Ambrette is a type of flower (Abelmoschus Moschatu) the stamen of this plant is used to make a musky sent or spice from but it is also a little gem of a place that you will find situated in the heart of the ancient Cinque Port town of Rye, Kent. As you walk through the imposing pillars of the White Vine Hotel into the sumptuous surroundings you know you are in for a culinary treat. We braved a visit on a freezing cold night to savour the delights of Ambrette and was it worth the journey? I will tell you it’s a definite yes!
The building dates back to the 13th century and it gives it an elegant air and a perfect ambiance, all this before you have even looked at the menu! We were greeted by Tobias Barfoot (short-listed for UK Restaurant Manager of the year – 1 of 8 people to achieve this) who took us to our seats which over looked the quaint high street of Rye, the ambiance of the restaurant was peaceful and an understated elegant touch with a cosy panelled dining room in here you could find a gas log fire which gave out good heat and added a subtle glow; rather welcome on a cold eve, the dove painted walls looked lovely in the soft candle light. There is another dining room in The Ambrette which has lime washed panelling which is original to the hotel from the 13th century and a big old fireplace ideal for those cold winter evenings.
We then met our delightful and knowledgeable waitress Emalnuela who served us a Prosecco wine with pomegranate which was delicious and a great start to our evening. His Lordship decided to indulge himself in Pan fried Wood Pigeon with Rosemary and Cinnamon poached peach, which is sourced from the village of Godmersham (near Ashford) not one his Lordship had yet had the chance to shoot on the grounds, he obviously enjoyed it as no sound was uttered until the plate was empty in front of him! I decided to have Partridge smoked with cloves, char grilled pears, spice mung lentils salad with pea chutney; this was cooked to perfection and went well with the wine that Emalnuela chose for us which was a Chenin Blanc which was a pale wine, sweet but high in acid with a full-bodied fruity palate.
We had time to chat to our waiting staff, it was interesting to hear the restaurant had only been open for 14 months and had already won several awards; the man behind Ambrette, Dev Biswal, is passionate about cuisine from the Indian sub-continent and promotes authentic Asian cuisine to fine dining and gourmet status in the UK. Executive chef Dev Biswal uses a delicate blend of flavours and spices to create his unique culinary art, using traditional recipes from India. He believes in supporting others as much as he can – both in the local community and in the developing world. The Ambrette is pro-active in promoting improvements in animal welfare standards and protecting the environment.
For the main course the final decision was going to be difficult, there was so much we would have liked to have tried, obviously we will have to return to savour the other delights. His Lordship thought the South Indian style beef stew with Masala potatoes and coconut chutney was not to be missed. Now my time had come to order and first on my list was the Kentish Venison with carrot and celeriac puree, a sauce of garlic and red wine, it is normally spiced with black pepper and I asked if I could have it without pepper as I am not a fan, this was no problem and the dish was beautifully served. The food was amazing with the venison tender and succulent a great choice. We also had side dishes of locally grown celeriac and carrot puree spiced with mustard seeds and cumin and steamed rice which came in sweet little dishes but enough to share. Naan bread is also served with these dishes, they are small but just right.
Tobias came over to check if we had enjoyed our meal and asked if we would like to meet the Head chief the lovely Dee Pak who is originally from Deli, he has lived here for 7 years and been with the restaurant since its opening in November, he is an extremely talented Chef and obviously proud of his culinary genius that is fully apparent when tasting his delicacy of flavours in the food. His next question was whether we could be enticed by the indulgent desserts and we felt it would be rude not to! His Lordship being a sensible fellow had the Passion fruit and pomegranate Srikhand with orange and apricot halwa homemade ice cream
I ordered chocolate samosas, hand crafted chocolate silk and the exotic rose flavoured vanilla crème brulee, the deserts are not to be missed, they have a depth and complexity to the flavours and aromas which linger after the last unforgettable spoonful, but I am sorry to say I could not bring myself to share the crème brulee, I was after all thinking of His Lordships waistline.
We thoroughly enjoyed all the little extras, like Scallop with Roe in a chutney sauce, this was lightly battered and very moist. We were also given an expresso cup of spiced lentil and Swiss chard soup with a lentil and shallot dumpling with bell pepper, these were all small tasters that were served between courses, they certainly wet the appetite. A new dish for the Lord and I to try was orange and carrot granite – a frozen treat to cleanse the palette, which explodes and pops once placed in the mouth and rejuvenates the taste buds. This was very unique to anything else we had tried and an extremely thrilling and pleasant experience. Very well presented and certainly a brilliant fusion of fine dining and Indian-style cuisine. The food was exquisite, the staff knowledgeable and attentive. I would recommend this restaurant to anyone. Definitely a gem of a flower to be found in in Rye.
The Ambrette at Rye
24 High Street
East Sussex, TN31 7JF