Rye’s White Vine House & Ambrette Restaurant. Sussex, England
We’ve been watching the wonderful adaptation of EF Benson’s Mapp & Lucia on the TV.
The books were actually written in Rye, Sussex. But Benson re-named it Tilling.
I love Rye. I stayed in the White Vine last year.
When Javed left his job in financial services in London in 2004 and moved to Rye, the White Vine House came on the market and Javed eagerly bought it to fulfil his dream of running his own business.
But there must have been times during the long renovation work when he was tempted to change its name to the White Elephant House, because every time he began one necessary job, he exposed another one.
Time, and money, were disappearing fast, so he borrowed the amazing Tony from his father. And 10 years later, he still hasn’t given him back!
A builder by trade, Tony cooks, cleans, and carries out any maintenance work; and believe me, not many professional chefs can produce a breakfast as good as Tony can!
I travel a lot, and most hotels are, quite honestly, bland and characterless.
The White Vine however deserves its AA five stars.
Every single thing about it is absolute perfection.
If I say it has been lovingly restored, but brought into the 21st Century, it sounds like a conflicting statement. But it’s true. You’ll have to see it for yourself to understand what I mean!
As the work progressed, the layers of history were peeled back.
The cellar is Medieval, so the White Vine was probably built on top of an earlier house.
When the Elizabethan oak panelling was cleaned, it exposed the craftsman’s mark. The room is off-square, and the panels were hand-carved to fit the room. They probably cost more than the whole house!
Above the fireplace in the lounge, they discovered Catherine of Aragon’s flag carved on the right, and an etching of HR, Henry Rex, Henry VIII on the left.
There are many stories yet to be told about the White Vine.
Our room was welcoming and stylish, with the best tea and coffee selection that I’ve ever seen!
As Javed said, it only costs a few pence more to provide chocolate bars and sweets instead of just the standard packets of biscuits.
It was the first time I’d slept in a four-poster bed. Another dream fulfilled.
The bathroom’s huge. What looks like an above-the-sink mirror turned out to be a TV!
There are four double rooms and two family suites, so there is only a maximum of 16 guests when the White Vine is full.
Each room is a different shape and design. You really must ask to see them all!
Javed sub-let the restaurant to Dev Biswal. It’s called The Ambrette, and is constantly winning awards.
Booking is imperative!
The Ambrette is as high a quality as the White Vine. They go together like Champagne and Caviar – but at an affordable price! It’s not just a restaurant, it’s an entertainment. And no, it’s not a curry house.
I had local Rye scallops to start and Hubby John had pigeon.
Then I had a wonderful tender duck and John had pheasant.
In between each gorgeous course, little ‘amuse bouches’ appeared, each a titillation to the taste-buds, and not too filling, so our main food wasn’t spoilt.
One of them had popping candy in it and all the diners laughed and spoke to each other as it exploded in our mouths.
To finish, we had a selection of sweets so we could try them all.
One of them was rose crème brulee.
I can’t stand crème brulee. But, oh, the rose-flavoured one was delicious, and I’ve got the recipe!
OK, there’s no such thing as perfection, so how do the White Vine and the Ambrette lose Brownie Points?
Let’s pretend we’re in that TV programme, trying to find fault so that we can win the competition.
Rye High Street is a Medieval street, so it wasn’t designed for cars.
Parking is a problem. You have to unload your luggage and park round the corner.
But the good news is, Rye traffic wardens are sympathetic. And there’s always someone in the White Vine to help you with your luggage.
As the windows are very old and we overlooked the main street, there was some traffic noise But in the night there wasn’t any traffic going by, so we slept well.
If you’ve never been to the historical town of Rye, it’s well worth a visit. I like to go there every year, and I take friends and visitors to see it.
Here’s The Ambrette’s Dev Biswal on Superscrimpers, shopping and then cooking a 3-course gourmet meal for 8 people for under £20, as shown on Channel 4. He talks about buying local, seasonal and fresh food, from greengrocers, small traders and markets.