As the freefalling British Pound makes travelling anywhere short of Zimbabwe a bit of a financial nightmare, it’s probably time to look closer to home for our holidays. Whilst our climate is obviously not conducive to long beach holidays, we do have a wealth of outstanding country manors and restaurants which are ideal for short, luxury breaks. We recently visited the South Lodge Hotel for a bit post Christmas recuperation, as well as to check out The Pass, their exciting new restaurant.
The magnificent country house hotel is set amongst 93 acres of woodland, formal lawns, ponds and gardens which are ideal for talking long walks and a bit of forest fun. For those not keen on getting their shoes dirty, the various bars, restaurants, lounges and huge outdoor seating areas provide plenty of room to kick back and relax. Moreover, each of the 89 individually styled rooms provide a cosy and quintessentially English place to hole yourself up in; think classic soft furnishings, plump cushions and quirky furniture, although it goes without saying that they are tastefully kitted out with the latest plasma screens and mod-cons.
Our evening meal was in The Pass, an interesting new concept which places a cool, contemporary restaurant inside the kitchen. Named after the moment of transition from kitchen to dining room, The Pass offers its 22 diners uninterrupted views as well as LCD screens of Head Chef Matt Gillan and his team at work. We visited on a Saturday night and the restaurant had a lively, buzzy vibe about it, although there was a lack of drama or action from the kitchen (disappointingly, the staff have a ‘no swearing’ policy!). By contrast, the hotel’s more established restaurant, The Camellia, was a properly formal and old-school affair.
Guests have a selection of seven and nine course tasting menus (or five at lunch) and seeing as it had just been awarded Three AA Rosettes, Miss Pancake and I were braced for big things. We were not disappointed. We tried 14 dishes between us (!) and just a handful of the highlights included Roast frogs legs, snails, bacon bon bon, parsley sauce, blackened onions; Halibut, tempura of squid, wilted baby gem, chantererelles, borlotti beans, apple cream; Roast scallop, braised pork belly, celeriac remoulade; and Lime parfait, mango and pineapple salsa, Pinacolada, doughnuts. I could easily go on as each menu was a well balanced collection of simple, intriguing and plain brilliant dishes; moreover, they weren’t just miniscule mouthfuls of cleverly constructed foam and sauce, but generous portions which perfectly filled us up. We also matched our food with the wine flight, which at £48/person, wasn’t unreasonable but brilliantly matched. The meal itself was leisurely delivered over 3½ hours and we really felt as if we had enjoyed an experience, not just eaten dinner. We finished the evening with some lovely cocktails in one of the comfy lounges in front of the fireplace.
Breakfast in the morning was a proper Full English affair and as we checked out, we both left thinking they really couldn’t have done anything more…except perhaps have the odd disagreement or fight in the kitchen!!
Cuisine Style: Modern European
Dinner for 2 (ex. drinks): £68/head for seven courses, £78/head for nine courses
The Pass @ South Lodge Hotel
West Sussex, RH13 6PS