“Alkham?” said my father when we told him about our visit. “Never heard of Alkham.”
Which is strange, because a) I spent a lot of time as a child in Dover, Deal and Walmer, where two sets of grandparents lived and had a holiday home respectively, and b) Alkham is literally the next village over from Dover (albeit 10 minutes’ drive and thus in the middle of nowhere).
So the claims of the restaurant website that “The Marquis at Alkham is perfectly situated for exploring Dover Castle and the White Cliffs, and an ideal pit stop if you are using the Dover port or Eurotunnel” may be stretching the truth more than slightly. As they mention, it is fine if you have a car, but it’s certainly hardly within strolling distance of Dover. In fact, I would wager that most of the restaurant’s visitors are residents of Alkham (who take a leisurely walk from their gated gravel driveway where their 4×4 is parked) or that they are taking a taxi in from Dover. I say this not only because of the relatively remote location but also because of the near-total lack of parking – there are no more than 3 spaces (more like 2) in front of the restaurant itself, and if those are taken, you’re stuck with the village hall car park over the road. Not so bad if the road itself were not being used as an F1 track by locals and wasn’t so tricky to cross.
But anyway, once you’re parked and in, all is forgiven. The service, while perhaps not the friendliest that we encountered on our summer trip, was impeccable throughout, and when one of our courses was a little slow to arrive, we received a thorough and polite apology, with the excuse that the chef had not been happy enough with his first attempt to send it out to us. Us preferring the chef to be satisfied with what he was sending out, we carried on quaffing our drinks from the impressive wine list (more of which later) and people-watched.
The restaurant promises to bring “a contemporary sense of decadence”, and on this it absolutely delivers. £22.50 for three courses (table d’hôte menu) is perfectly reasonable, with more indulgent (and expensive) tasting menus available for those who are thus inclined. Amuses-bouches and bread to die for were forthcoming, and the lamb that was ordered was delightfully tender. The array of cheese available from the trolley (at a cheeky £3.50 supplement) was mind-boggling, but it was arguably the dessert that stole the show: a chocolate orange confection with a bitter orange sorbet that combined luxury with palate-cleansing.
There were only a few tiny disappointments – one, that I made the mistake of wanting to keep things local and ordered a glass of local sparkling while waiting for our meal. Not a mistake because it was not delicious, but a mistake because it was expensive: at £9 a glass I probably could have gone to the vineyard and bought a whole bottle for less. The second slight disappointment was some of the clientele, who seemed boorish, loud and generally unappreciative of their surroundings, which can impact on others’ enjoyment of their meals.
Nevertheless, though, these tiny points do not prevent us from wanting to return to this smashing restaurant in its idyllic English countryside location – and, at £89 a night B&B in low season (or, including dinner, a weekday bed, breakfast and dinner deal at £149 per couple), to combine it with a stay in the adjoining hotel as well.
Alkham Valley Road,
Alkham, Dover, Kent, CT15 7DF
t: 01304 873410