Hardly an hour out of London by train (via Charing Cross to Staplehurst) is Hush Heath, a 400 acre estate in the heart of Kent with vineyards, orchards, grasslands and ancient oak forests. The estate also owns a few pubs. Two are within earshot of the Hush Heath vineyards, in the villages of Goudhurst and West Farleigh. Both offer overnight accommodation. The others are in London, near Liverpool Street Station and Smithfield Market.
I spent an early – and extra sunny – Friday touring the estate recently. Now sitting at home typing up my notes and going through my photos on a meh Monday morning, I wish I were still there.
The spread of the land had a gentle slope with pretty vistas afforded from obsessively manicured rows of apple trees and equally well kept vines. A mapped out 45-minute loop started and ended at the winery with tidy (but not terribly fussy) tasting rooms and shop. Following my leisurely stroll round the estate was a tasting session of Hush Heath’s selection of sparkling wines (the estate’s full range of libations includes still wines, ciders and apple juice).
I very much liked all I tasted. Of special note was the Balfour Brut Rosé 2011. Dry and crisp with way more balance, structure and complexity than my taste buds had been hoping for, it was a clean quaff that I’d love to try again.
From the tasting it was on to the estate’s The Tickled Trout pub for lunch and tasting of still wines. Don’t worry. I wasn’t driving.
Similar to my experience with that glass of Balfour, I wasn’t expecting the meal to be quite so delicious. The pub’s menu leaned toward fresh fish and seafood with plenty of locally sourced Kentish ingredients to boot. Highlights included pea and mint soup paired with a juicy and citric Skye’s English Chardonnay 2015, and the catch-of-the-day, roasted whole trout teamed up with crisp Nannette’s English Rose 2015.
The Tickled Trout’s look and feel was properly old time and authentically country. But the upstairs rooms and suites (the manager allowed me a peek) were of more modern design with contemporary furnishings and features.
Despite a strong temptation to crash for a nap and hang round for brekkie the next morning, I made my way back Staplehurst Station for my return train to London.
Hush Heath Winery is located at Five Oak Lane, Staplehurst, Tonbridge TN12 0HT. For details go to hushheath.com.
The Tickled Trout is located at Lower Road, West Farleigh, Maidstone, ME15 0PE. Find out more at thetickledtrout.com.