Restaurant Review by Tony Jazz Lifestyle Manager/ Professional Butler to The Rich & Wealthy. 5th Saturday November 2022 with Guest Esther Austin CEO / Founder of Turningpoint You-Lifestyle, Your-Wellbeing Luxury Magazine
Built in 1875, this chalk-white Victorian sprawl is fondly known as the 'white palace' and was a favorite of Victorian high society, who would come to imbibe lungful’s of health-boosting sea air. Illustrious former guests include Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin and composer, Claude Debussy, who composed the symphony, La Mer while in residence. Its huge marble columns, grand ancestral portraits and polished antique furnishings are tasteful, yet pleasingly ostentatious. But there are secrets within its walls. There's an abandoned Moorish tiled Turkish Hamman in the basement, and allegedly, a secret tunnel down to the beach.
It's also five minutes walk from the Victorian Winter Gardens, and the Devonshire and Congress Theatres. East Bourne Pier is a leisurely 13 minutes' constitutional along a pretty palm-lined front. East Bourne station is 1.3 miles away, where trains to London take around two hours.
One of the biggest draws is Mirabelle, the famous fine dining Grand's formal two AA rosette restaurant.
As a resident of London living in such a vibrant city with all its exciting theatres, restaurants, tourist attractions one is never at a lost for having an amazing full social calendar. However for those of us who live and work there especially in the city, many of us have the need from time to time just to get away from all the hustle and bustle of the urban metropolis for such sort after down time. This is exactly what I decided to do when I invited my friend and special guest Esther Austin CEO of Turning Point Magazine to explore the culinary delights of the coastal seaside town of East Bourne. Situated on the South east coast only two hours by train from London Victoria Station, this friendly breezy town famous for its pier and white cliffs has stunning views from many of the hotel balcony’s that proliferate along it's seafront.
However, amongst its many guest houses and promenade hotels, The Grand Hotel East Bourne stands out as a gem on its own. Whilst the five star Hotel boasted two restaurants, The Garden restaurant being the less formal of the two, I was most attracted to booking us into the renowned Mirabelle, the grand's formal two AA rosette restaurant headed by Head Chef Michael Sutherland.
Perched right on the prom, it's a minute's walk from East Bourne’s mottled tan sweep of pebble beach, and a five-minute stroll from the start of the South Downs Way, a 100-mile long footpath between East Bourne and Winchester. We decided to walk it from our modest four star hotel as we were virtually a street away. The presence of the Hotel reminded me more of one of those old Victorian colonial plantation houses as still seen today in some Caribbean islands or the opening scene from the latest James Bond Movie with its white wash walls and marble columns that greeted us as we arrived at the main entrance. After my excited guest, Esther Austin decided to take a few trips around the double swing doors we were greeted by a well-groomed gentleman from the concierge who politely directed us to the main bar for some cocktails. He then offered to take our coats. The smartly dressed gentleman then proceeded to walk us down the long breathtaking scenic corridor with its very high ceilings all elegantly decorated with chandeliers hanging from them and many well-framed nostalgic oil paintings. One almost felt as that we had entered Buckingham Palace if we were not mistaken but without the pomp and ceremony one would expect which was partly due to the very charming and tentative staff.
The Mirabelle restaurant was exactly all that I could have dreamed of in a grand fine dining restaurant. The light blue amazing deco and dark teak cabinets of fine aged whiskeys on display, the sound of a grand piano being played beautifully as we were escorted to our table by yet another well-dressed waiter. They all made us feel like royalty.
The restaurant had only a few guests, which was due to the time of year commonly known as the (low season) so we, therefore, had the place pretty much to ourselves. The candlelight tables and matching linen had set the stage for what we were about to receive, we were already truly thankful.
The cocktail lounge bar where we had enjoyed a few drinks on our arrival had whetted our appetite with a few complimentary canopies which was thrown in for good measure. I noticed that not only were they presented beautifully but each one was explained in detail by the mixologist. Our waiters wasted no time with the formalities and pulled out the chair for my guest and offered us water along with the wine menu. The main menus soon followed and I was very much impressed by many of the classic English dishes listed on the al la carte menu which we ended up choosing from on this occasion. After much deliberation and being spoilt for choice we proceeded to order our entrees. My guest" Lady Austin "went for the seasonal Butternut squash soup while I entertained the crispy pheasant which came with a side order of creamed potatoes.
As we waited for our starters to arrive we were taken back to the roaring twenties with such songs as “Putting on the Ritz" and various nostalgic famous musicals from the fantastic pianist as he tinkled away feverishly on the ivory keys of the black polished, grand piano in the background. This was politely interrupted by the service of two creamy cauliflower based amuse bouches ( Amuse- Bouche In fine dining, are the small bites preceding the main course. An amuse-bouche is not usually included on the final bill, so they are often presented to diners as a “gift from the kitchen.” An amuse-bouche is typically a little bite that packs big, interesting flavors.)
Our waiters Martin and James wore the traditional black & whites with the pinned striped trousers for traditional evening wear as expected topped with black silk bowties. Very impressive, was their level of service as well as their attire as they proceeded to silver serve us with silver tongs from the bread basket. A nice lovely traditional touch of fine dining experience which is so sadly being lost these days, even in the best of Michelin star restaurants.
I had the Venison duo medium well with a side order of spinach whilst my guest Esther went for the Beef Wellington with a side order of green beans. The service of these two dishes were presented with cloches and removed by the waiters at the table. This was most first class as I remembered service like this when I was doing my Savoy Academy Butler school classes back in 2012. I passed with accredited distinction may I humbly add, so I think I can say that I recognize good service when I see it.
The quality of the dishes and portions certainly matched the value of the entire evening. We decided to share a dessert as we were both full from our previous dishes. We opted for a selection of fine sorbets one of which was carrot flavored, and unusual but we weren’t disappointed by the recommendation combination of James our waiter for the evening. After settling the bill we both thought we would retire back to the cocktail and lounge bar were my guest sipped on a quality cognac and I a popular Non -alcoholic Beer. As we reflected on the evening we were already making plans to return to this delightful hotel maybe for afternoon tea in the near future.
This Hotel takes me back to the days when fine dining and hospitality was very theatrical and people had more time or appreciation for living in the present, instead of always looking at what was happening next via their mobile phones.
A time when we had quality conversations over dinner and enjoyed living in the present as we practiced our fine dining etiquette and table manners. The attention to detail and the friendliness of the staff are a credit to the training and dedication of the present management. Everyone was so engaging and seemed to have time for us. Please don’t ever change this lovely Grand Hotel of East Bourne. Although this has only been our first I can safely and comfortably highly recommend your restaurant to all visitors or patrons should have when next visiting your humble but amazing seaside resort in East Bourne. We will definitely be looking to revisit soon. Thank you for a most memorable dining experience.
Tony Jazz Fine Dining Writer Bespoke Lifestyle Consultant to the Rich and Famous https://www.butlersofmayfairbespokeevents.co.uk/