A rising star: The Bull Hotel, Wrotham
What do you get when you cross a 600-year-old coaching inn with an ambitious owner, a team of culinary geniuses, and an index of wines that puts even the most seasoned of connoisseurs to shame? Well in the case of The Bull Hotel, Wrotham, a deserved listing in the Michelin Guide 2015 and Two AA Rosettes – that’s what.
by Gemma Dunn
Since taking the reins seven years ago, owner Martin Deadman has been unyielding in his bid to transform The Bull Hotel from a-then rundown B&B to the award-winning destination it is today. And it has certainly paid off. Popular with local and non-local residents, this hotel and restaurant may retain its 14th-century charm – but it is entirely forward thinking in its approach.
In celebration of its most recent accolade (and never one to shy away from a mid-week getaway), I booked up to discover this rising star for myself.
Upon entrance, the seamless restoration is seriously impressive. In the bar and restaurant area, original beams meet uncovered gnarled oak floors, inglenook fireplaces, original wartime memoirs and complimenting red furnishings. However, it doesn’t stop there. Upstairs – in my abode for the night – the radical overhaul continues, as each of the 11 en-suite rooms are individually styled to enable original features to facilitate modern additions.
Think Laura Ashley furnishings, bespoke décor and reconditioned Georgian windows, alongside an LCD TV, free Wi-Fi and tea and coffee facilities. The perfect stopover for diners, weekenders, corporate clients and more, The Bull Hotel has a room to suit every occasion. What’s more, the freshly cooked breakfast that follows in the morning doesn’t go amiss!
For now, I was looking forward to my dinner reservation. Seated by the warming fire, my guest and I chose our courses from the à la carte menu – and, of course, a glass of vino from what I can only describe as the most extensive wine list I have ever seen!
My starter of chicken liver parfait, caramelised onion, and saffron raison bread was delectable, as was my guest’s in-house smoked salmon fillet, served with fish croquet, chive purée, and a delicious crab bisque shot.
Slow-braised lamb shoulder was my main of choice, paired with butternut squash purée, a fabulous oxtail horseradish beignet, truffle spinach, and a fragrant minted lamb jus. My guest’s pork belly – sourced from local producer, Harvel House Farm Shop – was exceptionally tender and served with kale, black pudding, creamy mash, burnt orange purée and crackling.
Mid-January detox, dessert certainly shouldn’t have been on my agenda; however, a firm believer that you can never have too much of a good thing – and this is a good thing – I snapped up the perfectly executed chocolate and almond cake, accompanied by almond brittle, candied fennel and poached pear. My guest opted for the vanilla crème brûlée, escorted by a fabulous blackcurrant and elderflower shot.
Much like the remainder of The Bull Hotel’s innovative menus – lunch, set, bar, or alike – the driving force behind the restaurant’s refined dishes and penchant for using quality, locally sourced and seasonal ingredients, is its prized team of chefs, led by experienced head chef, James Hawkes.
Provenance is a credential that extends to the drinks menu too, as the bar serves up wines, beers and ales selected from local vineyards and artisan breweries.
If you’re looking for a spot of entertainment post-dinner or even during, on the first Friday and last Wednesday of every month, two fantastic jazz groups play in the bar, and on the third Friday of every month, guitarist Paul Mason entertains.
However, the fun doesn’t stop there. If you have a soft spot for al fresco dining, don’t miss the return of The Bull Hotel’s gourmet Bull Pit this summer, whereby guests are invited to relax in the courtyard and indulge in the juiciest joints from the best local suppliers. Bringing the city-esque BBQ revolution to Kent, the food is accompanied by artisan beer from London’s trendiest microbreweries. There’s also talk of introducing a smokehouse menu to the restaurant’s current batch, so there are plenty of reasons to visit in 2015!
From wartime hangout to Michelin-rated restaurant, The Bull Hotel has provided a place of leisure and respite for centuries gone by, and Martin certainly looks set to continue the tradition. Brimming with character, the future is infinitely bright for this Kentish gem and I, for one, am holding out for the next award.
The Bull Hotel, Bull Lane, Wrotham TN15 7RF
Weddings at The Bull Hotel, Wrotham
With the use of the bar, restaurant, hotel, and The Buttery function room, The Bull Hotel offers a licensed venue that can host your whole day from the ceremony to the wedding breakfast, and right through to the reception. Get in touch to for more information.