REVIEW: Driftwood, Bexhill

Austrian food is a relatively new one on me as I imagine for most outside London, who have some decent looking options. "Fancy going out for an Austrian?" Said no one, ever. But here we are in Bexhill at the newly opened Driftwood restaurant and hotel. Taking the helm in the kitchen is the talented (and remarkably young) chef Michael Roessl who brings with him some traditional cooking from his home in Styria.

The restaurant space feels really sumptuous. Masculine and refined with rich colours and clean lines. It's not what you'd expect to see along Bexhill's Sackville Road which seems to have remained untouched since 1983 with fax and copy shop, vinyl emporium and a shoe store fully equipped with a swirly patterned carpet, chandeliers and guilded signage (it's REALLY something). But Driftwood owner Seng Loy seems to be a man with his finger on the pulse of areas ripe for regeneration. With decades of experience in the hospitality sector and two other successful boutique hotels, he know the good travel links and decent house stock means Bexhill is the next hot location ticket.

But before you call your financial advisor about that investment property to add to your portfolio (you're welcome), let's dive into the food.

We started with a fusion dish and an invention of Roessi's, the Styrian Spring Roll. Typical vegetables of the region, along with apple cider vinegar and finely chopped pumpkin seeds (another Styrian delicacy) are rolled in a strudel pastry before being deep fried. These were delicious, the pastry as crisp as can be and the filling lightly spiced and flavoursome. The accompanying Asian style salad and pickled ginger was possibly a contrast too far but an enjoyable dish none the less.

Mr GF went for a crowd pleasing dish with smoked bacon wrapped feta cheese (what's not to like) that had been elegantly served with a pumpkin seed emulsion and pepper vinaigrette.

The main that really was the highlight of the meal, and showcased Austrian food at its best, was the Tafelspitz (shown at the top of this post), a hearty slice of tender beef that had been slow cooked in broth. This came with sauteed potatoes cooked with caraway seed, giving a hit of subtle sweetness. A small dish of apples and horseradish added heat and the chive mayo a cooling element. The rain that had been beating down on us all day was no match for the comfort of this dish, I enjoyed it so much and left me wanting to try more of this cuisine.

More widely known is the Wienner Schnitzel, the classic breaded veal escalope which arrived with a dish of Austrian potato salad, softer than we are used to with a hit of horseradish, vinegar and white onion and a Viennese cucumber salad which had been partially picked in vinegar then added to a sour cream and dill sauce. 

The Apple Strudel was something else, crisp and light pastry with a fruity apple filling. The little jar of warm vanilla custard, berry compote and cream was perfect with it.

I've always wanted to try Sachertorte (remember this from Bake Off?). It's a close crumb chocolate torte made with ground almonds and filled with apricot jam before being given a thick coating of glossy chocolate icing. I don't normally go for chocolate to finish a meal but this was a grown up chocolate cake, not overly sweet and very elegant too. 

The little touches throughout the meal are evident in Seng Loy's experience, the weight of the cutlery, the piped butter for the doesn't go unnoticed or unappreciated.

The Driftwood's six rooms are really rather gorgeous too and a stone's throw from the beach. I absolutely love a boutique hotel and this has been finished to a really good standard with a great eye for design. The marble touches in the bathroom, the quirky retro radios and coffee machines - even the mini fridge isn't the typical white cube you'd expect.

The weather was atrocious on the day we visited but we still popped into the magnificent De La Warr Pavilion that is round the corner from the Driftwood and on a nicer day a post meal stroll along the promenade would have been lovely too. Even if you aren't staying at the hotel, a day trip is well worth it for a bit of old school seaside action, a culture fill and a darn good feed.

The Driftwood
40 Sackville Road
TN39 3JE

I dined as a guest of the Driftwood. Words and thoughts, as always, my own.