By Katie Wilson
Dreaming of a countryside retreat with luxury spa and infinity pool thrown in? Book a stay at the five-star South Lodge Hotel.
Part of The Exclusive Collection, which includes Pennyhill Park in Surrey, South Lodge Hotel is in Horsham, West Sussex.
This former private house estate, spanning 93-acres with views across the South Downs, was built by beer heirs in the 1880s, but became a hotel some 200 years later.
New updates include the Sussex Wing, now home to the hotel’s biggest suites, plus hot tub rooms. The £14 million state-of-the-art Spa at South Lodge opened in 2019, complete with its own wild swimming pool.
The latest addition is The Pass restaurant, led by head chef Ben Wilkinson, that we think is well on its way to getting a Michelin star.
Here’s what happened when The Boutique Handbook checked into South Lodge Hotel and Spa for the night.
South Lodge Hotel and Spa review
South Lodge Hotel and Spa is in Horsham, West Sussex. Best got to by car, it’s around an hour and a half drive from London. Parking is free.
The nearest train station is Horsham. Make sure you pre-book a taxi the other end as the taxi rank isn’t the most reliable. It costs around £15 for a 15-minute journey.
South Lodge Hotel is as grand as you would expect. There is a sweeping driveway to the front entrance and the foyer is huge. As we were led to our room we saw at least four other rooms where dinner, drinks or afternoon tea is served. All have their own style, blending traditional and modern touches. We particularly liked the quirky glass balloon cabinet in The Lounge.
There are 88 rooms at South Lodge Hotel and no two are the same. They range from more affordable Smart Rooms to Smart With A View (recommended), Plush Suites, Garden or Balcony Suites and Hot Tub Suites. The Bothy Cottage for larger groups sleeps up to eight guests and starts from £2,000 a night.
Rooms on the ground floor of the newer Sussex Wing, where we stayed, are named after local landmarks, like Beachy Head and Seven Sisters. Other rooms are named after orchids, which the hotel is famous for cultivating. Look out for them in the lounges and restaurants.
We stayed in the Rackham Banks room and we couldn’t believe how spacious it was. It’s more like a bedroom and living room combined, with the most amazing views over the South Downs that are particularly pretty at sunset.
The spa-style bathroom is equally enormous with freestanding bath, double sinks and huge rainfall shower. We were pleased to see they had some of our favourite Molton Brown toiletries and Le Creuset mugs for tea and coffee. Guests are even invited to pick their own flowers from the hotel gardens to put in vases in their rooms.
FOOD & DRINK
There are several different restaurants and bar areas to choose from at South Lodge Hotel. The Billiards Bar is perfect for pre-dinner cocktails or a nightcap. Afternoon tea (from £45pp) is served in the lounges or Drawing Room. The AA Rosette Camellia restaurant has a three-course menu for £65.
Botanica, where we would recommend having breakfast, is the restaurant in the Spa at South Lodge. The Mediterranean-influenced menu isn’t completely vegetarian, but has lots of plant-based options. Its signature dish is their Waste Burger, made entirely out of pulp from the morning’s fresh juices.
Go for one of their Botanica Brunches (from £11). They also have a selection of sweet and savoury plates such as Confit Duck Leg with Wasted Sourdough Crackers (£14), Lemon Thyme Sea Bream with Shellfish Orzo Risotto (£24) and Blood Orange and Raspberry Trifle (£10).
The restaurant we were most excited about trying was The Pass, recently taken over by chef Ben Wilkinson, who won a Michelin star for Lake District restaurant with rooms, The Cottage In The Wood. And what Ben brings to the food, his partner Monika Zurwaska perfectly compliments with her friendly front of house style.
A seven-course tasting menu starts from £120. It’s worth splashing out on the wine flight for an extra £85pp. We loved the open kitchen so you can see the chefs at work through the glass. In a nice touch, Ben and his team bring the food out themselves and explain in detail what is in every dish.
For the price it’s exactly what you would expect – exquisitely presented food, but using ingredients you are familiar with. There is a simplicity about the dishes, as fancy as they look, which we loved. Too often restaurants can be style over substance, but that’s not the case here.
The menu changes, but when we visited dishes included Beef Cheek Fillet, with black winter truffle freshly grated on top by Ben himself, and Fallow Venison. Our star dish, which surprised us as we’re not usually fans, was the Turbot with White Asparagus and Winter Chanterelles. Our verdict is anything Ben cooks is special.
To finish off there was Lemon Thyme yoghurt, which was more than moreish, Ben’s special take on a rice pudding and a cheeseboard we wanted more of. If you’re visiting South Lodge Hotel for a special occasion, definitely book a table at The Pass.
As the spa was a new addition just before lockdown, it’s not part of the main hotel. It is its own separate building reached by a short adjoining pathway.
Modern in design in comparison to the rest of the hotel, it has eco credentials like a meadow roof and green oak cladding. Outside there is a spacious sun deck and heated hydrotherapy infinity pool, plus a wild swimming pond if you’re feeling brave. We braved a dip in January and felt great afterwards.
Inside there is an infinity edge swimming pool, sauna, marble salt room, aromatic steam room and ice bucket shower, plus 14 treatment rooms, state-of-the-art gym, spin studio and terrace for alfresco training.
The fact you can use the spa from 3pm on your day of arrival until 2pm the day you leave was welcome. It means even after check out, you can leave your bags in reception or in the spa lockers downstairs.
For the best deal, book a spa break for two from £395 that includes full spa access and bed and breakfast. Stays with treatments and dinner start from £539 for two people.
If you’re in need of getting away from it all, even a one-night stay at South Lodge Hotel and Spa will revive you. When it comes to the food, we’re rooting for Ben Wilkinson at The Pass to gain a Michelin star when the winners are announced later this year.
Rooms start from £395 a night, based on two people sharing, including breakfast and spa access
Book a stay at South Lodge Hotel & Spa here
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