SBT offers our review of South Lodge Hotel in Horsham, with its 17th Century style refinement, Michelin star dining and excellent business facilities…
It’s always refreshing to spend a night at a hotel that exudes not only character and history but also an abundance of comfort and impressive grace. The South Lodge Hotel, as part of the Exclusive Hotels chain, provided exactly this for my stay. Built as a home in 1883, the hotel has since been expanded into the 5-star dwelling it is today, set upon 93 acres of land. The ‘extensions’ on the original building are by no means obvious, however – the hotel has done well to keep the original style, actually using the exterior brickwork of the initial façade of the house within the reception area and new Michelin star restaurant.
On arrival, I spent a few minutes admiring the view, feeling a little like a guest from a period drama. I eventually found the reception area – I must admit now that I got a bit lost on arrival due to parking in the wrong car park – and was shown to my room. I walked down an almost hidden corridor, past rooms that were each named according to the ‘Sussex Landmark’ theme of the ground floor wing that my room was also in (other wings have themes including flowers and equestrian). Stepping into my room – one of the 89 suites available at the hotel – I was met with a huge living space with a grand four-poster bed, facing a huge window that looked out over the grounds and towards the South Downs. Additionally, I had a flat screen television (with sound system), two armchairs, a desk with a tablet for ordering room service, a dressing table with large mirror, an enormous wardrobe and an ensuite to rival most people’s bedroom alone – the bath even had its own television. Suffice to say, I was impressed.
Everything was extremely well thought out with the guest in mind. The room offered personalisation at every opportunity; using my tablet, I had the choice of ordering a different set of pillows for my particular needs; I had an integrated light system, with buttons allowing me to turn on, or off, the reading light, wall lights, the ceiling light, spotlights and blue night lights. My ‘do not disturb’ option came in the form of a stuffed sheep toy – a very unique concept and one that suited the heritage of the grounds, which used to have sheep on them, extremely well. Although I didn’t actually use my sheep, or my catalogue of pillow choices, I appreciated the freedom of choice and inventiveness nonetheless.
On closer look at the rest of the hotel, I found a huge amount of meeting-room space and business facilities. There are 12 meeting rooms at the hotel, including video conference facilities with the latest AMX Enzo System and incorporated access to drinks bars, coffee machines and charging points. The hotel as a whole also has complimentary Wi-Fi, which I found wholly reliable when researching for my next day’s meeting. This would certainly be a stress-free and impressive venue for business meetings, conferences or events: large or small.
Once I had soaked up what my room had to offer, I made my way to the 2 AA Rosette Camellia restaurant opposite the reception area, lounge and bar. I was greeted by my waiter, who told me he was originally from near Cape Town in South Africa so, as such, he brought me a glass of their finest South African red wine – which he promised would go well with my starter and main.
I was then offered my breads for the evening – a poppy-seed white and a brown bread with red onion seeds and a hint of Marmite. Intriguing as the hint of Marmite was, it definitely lived up to its love-hate relationship tagline.
To start, I went for the ‘hand dived’ Portland, pan seared scallops with cabbage, apple and a turnip and bacon jam. The scallops were cooked impeccably and they melted in my mouth with the sweet, almost buttery flavour of the apples and cabbage. The jam was especially good, complementing the fish surprisingly well and giving the whole dish that real taste of the earth meets the sea.
For main, I had the Venison loin – local meat from Cowfold, just down the road from the hotel – with baby parsnips, creamed Savoy cabbage, pomegranate and chocolate oil. The pomegranate was a particularly good addition to the dish – again, surprisingly – with the sweet crunch really bringing out the gaminess of the meat, which was tender and extremely juicy.
Pudding consisted of a pear and walnut frangipane with spices and caramel ice cream. All the dishes throughout the meal were wonderfully presented and full of flavour – I really couldn’t fault any of it. Price-wise, I believe the food was worth its cost and the whole experience struck an ideal balance between offering very high quality cuisine, with relative affordability and a calm, unfussy atmosphere.
The Camellia was also where I had my breakfast, sitting in what had become my ‘usual’ seat, looking out over ‘my’ familiar view. I enjoyed a pot of tea, some toast and eggs royale with possibly the most rich and creamy hollandaise sauce I’ve ever tasted. Once again, everything on my plate looked pristine and appealing – and the taste reflected that.
The staff, from my arrival to my departure, were impeccably well presented, courteous and approachable. I learned that guests and businesspeople alike come from far and wide to enjoy the hospitality and facilities that the hotel provides, and I can see why. Its placement, although it feels very rural, is actually ideally placed near to Crawley and not far from Brighton, allowing you the choice of a stroll in nature or a quick jaunt to town. This certainly is a 5-star establishment and I would recommend it to anyone – whether they wanted a romantic weekend away or a purely corporate afternoon of meetings.