Become a Fan
The invitation was a surprise. The opportunity one I could not miss. The idea pleased me. The event was to prove delightful. And the several days before I dined at the 'Chewton Glen' were an added pleasure of anticipation.
I wondered how and what I would choose to eat in this establishment recently awarded the highest accolade in the UK for its overall excellence. To help me not to make a ‘faux pas’ a friend loaned me a dictionary of French menus with English translations. It was small enough to slip into my handbag.
When the evening arrived I decided to wear my favourite long gown, a Caftan with a high neck in a soft flowing material of yellow flowers on a dark background. It was comfortable, elegant, and seemed right for the occasion. My host called for me at 7.00 pm. As the bell rang, I glanced in my long mirror and was pleased with what I saw.
“You look lovely”, he commented when I opened the door.
“Thank you”, I replied, grinning with delight as I walked with him to his car.
It was a lovely summer evening and the drive of some five miles to New Milton through the Hampshire countryside a pleasant start to the occasion. The Hotel was approached along an avenue of enormous chestnut trees. At one side of the long driveway a series of stone mushrooms appeared to be simply ornamental. But if they were intended to keep traffic away from those edges, then they were also useful.
The green tunnel formed by the canopy of leafy branches opened at its end into a wide parking space. Whilst my companion secured the car I studied the setting in which the ‘Chewton Glen’ was placed.
It was secluded, beautiful, and immediately relaxing. I could see other couples strolling in the grounds, and the almost tangible peace surrounding them brought to mind thoughts of the Kingfisher, or Halcyon, for whose floating nest the sea, according to the ancients, always remained calm and unruffled.
We walked slowly toward the entrance. The evening was to be savoured, and so far the taste was delicious. Here was no pursuit of excellence. This was its home. Inside we were met by one of the staff and guided to a lounge where a pianist sat at the far end playing gentle melodies.
A waiter served an aperitif, which my companion had ordered at the bar; and another gave us the ‘Bill of Fare’ to study. The choice was wide, and I did not need the dictionary hidden in my bag. The menu was in French, printed in large black italics. But the English translation was printed underneath in a smaller lighter type.
Poring over this most interesting reading, and trying to come to a decision, passed an intimate and enjoyable half hour. A bowl of nuts and one of crisps had been served with our drinks, and when my companion ordered another we were also given a plate of tiny hot anchovy pastries.
A hostess helped us to choose our wine from an extensive list, and our combined choice seemed perfect for the occasion. Presently we were informed our table was ready.
Next : Halcyon’s Nest : Part Two : Consummated Love.