Discover Britain checks into South Lodge, Horsham, West Sussex, to discover that the Victorian country house is still firing on all cylinders
Arriving at South Lodge in West Sussex, the first thing you see is a grand Victorian country house that has been made even grander by careful and sympathetic contemporary additions. Walking in, you’re greeted warmly by the friendly and genuinely helpful staff – on our visit, the excellent Mitch couldn’t have been a nicer host – and you have the opportunity to admire the vaguely mock-baronial décor, which includes glorious oddities such as stained glass windows and what looks like a reconstruction of a 1920s phone box. The plethora of public spaces means that finding a spot for a cup of coffee, or something stronger, isn’t at all difficult.
With 88 to choose from, there’s plenty of different styles on offer here, but our stay in an executive junior suite was made delightful courtesy of two factors: namely a terrace outside – perfect for a sybaritic Sunday afternoon glass of champagne, or virtuous cup of tea – and, on our visit, a splendid view of one of South Lodge’s regular events, this time a big band concert with a 007 theme. However there were plenty of other things in our room that had a licence to thrill as well, such as a splendidly comfy bed complete with pillow menu – including an anti-snoring variety – and one of the biggest bathrooms we’ve ever encountered.
Food & drink
There are two restaurants here, the Michelin-starred 24-seater The Pass and the two AA rosette-award holding The Camellia. We dined at the Camellia and had an enjoyable meal, mixing between the set-price “market menu” and the more expensive a la carte. Dishes use plenty of local produce and, under new head chef Richard Mann, they also use the local kitchen garden to delectable effect. Home-made bread is too good to resist, and have us disregarding our usual appetite-saving eschewal of the bread basket; a particularly clever amuse-bouche features truffled popcorn; delicate goats’ cheese croquettes, though diminutive, pack a punch; a fillet of beef, though on the small side, was cooked to perfection; while a brilliant tarte tatin at the end of the meal for two to share was the standout dish of the evening. Mann’s delights are washed down with a heartily robust bottle of Primitivo, which is just the thing to send us, replete and relaxed, on our way to an excellent night’s sleep. From start-to-finish, The Camellia experience is elegant, seamless and friendly . And breakfast the next day is exemplary; the eggs, from the hotel’s own chickens are especially good.
In a nutshell
One of Sussex’s top hotels is showing no signs of relinquishing its crown, and continues to offer a genuinely five-star experience in every department.