Many aspire to become a Hotelier but few are born to it these days. Inheriting the mantel of a family business spanning 8 generations is a daunting challenge and one that Andrew Beale, Managing Director of Beales Hotels, our host for our visit to West Lodge Park has embraced with humbling professionalism. The Company has and continues to set records, standards and to maintain the true and classic Art of Hotel Hospitality at its best.
Quote by Andrew Beale:
My grandfather, Edward Beale, bought the hotel in 1945 and, over the years, my father Trevor and I have developed it into the lovely place it is today.
Our motto is ‘Generations of Excellence since 1769’, reflecting not only the long history of the company, but also the long service of many of our staff and the loyalty of our guests, many of whom have been coming as families over three or more generations to West Lodge Park.
As with all establishments the Hotel continues to evolve both internally and externally with particular attention to the famous and nationally recognised Arboretum which hosts over 4500K of specimens from around the world some with a DNA of over 40 million years.
Taking the relative short drive from London Town one is taken by surprise when turning into the drive of West Lodge Park, akin to arrival at a Country House Estate in the Shires. Its history of course dates back centuries when the conurbations of London were far away and the house, a Hunting Lodge. The mature tree lined drive well merits the grandeur of the house itself. Up the drive and a sweep round into the forecourt fronted by a huge lawn with mature prized tree specimens.
As we head towards the entrance, staff appear to greet and welcome us as would be the tradition of a country house of bygone days. Our early arrival hailed the requirement of coffee – to be taken to the lounge bar area. Again we were greeted, guided to a seat and served with a steaming pot of freshly brewed coffee with artisan biscuits and the temptation of Lemon Drizzle Cake. It felt like a home from home, comfortable, welcoming and respectful.
Time arrived to gather for our Luncheon. The venue was their King Charles Room,
With the weather with us, we supped Chapel Down, Tenterden, Kent, Sparkling Wine on the outside terrace surveying the beautiful gardens and Arboretum beyond. Andrew Beale joined us and enthused with conversation about his huge passion the legacy of Beales Hotels. His not a job, or career but a way of life.
Our Head of Service, Patrick Jankunas summoned us to take our seats for lunch. The President welcomed all and introduced Andrew Beale, thanking him for finding time to join us. Andrew gave an introduction to the Hotel and Arboretum, touching on its history and highlighted some of the very special features that West Lodge Park has, including original paintings by Mary Beale one of the most successful professional female Baroque era portrait painters. There is an amazing collection of art around the property which deserves time to pursue.
Grace was presented by Member Paul Wenham and Luncheon commenced.
Brixham crab mayonnaise, toasted ciabatta and celeriac remoulade
Caliterra Sauvignon blanc, Colchagua valley, Chile
Honey roasted Barbary duck breast, garlic fondant potato, grilled courgette and pepper roulade, port jus
Fleurie, Domaine de la Bouroniere 2013
Strawberry Cheesecake with a Raspberry Wafer and Mango Coulis
Caramel parfait, milk chocolate mousse, peanut brittle
Café du Monde coffee and home made petits-fours
As is the Gastronomes tradition Santé du Chef and Service was called and the gathered party rose to drink a toast to Chef: Wayne Turner, Head of Service: Patrick Jankunas, Mathew Croxford and Staff thanking them for an excellent lunch and service.
Our leisure and relax was broken with a call to collect umbrellas (just in case) for our excursion and what proved to be a very well informed short taster tour of the famous Beales Arboretum, conducted by Andrew Beale the custodian of this magnificent part of the estate which spans over 35 acres – we didn’t walk it all. The Arboretum is constantly changing as the seasons pass and Andrew drew our attention to some of the many treasures at this time of the year as they show at their best.
We retired back to the Hotel for Afternoon Tea before venturing back into the outside world of hustle and bustle from which we had been well protected for a just a moment in time.