The Grand Hotel, affectionately known as The White Palace, with an eye-catching Victorian edifice with Edwardian standards and values has a past that is dignified and is bestrewn with the names of the Good and the Great, including Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin. Those for whom the post-war years are still a mixed bag of memories will recall the BBC Palm Court Orchestra's regular Sunday evening broadcasts from the Great Hall of this very British establishment.
Accommodation, quite apart from the luxurious rooms, offers sensational views out to sea and Beachy Head. There are seven categories of rooms, including several suites that are the ultimate in spoiling. Room facilities include satellite television with radio and teletext, broadband internet access, direct dial telephone, with DVD players in the master suites. A well equipped spa offers a variety of treatments and an excellent pool, whilst membership of the Health Club is available to guests or annually.
In 1989 The Mirabelle, named after the much loved restaurant in the London's Curzon Street, opened its doors at The Grand Hotel, with a tucked away entrance in a side street, thereby adding a new dimension that was an immediate success. On the first floor, it is reminiscent of a stately home ballroom in a permanent state of partying, and pale pink, flowery fabrics and elaborate fittings dominate the scene against a background of spotless napery, sparkling glass and gleaming cutlery.
The food follows broadly the same line. Chef Gerald Röser has devised a menu that is right up to date but pays tribute to the glories of the past that have survived the test of time. Mirabelle takes its name from the French plum to be found in the Lorraine Region, well know for its sumptuous flavour, and there is plenty of evidence that this touching association remains a priority.
As is only to be expected dinner is the high spot of the day. Blended into a well researched menu are seasonal classics such as pike soufflé with smoked salmon and dill sauce or a ballotine of foie gras with pickled mirabelles, port glaze and brioche toast. Seared scallops served with saffron sauce and char-grilled vegetables, is the sort of stuff of which imaginary pre-execution suppers are made.
Roast maigret of duck with caramelized salsify tatin and Shiraz sauce makes regular seasonal appearances, fennel crusted wild sea bass, with braised gem lettuce and lobster emulsion offers a blend of flavours that has great appeal. As the quality of food at the upper end improves such treats as Buccleuch Scottish beef fillet are increasingly seen, served here with gratin of wild mushrooms and Madeira jus.
Desserts such as spiced dark Valrhona chocolate fondant with pain d'epices ice cream is well worth waiting the extra 15 minutes or so, or a simple and more immediate alternative could be the 'trio' of homemade sorbets garnished with exotic fruits.
The tasting menu explores in comfortable proportions dishes that could include roast best end of English marsh lamb with dauphinoise and pea purée, velouté of kohlrabi and truffle froth and blackcurrant poached pears, each with their own recommended wine.
In the safe hands of Cellarmaster Howard Widdison, the Wine List offers an outstandingly good selection by the glass, before giving any consideration to the magnificent array that appears by the bottle. By any standards it is worthy of consideration, and it would be no surprise to find this was a major draw for discerning vinophiles from far and wide.
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