insideKENT Reviews The Rose, Deal
A timeless embodiment of everything Deal is so loved for: style, sophistication and a familiar air of nostalgic comfort.
By Olivia Riccini
Deal’s emergence from its drowsy post-Victorian chrysalis came alongside a blooming of new businesses. From boutique and antique shops to artisan delicatessens and cocktail bars, these new florets in Deal’s glorious bouquet of places to go elevated it with a flourish into a new dawn of chic style and sophistication. One such place, a somewhat late bloomer in said bouquet, yet undoubtedly one of the most magnificent, is The Rose.
Mirroring the town’s own transformation from forgotten (and slightly forlorn) to the forefront of fashion, this hotel, bar and restaurant survived a colourful history before it reached its boutique status of today. Starting life in the Victorian and Edwardian era, The Rose was one of the town’s most popular venues for ‘smokers, evening entertainments and posh dinners’. Owned by Thompson brewery for over 50 years, then sold off as a freehouse, many locals of today will remember it for being a somewhat infamous ‘highstreet boozer’. But in 2016, fate beamed down on The Rose, and coming to rescue and replenish it in what seemed like a storybook twist, was the great grandson of John Matthews, owner of the Thompson & Son brewery, Christopher Hicks. Alongside his wife Alex Bagner, it has been the couple’s extensive renovation and constant nourishment that has allowed The Rose to blossom once more. One bright July day, I came to appreciate The Rose in all its heady glory for myself.
Sitting like a freshly polished jewel in the centre of Deal’s highstreet, a mere street away from the seafront, it is immediately clear that The Rose’s Victorian history has not been forgotten. Instead, this is a quirky character trait that has been embraced and heightened with elements of the modern. The red bricks of the exterior glow like embers in the mid-afternoon sun, set off by a fresh coat of dark navy paint that glosses up original, ornate architectural features that frame the doorway and windows. Embossed in large gold letters in the middle of the building, remains the original wording: ‘Family and Commercial House’. You could mistake yourself for being in one of the photographs of those hard-working Victorians upon first glance, but peer around the corner and you will find a marvellous modern mural of the South Forelands Lighthouse and the iconic White Cliffs painted on its side (a beacon to all Instagrammers), and overhanging the door a reimagined pub sign that alludes to boutique before you even set foot through it.
When I do just this, it is apparent that The Rose’s interiors reflect to an even more miraculous extent what it has done so well on the outside. The dark hues of ocean greens and blues wash over the walls and mix with wooden floorboards; everything seems solid and bold. Plush velvet furniture and velour curtains give the place a comfortingly muffled tone, welcoming guests into a cocoon of stylish luxury with echoes of those Victorian days that boasted billiard rooms and parlours. This comforting welcome is further made by the extraordinary front of house team. A seamless check-in comes from manager Ellie, who, while showing me to my room, tells me that the interior design is the flawless work of co-owner, Alex. “As well as The Rose’s history, Alex wanted to pay homage to our location,” says Ellie. “All the art is by local artists and lots of it depicts the sea and our surroundings. There is even a poster-style print behind the bar from the original Thompson’s Walmer Brewery. We now serve our own Thompson’s Walmer Ale on tap – a nod to Christopher’s grandfather.”
Ellie points out a table of goodies in the hall. Tunnocks Teacakes, a Nespresso coffee machine, a whole host of teas, plus a decanter of sherry are set out for hotel guests to take advantage of – a welcome refuel after a day spent travelling or at the beach. We unlock the room. The ultimate combination of bright and airy meets that same soft, enveloping comfort that runs throughout the venue. A sumptuous king-size bed works in unison with its surroundings, being both a modern luxury while echoing an elegance of the antique, it takes centre stage amidst this enchanting tableau of a room. Every object, piece of furniture and amenity has been carefully considered before being thoughtfully placed. Nothing has been put here with complacency and so every item seems like this room has forever been its calling. As well as those classic, timeless pieces (think heavy chest of draws and Persian rug), there is also an air of the 1970s in which gives it a reassuring air of familiarity while ensuring the guest The Rose knows exactly what is currently on trend. It is this mixture of time periods that gives The Rose a comforting, cocooning feeling – as though you already know and love it so well, while still being aesthetically enthralled.
Upon a glass-topped cane coffee table that sits under my window, with views of the traditional highstreet below, is a vase of fresh sunflowers, and sitting in the corner of the room is a small record player with a generous variety of records for my entertainment. It is small touches like this that reinforce the friendly nature of the venue, a trait that extends into the restaurant and bar below. It is here, or rather the pretty terrace outside, that I indulge in an evening meal. Amidst olive trees and hanging plants, I sip my first cocktail of the night, a cherry martini made with fresh, seasonal cherries from local farm supplier Kent Cherry Co. A tipple which packs a flavour punch, it gets better with every sip. Easing into our meal, we start with lemon and mint stuffed Gordal olives and an Isle of Wight tomato flatbread. Although simple and small, these immediately set the bar high in terms of flavour and panache. The flatbread dreamily pulls apart, the sweet warm dough at one with a smothering of fresh tomato.
Next come our starters. For me, turbot crudo with fresh and preserved grapefruit and braised celery. Beautifully presented, this small plate excels in all areas – a sublime texture gives way to an ultimate flavour combination: the distinct sharpness of the fresh grapefruit and the sweetness of the preserved both work perfectly with the fish, while that distinct celery flavour adds a further twist. Following in this defined, uncomplicated style, my main of grilled monkfish, pickled cucumber and gooseberries is all the more delicious. Freshness and locality are clearly imperative to this menu, which has been devised using local suppliers. The meat, fish, fruit and veg comes from either Deal itself or nearby farms, The Black Pig Butcher being quite literally across the road neighbouring fishmonger, Jenkins & Son. After devouring these harmonious flavours – sharp gooseberries and vinegar-enhanced cucumber combined with fall-apart, buttery monkfish – it’s onto dessert. I stick with the cherry theme and opt for chef Nuno’s olive oil cake with cherries and fig leaf cream. Although appearing to such a scale I believe I can’t possibly take this on alone, the pudding is surprisingly light. The fruity freshness of the cherries gives it a refreshing edge, the olive oil a hint of the Mediterranean, while the sweetness of the cake emits a warm sensation that affirms ‘traditional Kentish pud with a twist’ status.
Back up in my room, comfortably full, I indulge in a warm bath in the sweet, neat tub that has been bespoke crafted at three-quarter length to fit. After a dreamy sleep, I awake in the morning and make use of the rainfall shower that sits on the opposite side of the bathroom; heaven. Floating downstairs on a cloud of comfort and smelling like the complimentary Austin Austin toiletries, I settle down to breakfast after a good, strong cappuccino. Here, breakfast plates are in the form of starter and main, but light eaters should not be deterred. I select the spiced waffle with poached pear and crème fraîche. This waffle is like none I have ever had before. Delightfully delicate, the furthest from synthetic you could possibly get and topped with a blissfully sweet and fresh combination. I finish with a savoury ‘main’ of toasted crumpet with poached egg, smoked salmon and pickled cucumber. A no less than delectable breakfast to complete a supremely satisfactory stay.