Not stuffy, just sophisticated – James Hood visits The Kennels at Goodwood, a members only club where tradition has received a blast of contemporary style. Only those who want the very best need apply
I’m going to cut to the chase here, if I may? I could spend the next 800 or so words dancing around the various emotions I experienced during a recent visit to The Kennels at Goodwood. I could enjoy teasing you for a few minutes of your busy schedule with fluffy adjectives describing the marriage between contemporary style and tradition, the peaceful surroundings or the sublime food and drink on the menu. But I’ll save us all the drama and tell you The Kennels is one of the ‘finest’ establishments in which I’ve had the pleasure of spending some time, not just here in this county, but anywhere.
Visiting The Kennels requires a membership – but it’s one that allows you to invite up to seven guests to join you at any time. You can even bring your pooch, who will have his or her own bowl awaiting their arrival in the lobby. The fact that dogs are as much a guest as you are is a testament to this venue’s fresh thinking. Joining allows you to use the facilities on offer here, including the lounge areas, a bar, outside terrace and dining room. There are also spaces available for private hire or meetings, one of which houses a large collection of original Penguin books.
I suppose the concept really began more than 200 years ago, when the 3rd Duke of Richmond (a dog lover) had The Kennels built so his beloved hounds could not only live in comfort, but have a view. Today, the building’s exterior remains – strikingly grand and with an easy-on-the-eye nod to Georgian symmetry. And so too does the consideration for those who step inside (whether they have four or two legs). Everything about The Kennels is geared around comfort and convenience. Table service in any of the communal areas makes for a hassle-free lunch meeting or casual catch-up. There is a bar menu from which you can order at any time of day and the various different rooms mean you are never too far from a tranquil corner to read a book, a funding bid or listen to your (or one of their) iPods.
And although I understand it is bad form to focus on the style over the substance for any length of time, here at The Kennels it is impossible to avoid. It might be a cliché to acknowledge how ‘contemporary style marries traditional design’ but The Kennels takes this concept and multiplies it ten-fold. With the original building still very much a part of the aesthetics, the interior designer has boldly matched the centuries-old characteristics with a borderline-high-fashion colour scheme and selection of furniture. In the upstairs library, for example, restored leather smoking chairs and luxurious sofas are paired with black painted wood and a splatter of red every now and again. It might be inexplicable, but it works. Downstairs in the main areas of The Kennels, large ceiling-height windows and doors let the light in and allow guests to see the stunning grounds all the way over to Goodwood House.
You can even bring your pooch, who will have his or her own bowl awaiting their arrival in the lobby. The fact that dogs are as much a guest as you are is a testament to this venue’s fresh thinking
A relaxed dining room is open for lunch and dinner everyday. Menus are prepared by the resident chef and dishes are, more often than not, created from estate-reared and local, seasonal ingredients – the pork belly coming highly recommended. Much like the general feeling at The Kennels, there’s a sense of tradition to the menu that’s given a little kick from a modern infusion. The pistachio crème brulee is exactly what I’m talking about. And service with a smile comes as standard.
As well as resting and relaxing at The Kennels, there is also a long list of events in the calendar open to all members, at a small additional cost. Options available reflect their ability to push the boundaries of what you might expect and include talks on sartorial style, walks in the forest, a breakfast club, cookery classes, music evenings, gundog training and the Dog Walking Club, Poker Club and Wine Tastings appear regularly. Incidentally, their New Year’s Eve parties sound like a blast!
You’d be forgiven for thinking members only equals stuffy, dusty old school armchairs, secret handshakes and whisky drinkers. But that couldn’t be farther from the atmosphere at The Kennels. Golfers mix with yummy mummies having a morning coffee. Young professionals discuss the City’s activity and those fortunate enough to have plenty of leisure time on their hands during the day enjoy a quiet tea (or gin). Its diversity in every sense is what makes The Kennels a truly modern members’ club. There is very little entry criteria besides a surprisingly affordable fee, although it helps if you are the type of person who enjoys or aspires to the very best in life. No self-respecting reader of Fine Sussex should give a second thought to becoming a member.
Go to goodwood.co.uk or call 01243 755132 for more information including fees, menus, events and opening times.