The Gallivant Hotel & Bistro in Camber is a little piece of The Hamptons on the East Sussex Coast. The New England style beach hut hotel is a favourite among London weekenders escaping the city for its chilled out atmosphere, excellent food and enviable location at the foot of golden sand dunes.
Formerly a retro motel, The Gallivant is an independent 18-room boutique hotel with a destination restaurant that attracts both locals and hotel guests. Inside, the hotel is bright and inviting, with nautical, shabby chic interiors and artwork by local artists.
I stayed in a Coastal Double Room, which was cosy, stylish and just the right size for a weekend getaway. There are also larger Beach Hut rooms and luxurious cottages for families that want a little more privacy. My room featured stunning whitewash driftwood furniture, a large flat-screen LG TV and DVD player, a retro telephone and tea and coffee making facilities with large tea cups and saucers and a cute Kilner jar filled with mini ginger cookies made by the kitchen.
The bed was surprisingly one of the best hotel beds I’ve slept in – sumptuous, soft and covered in luxurious Egyptian cotton sheets. I also liked the thoughtful touches such as a stack of books to read, quaint wooden pegs instead of a wardrobe and vintage style postcards to keep or send to family. The free wifi and DVD library are also convenient for keeping connected and entertained.
The bathroom was simple and medium-sized with a bathtub and shower, fluffy towels, bathrobes and basic amenities by The White Company. The Gallivant is literally one of the only places where a scallop shell as a soap dish is appropriate!
Dinner at The Beach Bistro during Rye Scallop Week was a highlight of my stay. At the helm is Chef Trevor Hambley, who previously worked with Marco Pierre White and Jean Christophe Novelli. His food philosophy is to source quality seasonal ingredients from artisan suppliers, local fishermen and farms within a 30 mile radius.
Trevor created a special five-course menu including scallop dishes that featured in his cooking demonstration the next day. Each course was paired with wines from Kent and South Africa and a 5 year-old Somerset Cider Brandy, although we couldn’t quite keep up with each course.
My favourite scallop dish was the Millefeuille of Rye bay scallop ceviche, beetroot and horseradish cream. The combination of tangy lime-cured scallop, beetroot crisps and the smooth, peppery cream was innovative and delicious. This was followed by a fresh and zesty Citrus crusted Rye bay scallops, trout tartar and oyster jelly.
Gallivant fish soup with garlic rouille, crispy croutons and Gruyere features as a starter on the menu and is an absolute must. The soup is thick, buttery and rich and the fish is fresh but not overpowering.
For the main course, we tried a local speciality of Roast salt marsh lamb with braised little gems and potato gratin dauphinoise. Romney salt marsh lambs roam in the fields close to The Gallivant and the meat is known for its rich flavour and marbled texture. The lamb was succulent and juicy and the herb-infused potato gratin dauphinoise was a moreish, comforting accompaniment.
Pear Tarte Tatin with vanilla ice cream is the signature dessert at The Beach Bistro and was an indulgent way to finish the meal. The caramelised pears were soft and juicy and the thin golden pastry was baked to perfection.
The Beach Bistro has a relaxed, grown-up atmosphere, which could be due to the colder season and the higher end prices (main courses range from £13.50 to £18.50). On Sunday, guests are treated to live jazz and in the summer, the restaurant becomes open-air with a terrace. The permanent marquee next to the restaurant also becomes a beach bar during the hotter months, serving drinks and hosting barbecues.
The Gallivant is also ideal for couples wanting their dream beach wedding, but with friends and family joining in the party. Done in a very English way, the bride and groom can get married in the hotel, pose for photos on the sand dunes and have a big feast and party in the marquee until the small hours of the morning, then roll back to the rooms. What could be better than taking over a whole hotel for the big day!
Breakfast is a beautifully-presented, unfussy buffet of cereals, Gallivant bread with home-made preserves, the best banana bread I’ve ever tasted, Greek yoghurt with poached seasonal fruits, freshly-squeezed juices. My Scrambled Eggs with fresh chives with toast and bacon were exceptionally tasty and a delicious, light start to the day.
Other tempting breakfast dishes include French toast, Hand-cut bacon and egg sandwich with Gallivant spicy tomato sauce and The Gallivant English breakfast.
So, what is there to do at The Gallivant other than beaching and eating? Guests can kite surf, practice their swing at the Rye Golf Course, go antiquing in nearby Rye (just 3 miles away), bring their own dog or take the hotel’s dog Camber for a walk along the 5 mile golden sand beach. After an active day, the cosy lounge is the place to curl up with a good book or watch the enormous flat screen TV on the comfy sofas with a drink.
The Gallivant is the perfect beach-side bolt hole for a relaxing weekend away from the city. If Cornwall is too far away and Brighton’s pebble beach just won’t cut it, Camber Sands is a convenient, picturesque and unspoiled destination. The Gallivant is full of personality and style, with a friendly, holiday atmosphere that is sure to charm.
Rooms start from £115 per night including breakfast. For more information and booking, visit: www.thegallivanthotel.com
Travel by train to The Gallivant from St Pancras International to Rye from just £11.
– Southeastern from St Pancras to Ashford. For timetables and station information or to purchase tickets online, visit: www.southeasternrailway.co.uk
– Southern Railways from Ashford to Rye. To purchase tickets online, visit: www.southernrailways.com
Chérie City was a guest of The Gallivant
Photos by Chérie City and The Gallivant