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The George at Rye

It was Nancy who when I told her I had yet to visit Rye and suggested I did so.

I heard from a friend of mine who had a good trip ashore in property that rich London townies attracted by the fast communication by rail to Ashford International were now buying up second homes there and for golfers there is the nearby course at Deal and slightly further afield the championship course at Sandwich.

I prepped up on the cinque port which once had a daily coach called Diligence making the 16 hour journey from London.

It was once so wealthy a place that it collected its own tax and there is a rich smuggling history like Cornwall providing a market in lace, finery, brandy and other luxuries for the aristocracy.

It took a downturn as did its best known hotel, formerly a coaching inn, The George in the high street.

However the biggest surprise is of the port there is no sign. This is odd as I possess an oil painting by Karl Terry of it.

I walked the cobbled streets full of sweet shops and antiques but I could see no harbour.

I even found Ypres Tower a fortress guarding the sea .. .but no harbour.

Undeterred I continued on my circumnavigation, conscious of the words of Polly, Bob Tickler’s p/a whose family once possessed a home there “There is not much to do.”

The rock capital of Europe it is not. Twee it is.

I finished my walk and returned to The George. It has a bar called the Tap but of a barman there was no sign.

Eventually I complained at reception and two arrived. I noticed all the staff were foreign. I don’t want to sound like a Brexiteer- I voted to stay – and the hotel, catering and hospitality industry is going to be badly affected by non-movement of free labour.

Yet somehow I missed the cheery English face at reception one associates with English country hotels, not someone peering into her computer trying to find my reservation.

All this was redeemed by the quality of the food at the Grill.

I had plenty of time to contemplate my order as there was little else to do and decided on fish.

The wild roast scallops served in a seafood and miso komba broth were divine and welcome change from the pea purée with which they are so often accompanied. The sweet corn soup chipode and lime with Devonshire crab was equally tasty, nothing bland.

For mains I chose half a warm half lobster with tomato pancetta, potatoes and leaves.

I get hacked off with tiny portions of lobster at huge prices but there was plenty of fish in the claws and shell and the salad with it worked well.

I finished with an English cheesboard and two glasses of port. I chose a carafe of  delicious Albariño, the white Galician wine is my current fave.

As I got up to go, a Swedish Gentleman on the adjoining table kindly moved the table for me. We fell into  conversation.

He was a lawyer and former head of the Swedish Bar Association. His wife was a  judge. I spoke of The Bridge and Skanda noir.

Both said how disappointed they were that the UK is leaving the EU.

They said there was a harbour but it’s long way away. The hotel guide spoke of it being a nature reserve. The guide also referred to Rye being “an ideal base to explore a multitude of attractions.” A sure fire double entendre for nothing to do in Rye.

One attraction is Hastings and as we all know, from 1066 and all that, the site – or to be exact Battle – of William the Conqueror’s great victory.

It once held an international chess Congress.

I was once invited by Bogdan, a Montenegrin Grandmaster, whose opening gambit was as useless as his end game!!!

Daphne Colthard
About Daphne Colthard

After graduating at RADA but finding no roles Daphne went into magazine journalism with Good Housekeeping. Widely recognised as one of the country's leading restaurant and hotel reviewers, particularly by herself, Daphne is the author of "Bedded and Breakfasted", a light hearted chick novel and Grand Hotels DC: the Daffers Dictionary. Daphne lives in West London and is married to an investment banker Oliver. They have 2 boys Humphrey and Tarquin. More Posts