Charlie Bond pays a visit to Dale Hill Golf Club and Hotel in Ticehurst and certainly leaves feeling chipper…
I’ll be honest – prior to my stay at Dale Hill, when I thought ‘golf club’, the immediate image conjured up was a lot of brown and beige, and somewhere that wouldn’t cater for those who don’t know the difference between a driver and a putter – but I’m happy to say that after a stay there, I’ve been proved wrong (although I still don’t know what any of the clubs are called.)
Tucked away in the idyllic Sussex countryside, Dale Hill Golf Club and Hotel is set in 350 acres of grounds, and as well as impressive leisure facilities, two 18-hole golf courses and three eateries, they also have 35 recently refurbished bedrooms. So, to see what happens beyond the green, I’m visiting to see the new suites and spend a night dining and dreaming at the hotel.
As I pull into the car park, the heavens open and I make a dash for the hotel entrance. Golf buggies surround, filled with people sheltering from the downpour. I’m tempted to get myself one – they’re definitely an upgrade from an umbrella.
Despite my soggy appearance, I’m still allowed inside, and head straight to my room to dry off and freshen up. The hotel has had something of an upgrade this year, with all 35 en suite rooms receiving a facelift. Opening the door, I have to say, they’ve done a good job – the room is modern, sleek and sophisticated, with soft lighting and an even softer bed. Throwing back the curtains reveals another delight – the room overlooks the golf course, and even with the autumn drizzle, it doesn’t deter from the fact the view is stunning.
The bathrooms have also been restored, and sport sparkling white tiles, stylish grey flooring and both a shower and bath – how to choose? After deciding on a shower (which I’m in so long I may as well have had a bath) I’m particularly impressed by the heated mirror over the sink which doesn’t fog – these are the kind of amenities all bathrooms should come with.
Once beautifying is out of the way, my guest and I make our way to the Wealden View restaurant where we’re booked for dinner. If there was any doubt as to how it got its name, upon entering it becomes very apparent – aspect windows to the far end give diners a stunning view out over the golf course and the Weald beyond.
We’re shown to our table, right by the windows to the scenery outside. It doesn’t matter that it’s a bit overcast; the rolling hills and treetops can’t be spoiled by a spot of rain.
Once we’ve finished relishing the views, we focus on the task in hand – ordering dinner. As one of three restaurants at Dale Hill, the Wealden View specialises in fine dining, and with a rosette award to its name, I know we’ll be in for a treat.
While we deliberate, we’re presented with fresh bread to whet our appetites. There are a lot of options to choose from, so to try and help us decide, we curiously peer at the tables of other diners to see what they’ve chosen.
Eventually, we both settle on the soup of the day, which we’re informed is spiced carrot, then for mains, I select the pan seared seabream fillet, while my guest opts for the woodland farm salt marsh lamb rump.
Soft music sets the atmosphere by playing quietly in the background, and we begin to relax into the evening as we sip our wine and watch the daylight fade.
It’s not long before we’re each presented with a large bowl of soup, filled with a vibrant orange liquid and garnished with coriander. We eagerly tuck in, and concur that it’s delicious – it’s lightly spiced without being overpowering and filling without being too indulgent.
While we wait for our main courses, the staff do their best to ensure we’re well looked after; someone is always nearby to top up our drinks if needed, and nothing is too much trouble. The chef also comes to greet us and other diners, and says he hopes we’re happy with our meals, which so far, we certainly are.
It’s not long before two impressive dishes make their way to our table. Both beautifully presented, my seabream sits delicately atop a crab and potato cake, while my guest’s lamb looks tender and hearty.
The taste of the dishes exceeds the impressive presentation – my seabream is delightfully crisp and the spice in the potato cake pairs perfectly, while the addition of shredded mange tout, radish and sweet chilli give the dish a really fresh, zesty flavour. My guest’s lamb, which is served with boulangere potatoes, white onion puree and baby leaf spinach with salsa verde is also delicious.
Portion sizes here are generous, but not so large we have to think about whether or not to have dessert. And, now that it’s officially autumn, what better way to welcome in the season than to indulge in some sticky toffee pudding?
When it arrives, we definitely have no regrets – the sponge is moist, the toffee sauce decadent and the piece de resistance is the honeycomb ice cream, which I could happily eat for the rest of my life and never tire of. In the past, I’ve had some disappointing sticky toffee puddings, but this is wonderful – there’s enough sauce to accompany every bite, and it’s sweet without being too sickly. My guest, who fancies himself as a bit of a sticky toffee connoisseur (read: he eats a lot of puddings), tells me he thinks it’s one of the best he’s ever had, so it must be good.
On something of a sugar high, we decide to explore the hotel after dinner, and find ourselves in the lounge, where we order drinks and retire to one of the comfy sofas while we watch a large group of golfers play an animated card game, and another couple enjoy a meal together.
Finally, once the toffee hit has subsided, we retire to our room, crawl into the comfy bed and drift off to the sounds of silence outside.
The next morning I wake early and make the most of the time by watching the sun rise across the golf course from our room’s balconette. We’re further treated to spectacular sights over breakfast as we find ourselves back in the Wealden View Restaurant, and over eggs and bacon we watch the light stream across the green. Although last night’s views were impressive, today, with the autumn sunshine highlighting the course and the countryside beyond, they really are a sight to behold.
We leave, promising to return, because despite only excelling at crazy golf, Dale Hill isn’t just for the keen golfers – the supper, suites and stunning views all make it well above par.