So, Boyfriend announced that he had booked us into Abode in Canterbury for a weekend break. This is one of a chain of luxury hotels that have popped up throughout the country, run as a joint venture with Michael Caines and each of which houses an MC restaurant and, in Canterbury, an MC Champagne Bar and traditional english pub (the latter known as The Old Brewery Tavern, for which MC has designed a traditional pub grub menu).
Finding out he'd picked Adobe, I immediately suggested we booked into MC's restaurant for the Saturday night - well, it'd be rude not to after all.
The dining experience started when I called on the Friday to double check the dress code. I was told by the charming member of staff that it was smart casual; when I clarified, for Boyfriend's benefit, that this definitely meant no jeans, she hesitated slightly and said that if people turned up in jeans, they weren't going to turn them away, but her intimation seemed to be that they would rather people didn't - we took the hint and turned up smart.
The reason for the hesitation regarding dress code became immediately obvious when we arrived on the Saturday night for a pre-dinner drink at the Champagne Bar. The Bar is open to all so was filled with a mixture of people, from those looking forward to a romantic dinner at the restauant, to shoppers who had popped in for a cheeky post-shop drink and were still there a couple of hours later. Some of the clientele seemed like they might be on the verge of ringing up ITV2 to see if they fancied a new show called "The Only Way is Canterbury" so it became self-evident why there was no rigid dress code enforced. Staff, though, were attentive; the cocktail, champagne and wine menu plentiful, and the champagne cocktails delicious. Price wise, they were similar to (if not marginally cheaper) than London prices.
We were taken through to the restaurant in good time with pleasant and attentive staff - a nice touch being the waiter who actually gave us a choice of where to sit since the restaurant (whilst busy) was not full. Boyfriend ordered ballotine of duck as his starter, which came with a duck spring roll and thinly sliced beetroot on the side. The noises of appreciation he made whilst chomping on this told me it was apparently delicious. I opted for butternut squash ravioli, which had a nutmeg and parmesan foam. This was extremely rich and sumptous, no doubt helped by the lashings of truffle oil that had been added. I am not a massive fan of truffle oil and starters (including this one) tend to be my least favourite course of a dinner, but nonetheless the dish was tasty and those who love truffle oil will be in for an absolute treat.
We both had roast duck for the main course (shame on Boyfriend having a double duck!), which was sublime - the skin was beautifully seasoned and crispy, the meat medium rare and cooked to perfection. Sides came as an extra, which is a bit annoying given we were paying £23 for a main course, but in the spirit of going all out to enjoy the meal, we duly ordered carrots and the pomme puree and both were very good.
A pre-dessert in the form of a delightfully refreshing yoghurt topped with rhubarb followed, before we shared a dessert which was the trio of chocolate: dark chocolate mousse and chocolate cream encased in a white chocolate shell with chocolate chantilly. I should add at this stage that I have a ravenous sweet tooth, so this sublime dessert was the highlight of the meal for me - I thoroughly regretted agreeing to share it with Boyfriend.
So now are you probably going to ask me why the 4 stars rather than 5, and this is where the evening went a bit downhill. Boyfriend is partial to his real ales, so we decided to try out the Old Brewery Tavern for a post dinner drink, and therefore ventured outside and just round the corner to the entrance (whilst very much part of the Abode hotel, it is in a separate annexe). We were greeted by an enormous bouncer who asked us for ID and said we couldn't go in without it.
I'm 30 years old, Boyfriend is 31, and in view of the occasionally over zealous "think 25" policy, I sometimes do get asked for ID but generally this tends to be in less salubrious places. However, as we were effectively going into MC's hotel pub, and in no way shape or form looked like we might have been two 17 year olds trying to sneak in for a cheeky pint of cider, I hadn't thought to bring anything with me. Not wanting to argue with the bouncer who looked like he could have snapped both of us in two with a flick of his right hand, we walked back to the hotel reception and then eventually found solace in a different pub across the way, before a night cap back at the Champagne Bar.
I mentioned this experience to the hotel reception who told me it was policy to ID everyone going into the pub (hmm - even my 98 year old granny, I wondered). I suggested that perhaps they might want to look at the clientele the pub was attracting; in hindsight, I thought the bouncer may have done us a favour given the look of some of the people who did duly produce ID and were let in. However, a little surprised that MC has put his name to this part of Abode- it somewhat detracts from the Restaurant's efforts to make you feel special and gives the impression of a place that is attracting (and therefore a bit paranoid about) underage drinkers, which doesn't really sit well with the classy restaurant and champagne bar.
Having said that, don't let it put you off the Restaurant - food wise, the quality gives a restaurant like The Ledbury a decent run for its money and far surpasses some of Mr G Ramsay's establishments - but if you want a pre or post dinner drink on a Saturday night, stick to the Champagne Bar unless you (and your 98 year old Granny) remember to take your passports out with you.