The Milk House
This stylish eatery offers mouth-watering roasts and fab boutique summer festival. Stay in one of its beautiful bedrooms and explore Sissinghurst Castle.
I think that I have just kick-started Autumn in picture-perfect style and as we are such good people at Muddy, we are going to share our pearls of wisdom with you as inspiration for a future jaunt in our very own Garden of England – be it with loved one, the younger lot or a get together with your girlfriends.
Copy and paste this into your forthcoming schedule: a hearty walk within Sissinghurst Castle Garden followed by a spectacular feed from the new Autumn menu at The Milk House, a stunning gastro pub located half a mile away.
WORKING UP AN APPETITE
Heralded for its beauty and diversity, the garden at Sissinghurst Castle is among the most famous gardens in England and should be on your to-do list anyhow as one of the top places to visit Kent. And now, there are plenty more chances to go as Sissinghurst Castle Garden will be open at the weekends during the Winter – for the first time in its working life.
English poet, novelist and garden designer Vita Sackville-West and her husband, the diplomat and diarist, Harold Nicolson, who were on the fringes of the Bloomsbury set, are the reason that the garden looks as splendid as it does today. They purchased Sissinghurst in 1930 and the garden opened to the public in the late 1930s before it later become a National Trust property in 1967.
The National Trust, as you may imagine, have done a fantastic job to ensure that this is a place for all ages and interests. I went with a girlfriend and we gossiped our way around the place, whilst pausing every two minutes to admire the flowers aka seething with envy that our own gardens did not emulate these themed ‘outdoor rooms’. There are plenty of friendly volunteers around, armed with lots of knowledge, if you want to find out more.
For those of you hungry for interior inspiration and have a book hiding inside you, the 4-storey red-brick Elizabethan tower with capped octagonal turrets where Sackville-West kept her writing room and wrote her books, will whip you into a creative frenzy. At the top of the tower, there is also a chance to take in the very beautiful countryside and congratulate yourself for choosing to live in Kent.
If you do come with children, there is still plenty to occupy them and work off steam as they have a children’s quiz and trail, plus there’s 460 acres of diverse estate to enjoy. You can pick up an estate map to help you explore the far-reaching grounds and I have been told that there’s a very popular lake walk which is a mile long plus the bird hide is a great spot to sit and spot our winged friends. During the summer months, they host The Big Camp in the orchard, for families where you can expect a night of bug hunting, star gazing, storytelling, live music and toasting marshmallows over a camp fire as well as giant games, sports and a lantern walk around the lakes.
I was also particularly encouraged to see a microwave and pile of kids’ plates/cutlery in the Granary restaurant which is welcome news to any parent who is out and about and needs these creature comforts when it comes to feeding the kids. We didn’t eat at the Granary as The Milk House was beckoning but the dishes have been created with the Vegetable Gardeners to highlight the season’s best produce and the beef stew on various people’s plates smelt pretty darn good.
A special shout-out also needs to go to the lovely café and garden shop at the entrance which is a great place to head to as a destination point for coffee/cake if you didn’t have time to go into the Gardens. The second-hand bookshop, set within the cosy café, is certainly somewhere that I would like to while away my time, and money raised goes back to the fund crucial conservation work at Sissinghurst so a big pat on your back too.
It was then a swift exit through the gift shop (I am a sucker for these places and thankfully left with my purse intact) and onto the main meal of the day at The Milk House which we could have walked to but tummies were rumbling so timing was of the essence.
The Milk House theme is very nicely played out here with decorative churns by the door, cow ornaments discreetly placed behind the bar as well as amusing play-on-word signs dotted around the place. This makes it sound gimmickier than it is as it’s a very stylish place with different zones to suit your purpose and mood. It’s the kind of place where you could flop on their sofas and enjoy food from their Grazing Menu including the likes of Croque TMH Madam with cheese & red onion marmalade or you could saunter into the dining area for a first-class feed.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Onto the main event and before we start mooing on (oh god, its catching) about how good it all was, it’s important to note that the husband and wife team, Dane and Sarah Allchorne, who own and run TMH (as well as The Barrow House in Egerton) have cleverly put together a menu that will suit all age groups and palates. For the more sedate crowd, who just want good pub grub, they will find all their favourites but executed to very high standards on the Autumn Classic menu. You want fish and chips? They’ve got it but it goes up a notch with bitter beer-battered cod with skinny fries, minted pea puree, charred lemon and lemon-thyme tartare sauce.
