For December’s review and following on from its appearance in our Hotel Review section a few months back, Sussex Business Times enjoyed a lunchtime bite at Ghyll Manor Hotel & Restaurant. Here, we feed back on our dining experience…

Ghyll Manor Hotel and Restaurant is situated in the typically English West Sussex countryside. The black and white timbered manor house dates back to the 17th Century, whilst a beautiful lake provides a perfect backdrop for those special wedding photographs and romantic walks. Behind the Tudor beamed exterior, 29 individually designed bedrooms of varying shapes and sizes await, offering an effortless blend of charming period features and modern facilities.

Of course, because of its outstanding appearance and features, Ghyll Manor is one of the most popular wedding venues in Sussex, and all of Ghyll Manor’s weddings come with high quality as standard with a personal service and a promise never to host more than one wedding on the same day. Ghyll Manor is also just 40 miles from London, making travel to weddings convenient for guests from the capital and further afield. Wedding guests also have the opportunity to make the most of the time in the country with an overnight stay, as selected wedding packages include preferential rates on Ghyll Manor’s rooms. Couples can tie the knot in Ghyll Manor’s Hunsdon Hall, Terrace Room or Conservatory and hold a sparkling reception for 100 guests, with everything from breakfast to the DJ included in the price. What more could you possibly ask for?

Of course, our visit was for a completely different matter, and following on from our overnight stay – which featured in the hotel review section of our October issue – the food and dining experience was our main focus this time around.

We were welcomed in by a member of the front of house staff and offered the choice of being seated straight away in the dining area or whether we would like to enjoy a pre-meal drink first. After being stunned by the hotel’s grand exterior, touring the grounds with a refreshing bevarage before eating sounded perfect. My guest and I were each served small glasses of Sauvignon Blanc and rested next to the roaring fire afer a brief look around. It was the perfect start to what was going to be a wonderful afternoon.

Ghyll Manor’s interior very much agrees with the exterior – very traditional but not too dated. Consistency is nice. The lounge area to the right of the entrance boasts a piano and impressive liog fire, while the dining area to the left sports tables of different sizes, alll laid up with wine glasses and cutlery. Of course, being this close to Christmas meant that the decorations were out – not too overbearing but enough to get you in the festive mood!

We were shown to the resaurant area by Peter – an incredibly friendly man who made us feel completely at home – and were able to choose our own table. Of course this was helped along by the fact that there was no one else dining that day, but what would you expect on a Friday afternoon during the run up to Christmas?

We were each served a glass of lemon water and a slice of sundried tomato bread before our food orders were taken. Of course, having a detailed look at the menu before we were seated meant that there was no hesitation when ordering! I opted for the chicken and leek terrine to start and the ribeye steak served with chunky chips, tomato and mushroom, while my guest chose the salmon for her starting course, followed by the pork belly and vegetables. After such a great review of the hotel itself and facilities a few issues back, it’s safe to say we could hardly wait.

Our starting courses came out very quickly, and it’s clear that efficiency is key at Ghyll Manor. Both starters were small but well-balanced portions, presented to perfection and tasting even nicer. Meanwhile, the restaurant itself held the perfect temperature on such a chilly afternoon and the background music (played at a suitable volume) really added to the overall ambiance.

Our mains followed relatively quickly after, although there was a welcome pause before they reached our table. The steak (which I asked to be cooked medium) was delicious, although maybe slightly overdone, while the chips were beautifully fluffy on the insde and crisp on the outside. The pork belly was cooked to perfection and came in hand with gravy and apple sauce. One point I’d like to make is that we didn’t once have to ask for anything – the service from Peter was impeccable. Of course, service with a smile goes a long way, and the fact that he took the time to chat to us in between courses made us feel even more welcome. It’s elements like this that can make or break a dining experience, so hats off to him!

Such a high standard of starting and main courses meant that we couldn’t resist trying one of the desserts. While there was a varied selection, I was drawn to the blackberry parfait while my guest opted for the chocolate torte and raspberry sorbet. The parfait was easily one of the nicest desserts I’ve ever had the pleasure of trying, presented beautifully with honeycomb and edible flowers, while the chocolate torte looked just as good – the perfect texture and complemented well by the element of raspberry.

While the portion sizes weren’t huge, they were generous enough and we left the restaurant both impressed and satisfied with the incredibly high quality of the food itself and the manner in which it was presented to us. The chef, Ryan even made an appearance after we’d eaten to ensure everything went down well, which was hugely appreciated.

We took the time after our meal to further explore the grounds and grew even more amazed. The courtyard boasts tables and chairs for the warmer months and features an impressive water fountain, while scenic views can be seen further afield. Acres of land and a lake surround Ghyll Manor, further demonstrating that you can’t quite find another wedding venue like it.

Overall, our dining experience at Ghyll Manor completely exceeded our expectations. With incredible food presented to a high quality, flawless service and beautiful surroundings, you couldn’t really ask for much more. 5 stars from Sussex business Times!