Kent CT10 1EY
TEL: 01843 865338
Bleak House was once the holiday home of Charles Dickens and sits on top of a cliff looking out to sea and across Viking Bay in Broadstairs. Until a couple of months ago it was the private residence of the proprietor Richard Hilton and his family. He decided to turn it into a boutique hotel and restaurant, which his daughter now runs. It’s early days in their operation but already afternoon tea is served here as well as main meals in a separate room. There are four bedroom suites, some with spectacular views. The one thing Bleak House is not short of is room. The house or hotel as it is now really is quite spacious.
There is sense of calm and just a bit of time travel here. The building is adorned with antiques and Chopin drifted around our ears before lunch in an unobtrusive way. Rose who has just started, as a waitress is kind, diligent, and the owner of one beaming smile and another gift, but more of that later. We were shown into the dining room, which is the old snooker room. It has a raised seating section at one end for the players to rest and watch the game with ease. It’s little touches like this that make this a gem of a grade II building.
We were here on a Sunday so roasts were the order of the day. The starters were traditional and a touch retro, prawn cocktail, pate and carrot soup. All were eaten with us gazing around the place looking for clues to the previous owner who has given so much joy to readers around the world. There’s the odd bust here, a painting there but not so much it felt overdone.
Dickens and his family holidayed here every summer for twenty years and it’s where he wrote David Copperfield plus chapters of Nicholas Nickelby, Barnaby Rudge and Oliver Twist. He was inspired to write Bleak House, which is set in Bedfordshire while staying here. It was named Bleak House when Dickens died. You can visit the smuggling museum in the basement. A bit of Victorian fun for children and go upstairs and have a peek at Charles Dickens’ study, which has been preserved and looks wonderfully Dombey and Son.
The main event was robust, tasty beef and succulent Norfolk turkey. Both came with all the trimmings. The roast potatoes, vegetables and gravy did their job of supporting the meat and there was an unexpected cauliflower cheese, which I particularly enjoyed. Puddings were on the generous side as well. My youngest son seemed to have no problem finding room for a large slice of chocolate fudge cake. Apple tart with custard found a similar space with others around the table. But the plum crumble took top prize. The prices here offer excellent value considering where you are and what it is, £12.95 for two courses and £14.95 for three.
Now back to that other gift of Rose’s, she also happens to be the grand daughter of the proprietor and he played a rather naughty trick on her. Telling her it was my birthday he asked would she sing Happy Birthday to me. I thought this was just a bit of fun to start with, but when she started singing I couldn’t quite believe it. Rose has the most incredible voice. Think husky jazz greats like Ella Fitzgerald or Nina Simone. And what a volume, her voice was so powerful it may well have been heard the other side of Viking Bay! It’s worth going to Bleak House on your birthday or even if it’s not and just pretend it is so you can hear the gift that is her magnificent voice.