We were here to sample from the Autumn Dining Menu and were spoilt for choice and I think you will be able to tell from the pictures and the sheer pronunciation of the dishes, that this place means business when it comes to food. Pink pepper Venison carpaccio, pomegranate & land cress with juniper croutons alongside Prawn & kimchi toast, coriander, chilli, nappa cabbage & daikon salad were eventually chosen as our starters and were wolfed down in seconds with some reluctant sharing as we had originally promised to halve dishes.
We plumped (no word felt more appropriate for my this self-indulgent and most enjoyable gluttony) for Cider soaked, chargrilled pork chop, borlotti beans, apple & mustard cream with bacon bits next with Miso & soy mackerel, braised pak choi, sticky lemongrass black rice & sesame and Samphire & kale on the side. If I can’t conjure enough positive adjectives to describe these dishes, then I hope that these pictures do them justice.
The finale of Hedgerow berry, apple & pear crumble with brown sugar custard was a true taste of Autumn with seasonal ice creams (pistachio, amaretto vanilla) for my dining pal, and sadly it was then time to scoot out of there in time for our respective school runs.
There is a whole lot to like here from a kiddie perspective as there are some good food options in place with a healthy twist to please the parents too. Main options include Chicken Bites & Chips with cucumber sticks, fish and chips plus Mac ‘n’ Cheese with wilted spinach. You will have them gasping at the pudding stage though with great choices such as Jelly & Ice Cream with popping candy as well as Belgian waffles, with chocolate sauce and chocolate ice cream if you really want them to vote you as mother of the year.
And when that sugar rush kicks in, no problem. Boot them outside to the pub garden which has a mini playground to occupy them so you can drink your coffee in peace.
OUT & ABOUT
Aside from Sissinghurst Castle Garden, there are plenty of other places to explore and the team at The Milk House are due to upload a walking guide onto its website very soon listing the best circular walks in the area as well as a trail to Cranbrook, Kent’s smallest town and one of the prettiest, across the fields.
Oh yes, if you really can’t bear to leave, then don’t. There are four bedrooms upstairs, aptly named Churn, Dairy, Buttery, Byre so you can sink into your bed post the feed. And to make them EVEN more appealing, they have just launched some very enticing room offers for this Autumn & Winter with the longer you stay, the better the room rate. As if we needed any excuse to move on in.
For instance, stay for 2 nights and receive 20% off, stay for 3 nights and receive 30% off, move in for 4 nights and receive 40% off (offer ends Easter 2020). Or join The Milk House for an overnight stay in one of their beautifully appointed rooms, partake in a 3-course dinner for two people & indulge in one of our delicious cocktails, all for £140 – stay for another night just for £50! (offers ends Thurs 19 Dec).
You could also make the most of their Settle in Sundays offer, have a Sunday roast, a leisurely stroll through the orchards at Sissinghurst Castle, have a hot bath, curl up in front of their roaring fire or play some scrabble then collapse into crisp white sheets and wake up to a heart English Breakfast for just £100! (Valid Sundays until Easter 2020).
Keep an ear to the ground about fun events and activities held at The Milk House throughout the year including its much-celebrated Milk Fest, usually held over August bank holiday weekend, and now in its 7thyear! This annual food and music festival is a family-friendly, fun-filled weekend with live music from top local talent alongside food and drink from local suppliers. There’s usually candy floss, face painting, silent discos, open mic night and even some circus skills to ensure that everyone leaves happy.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Those who appreciate good food – be it couples’ dinner (with bed & breakfast if you want to push the boat out), girls’ lunch, family outing or an upmarket pit-stop if walking in the area
Not for: Those on a budget. The food does not err on the cheap side but was udderly worth every penny.
The damage: Starters range from £6 to £12 and Mains from £14 to £22 with side options at £4 a pop. Our three-course meal (for two) plus two glasses of Gusbourne Estate sparkling wine amounted to £88.00