South Lodge, Horsham, hotel review
If you’re looking for a five-star break hidden away deep in the countryside, South Lodge can offer just that! Once a stately home, it’s now split into 88 bedrooms and suites, and just a few feet away is a little piece of heaven in the form of a thermal spa.
With not one but three restaurants on site, offering breakfasts, lunches, afternoon tea and dinner, there’s nothing you will want for here. Waking up to a winter sunrise over the beautiful hotel grounds will have you planning your next stay before you’ve even departed…
Tell us more…
Situated in the heart of the West Sussex countryside, overlooking the beautiful South Downs is South Lodge. The grand hotel offers stunning views, impressive interiors, enormous bedrooms and a luxury thermal spa. Wood-panelled interiors with heavy curtains give the hotel a very Downton Abbey-ish vibe, but the bedrooms are sufficiently modern to keep things well-and-truly 21st century. This is a dream location for those looking to log-off and recharge, with the option of rejuvenating treatments, and thermal spa access from 7am-10pm.
Why it’s great
South Lodge has many great selling points, and its location certainly being one of them. A large number of the rooms look onto the property’s vast grounds, which may have you waking up feeling as though you’re playing the leading role in an 18th century costume drama – in a good way! The building’s grandeur impresses on arrival from the moment you walk through the hotel’s heavy doors. The sophisticated decor and a log fire in the foyer give you the feeling that this place is going to be special, and you’re then met with a warm welcome from the team at reception who guide you to your room.
South Lodge boasts an array of different rooms and suites, some with balconies, some with personal hot tubs – and all offer charm in spades. Admire the plush corridors and the quirks like the creaky floorboards as you make your way past the infinitely classy old-school bar and restaurant.
And then there’s the spa! And what a spa it is. Just a few feet from the main building sits a 44,000 square feet spa boasting (breathe in) a gym, spin studio, indoor pool, outdoor jacuzzi pool, wild swimming pool, thermal suite (saunas and steam rooms) and treatment rooms. You’ll be hopping out of the sauna and into the pool and before you know it, you’ll have spent half the day luxuriating in bubbles. And that’s okay! If that weren’t enough, there’s also a Mediterranean inspired spa restaurant.
What’s the food like?
The hotel has two main restaurants. The Pass, currently manned by Greg Clarke, is the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant offering an impressive 8-course tasting menu. Expect bright and beautiful plates, like the poached Cornish crab atop a prawn crackers ordained with the finest strips of yellow and green courgette and salted gooseberry.
Another stand-out dish was the squid, which had been frozen to tenderise it, and was then sliced, to be cooked in front of you by a shiitake and dashi broth ‘tea’ and then sprayed with bonito vinegar. It’s a feast for the eyes, and will have you wondering why squid noodles aren’t more of a thing… Local elderberries are served up with 10 day salt-aged duck for the main, accompanied by a duck kebab and duck ragu. This is flawless cooking, and it’s such a treat to watch food be plated up through the glass walls of the kitchen (which is a shared space for both The Pass and the hotel’s larger restaurant, Camellia).
If the idea of sitting in a restaurant for 3 hours doesn’t sound like your ideal way to spend an evening though, we recommend opting for Camellia, which offers seasonal country-house dining. Expect refined dishes like roasted cod loin or Old Spot pork, with truffled potato or hispi cabbage.
At check-in, you’re asked to choose which of two restaurants you’d prefer to eat your breakfast at – Camellia offering a full English and other classics, or the spa restaurant Botanica. When the latter was sold to us as a restaurant in which you could “eat in your robe”, we were sold. We ate toasted brioche topped with smoked salmon, a poached hen’s egg and hollandaise; and Serrano ham with spiced green harissa dressing and poached eggs. These plates did not disappoint. Coffee was perfect, and the freshly squeezed green juices offered something for all tastes. Served in a bright and spacious restaurant overlooking the spa’s garden and terrace, this was a totally relaxing way to start a (spa) day. Even better, you can use the spa until 2pm the day you check out.
What’s in the rooms?
The question might rather be, what’s not in the rooms? With 88 rooms on offer, each with a different character and name, there are so many jewels at South Lodge. We fell in love with our room in the South Downs wing, and found ourselves desperate to spend as much time in the palace of a bedroom as possible. The bathroom was enormous – with his and hers sinks – and a television offered surround sound to be watched from the bath tub. If that’s not luxury, we don’t know what is… There was a coffee pod machine to keep you perked up and plenty of herbal teas to be enjoyed. Our room also offered a sofa and arm chair, large television, four poster bed, and large desk – in other words, plenty of places to rest! And of course, the pièce de resistance: the enormous windows with a view of the hotel’s gloriously green grounds – and it being November we could watch sunrise and sunset. Four-legged friends will be delighted to hear that two of the bedrooms are dog-friendly, too (though there is a fee attached).
For outdoorsy types, there’s an abundance of walking routes nearby, including Leonardslee Gardens just opposite the hotel’s grounds. For longer treks though, you may need a car to head to the South Downs national park. Horsham is a 15 minute drive away, with High Beeches woodlands and Nymans Gardens National Trust property in Handcross just a short drive from South Lodge. Ridgeview Wine Estate is not far, where you can enjoy a tour or tasting; and if you’re a golfer, you’re in luck: there’s a course on site at South Lodge. But the truth is, with the thermal spa offering so many amenities, we don’t think you’ll find yourself stuck for things to do.
What’s not so great?
You’d be hard pushed to find fault with this charming countryside manor. The relatively secluded location means that if you don’t drive, it’s a little tricky getting to the hotel. That said, there is so much to do here that we don’t think you’ll be bored. The Pass restaurant is away from the rest of the action in the hotel, which means it has a bit less going for it in terms of atmosphere – though being able to watch chefs plate up their beautiful food is entertainment enough for some. If you’re looking for a more hip-and-happening ambience though, it might be worth trying the hotel restaurant instead, and the nearby pub The Crabtree also offers excellent food and drink and is just a 5 minute walk away (though it’s a busy road – careful crossing it!).
What’s the damage?
Rooms start from £300 per night including fabulous breakfast.
Find out more about South Lodge’s website here.