Published: 06:00, 15 October 2020
We all need a bit of a treat right now and you don't get a much more special day out than a sumptuous meal with chandeliers overhead and the chance to see lions and tigers on your way back to the car.
The Garden Room is the latest restaurant to open within Port Lympne Reserve at Hythe , but it is the first to be open to guests not visiting the park or staying in its accommodation.
Created within Sir Philip Sassoon’s original stable yard, once you step inside, it feels like it could be in central London, with its up-to-the-minute decor, rustic accessories and stylish finish
Look around you and you'll see green walls (with fake greenery, though you'd never know until you get up close), mirrored windows all around, with a vaulted glass ceiling and chandeliers.
It may be fully enclosed, but Victoria Aspinall's aim of creating a relaxed garden experience on the interior design has worked a treat. It feels light and airy, and far bigger than it may actually be - perfect for the socially distanced world we are all living in.
It wasn't an illusion, however, that there was plenty of space between the tables. When we visited on a Sunday lunchtime, the place was buzzing and yet we did not feel in the slightest bit crowded by other guests.
The carefully curated menu, designed by Port Lympne’s executive head chef, Lee Edney, features local seasonal ingredients, many of which aresourced from the reserve’s own growers based at Walmestone, near Wingham.
Dishes include Romney Marsh lamb with confit garlic, broccoli & pearl barley risotto; tuna sashimi with soy & mirin dressing, avocado, orange and tobiko caviar and Longland farm chicken with sweetcorn, cep puree, girolles and cavolo nero.
There was nothing on the menu that wasn't perfectly cooked, presented and served - and don't skip the puddings, as they are a highlight.
There is also an extensive drinks menu, which includes a unique botanical themed cocktail that provides a nod to the garden-inspired surroundings.
The Garden Room has menus for different times in the week, with a traditional Sunday lunch menu. Although we were there at a busy time on a Sunday, with the restaurant full of all walks of life, including family groups and couples, the service was faultless.
Diners who book a table for Sunday lunch will also have complimentary access to the reserve. And although we were too full to take full advantage of the chance to look at all the wild animals, it was impossible not to get excited at seeing the two tigers who had come out to watch the passers-by on our walk back, and several lions.
Find out more and book at aspinallfoundation.org