From a homely, vaguely mock Tudor sprawl into a sleek, Californian retreat – it’s an ugly duckling to swan transformation for East Grinstead’s former Felbridge Hotel, now rebranded as the Crowne Plaza.
The restaurant menu too has moved into the 21st century.
Rob Allum, 34, has returned to the hotel as head chef after four years working in top hotels in the Middle East – and it shows (and tastes).
The hotel invited us along for a trial supper on what met men said was the hottest day of the year.
No matter – the hotel’s air-con meant we could keep our cool.
Likewise, recessed lighting was bright enough to see was on our plates, not blast a Stasi-level spot directly onto my non-botoxed brows.
The inside is very shimmery and elegant indeed with pale, wood floors, pale, circular tables and walls of a greyish, beigey shade that’s easy on the eye. Bright young managers said pictures are being chosen. Not necessary – one man’s Monet is another’s graffiti’d wall.
We have complicated lives – let’s just gaze at smooth space.
Dishes are fairly priced; not so cheap you’d worry about ingredients, but not so expensive tired couples are deterred from enjoying a pre-holiday supper before their dawn airport taxi.
Both M and I opted for a double helping of marinated olives followed by Tempura King Prawns – an absolute masterpiece with deceptively spicy sauce, crunchy batter and slivers of avocado.
Next for me was Arabian Spiced Lamb Shoulder with cous cous and stuffed aubergine – very reminiscent of Rob’s time in the Middle East. From downtown East Grinstead I was swept into a Bedouin tent – the meat was soft and luscious, quietly spiced rather than blasted with chilli and the aubergine was a dreamy concoction.
M chose the Slowcooked BBQ Short Rib. As a former hotelier and restaurateur, he’s usually hideously conservative and choosy in restaurants he doesn’t know, opting for steak or fish as ‘they can’t get it too wrong.’ But this meat was beautifully and carefully cooked with the cheddar mash a perfect accompaniment – and soaker-upper of fine juices.
There was no room for puds, but we did our best to tackle a Chocolate Praline Mousse Cake and Strawberry and Balsamic Eton Mess (me.) A classic combination but the perfect cool ending to a cool evening in a cool place cared for by a cool team (loved the smart black blazers).
Well done Crowne Plaza – we’ll be back.
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