (http://www.the-milestone.co.uk )

Best Chinese: Kai (http://www.kaimayfair.co.uk/kai/kaihome.html ) and Yu and You (http://www.yuandyou.com)

Best French: Winteringham Fields (https://www.winteringhamfields.co.uk ) and La Garrigue (http://www.lagarrigue.co.uk) Best

Spanish: Fino (http://finorestaurant.com/about/) and El Pirata Detapas ( http://www.elpiratadetapas.co.uk)

Best Thai: Mango Tree (http://www.mangotree.org.uk) and Nahm-Jim (http://nahm-jim.co.uk)

Best Indian: Brilliant (http://www.brilliantrestaurant.com) and Prashad (http://www.prashad.co.uk)

Best North African: Azou (http://www.azou.co.uk) and Momo (http://www.momoresto.com/restaurant/london/momo/)

Best Italian: Casamia (http://www.casamiarestaurant.co.uk) and Mennula (http://www.mennula.com)

In each category there are two restaurants competing against each other top title in their food genre, those restaurants then go onto a semi-finals round, then finals. What I really like about the show is that Ramsay judges each of the restaurants through three different categories. The first is that he surprises each restaurant with a drop in crowd of thirty diners who will be ordering starters, a main meal and dessert all within a two hour time period to test their abilities when working under a high level of pressure. The second test is that they send a undercover food critic to test the level of service and food quality when they aren’t expecting visitors. The third, is a test where Ramsay brings in the two head chefs from each of the restuarants to his Flagship restaurant in London to cook their best meal in their genre for a group of people who are highly knowledgable about their dishes.

The show does a really great job of showing each restaurant’s strength and weaknesses through the three rounds, particularly when focusing on service as well as the food itself. It really humanises these chefs and other working staff within the establishements. For some of these restaurants even being voted into the top 16, gives them an important title that would put some of these restaurants on the map. I also like that it educates viewers on the different types of dining experiences that are available throughout the UK. Obviously when I was watching the show I was very close to the time where I was actually moving to England; while watching the show it was not lost on me that I could soon be potentially eating at these places. However, after a quick initial mapping out of the restaurants over the UK, I quickly realised that only about half of them were actually going to be close to where I was going to be living. Aside from the London restaurants, the only  restaurant that was going to be on my turf was The West House restaurant. Once I actually started living here, I realised that Kent is a much bigger area than I initially thought, and also that it’s pretty rural in places. So I put my hopes to visit The West House on hold.

At the end of the 4th Module in April, I was off to my first British wedding. My boss Bernie was getting married and our department was off to Maidstone to celebrate in the festivities. I primarily spend my time in three places: school, home and London. I really had very little knowledge of how to get to Maidstone or any other parts of Kent for that matter, luckily, I was in the great care of my co-worker Nadia. We left at about noon on a Sunday afternoon, planning to take our time through the British country side, stopping for a bite to eat, finding our hotel room and getting ready for a night of celebrating.

As per usual, it was raining when we left my house. As we drove along the highway, I got to see a scene outside of Dartford and London, a rare occurrence. We decided to stop by this little town to take a little walk along this beautiful cliff overlooking the countryside. One of the reasons I decided to move to England was because of the gorgeous countryside featured in classic British films that I used to watch wistfully. Even though day to day I spend next to zero time in said countryside, being able to drive through them on that day continues to cement all of reasons why England is a perfect place for me to live. Nadia being very familiar with the area and having a vehicle was very kind to point out lovely sights of misty waters, and vast plots of land.

With an already pretty lovely start, it got even better. Nadia and I were walking around the city of Maidstone trying to figure out where to go for lunch. We were discussing great restaurants when I brought up the show Gordon Ramsay’s Top Best Restaurant, and more specifically, The West House as a topic of conversation. Miraculously, Nadia knew exactly what I was talking about. After jumping up and down and gushing about our mutual love for the show, she decided to take action. She found their number, called and  made a reservation for 40 minutes later. After figuring out that it was a 30 minute drive, we sprinted out of Maidstone city centre and made our way to The West House. On our way through the quaint country roads we continued discussing how wonderful the show was. While waiting for lunch, we explored the possibility of visiting more of the restaurants on the show.  Our meal was INCREDIBLE. So incredible in fact that it deserves its’ own post. If you want to read my review, you can read it here: (*link to soon follow). After our mind blowing experience for lunch, we decided that we were going to visit every single restaurant on that list.

The West House 

After lunch we drove through twisted country paths with wooden fences and trees that hugged over the road. It was blissfully quaint and even though I knew we had a gorgeous wedding to go to, I didn’t think the day’s limit to seeing beautiful things could be surpassed.

We then pulled up to this sign:

 

Chilston

 

I, having no idea where we were, or what we were up to next, was immediately taken by what I saw of the grounds. We then saw this:

 

Chilston Day

 

Excitedly, I assumed that we were going to walk along the grounds and perhaps go in for afternoon tea. When Nadia got out of the car, she went to the trunk to get our stuff out of the trunk. I was confused,

“What do we need our bags for?”

“Lill, this is where we’re staying”, she said laughing.

This is where we were staying.

To say I squealed with delight would be an understatement. Nadia then explained that this is where Bernie’s wedding was going to be taking place and that we’d also be staying there. All of a sudden I felt like I was on set for the film “Four Weddings and a Funeral”. Walking down the hallway we walked into this foyer and walked up the staircase:

. View of Staircase

 

Put a skeleton key into our doorway and was introduced to our bedroom:

 

Our Room 2

It all felt so unapologetically (and wonderfully) English.

What was really evident about this hotel room was that it hadn’t changed a whole lot since olden times. There were an incredible amount of cupboards that I could only imagine people unpacking their huge trunks for their month long stay after getting out of their carriage. There were these beautiful window sills, where I imagined someone sitting looking out onto the back gardens, writing a letter to their loved ones who were waiting impatiently for a letter that would arrive three weeks later. The room was magical. We gussied ourselves up, and walked down the Beauty and the Beast staircase to meet our boss on her special day. We walked into a room with a beautiful grand piano, meeting her family and friends. We assembled as an English department in the library (fittingly) and took hilarious pictures together as a group. We danced our faces off, and later assembled outside to watch the bride throw her bouquet. As I walked back in, the sound of my heels on the gravel, thoughts of joy filled me as I witnessed Bernie’s profound happiness at marrying the love of her life. I saw this same beautiful building lit up, under the moonlight, with crickets chirping in the background.

Chilston Night

I sighed at my own happiness, looking back at the scene of guests milling around the fountain. Rain, countryside, a delicious lunch, great friends, a beautiful bride, and a whole night of dancing. England, I really love you.

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