Ockenden Manor – the perfect country escape
Sussex is well known for its charming and picturesque countryside and for being the ideal location for a break away. And whilst the location has it all, a respite in the country would be nothing without the ideal accommodation- and that comes in the form of Ockenden Manor. A tranquil Elizabethan Manor House tucked away in the quaint village of Cuckfield, this is one of the most beautiful Hotels you will ever stay in.
The Hotel is set in nine acres of gardens and parkland with views across the West Sussex countryside to the South Downs, an ideal setting for a bit of rest and relaxation and to leave your worries behind.
It has 28 distinctive rooms and suites, each as interesting, quirky and homely as the one before. Every room is named after a member of one of the two families who have owned the building since 1520 and the Hotel does well to encapsulate that welcoming, family feel. When we stayed, we were in the Elizabeth suite and as far as Hotel rooms go, this has to be one of the best I have ever seen. In short, if I were to design my own flat, I would want it to look exactly like this. A unique two-tier room, as you walk in you are welcomed by a cosy living room, with a contemporary bathroom to the left. Walk round a corner and there is a flight of stairs leading to the bed area with chairs and a table, a beautiful King-size bed and large French windows leading way to breath-taking views. With the sunlight flooding in, the smell of fresh flowers and the soft sounds of twittering birds, it really is a hidden paradise.
Each room in the Hotel has an en-suite bathroom, hospitality tray, satellite TV, trouser press and hairdryer, as well as complimentary WiFi throughout the building.
The Hotel is home to a relatively new spa – and whilst I’d heard rave reviews, I never like to judge something too much until experienced for myself, and have to say my expectations were (pardon the pun) blown right out of the water. Purpose-built inside a 19th century walled garden, it is contemporary, airy and beautiful, encapsulating the perfect atmosphere to relieve all your stresses. There are eight beautifully appointed treatment rooms, a heated indoor swimming pool with a swim-through to the outdoor pool, different saunas and steam rooms, a rain shower and a state of the art fitness suite and studio. The outdoor area is also host to a hot-tub.Nestled in a contemporary decking area and with beautiful views heading off for miles, it is the ultimate spot for relaxation.
After a day of relaxing in the spa, nothing is better than dinner in the Michelin-starred restaurant. The dining room overlooks the gardens and serves some of the finest food in Southern England. Under the expert guidance of Head Chef, Stephen Crane, they incorporate the freshest ingredients, sourced locally in Sussex wherever possible. You can choose from Stephen’s selected Cuckfield Menu or the Gastronomic seven course tasting menu and an inspired wine list. For something that little bit more special, there ios also the option of Private Dining. This takes place in their Oak Panelled Burrell Suite, with a painted ceiling and stained glass windows it’s the ideal location for up to 40 guests for a more intimate experience. For that is what dining at Ockenden is – an experience.
We opted for the Chef’s selected menu and it was some of the best food I have ever eaten. Every aspect of the meal was so thought out, so perfect, it was almost too good to eat. From the tantilising scents and aromas to the beautiful presentation and impeccable service, it’s clear to see just why this is a restaurant so widely credited far and wide.
To start, I chose Stilton Dumplings – something I’ve never actually tried before. This was accompanied by Port Roasted Pear, Chicory and Walnut Salad and was delicious. The sweetness of the pear, when combined with the savoury of the walnuts and the strong tang of the cheese created a delicious and perfectly offset combination. My partner had Home Smoked Magret Duck Breast with a Spring Roll and Waldorf Salad. Again, the flavours were tantilizingly delicious and leaving us wondering just how good the main course could be.
I opted for Balcombe Estate Venison Saddle – a dish I’ve tried only once before and wondered if it could be beaten. (The answer is yes!) This was accompanied by Bon Bon, Celeriac Millefeuille and Savoy Cabbage. The meat was tender and succulent, the cabbage smooth and creamy. It was a dish I would recommend time and time again. My partner had Braised Ox Cheek – another favourite. Served with Black Cabbage, Roasted Root Vegetables and Polenta Chips it was a real favourite of the evening. The meat fell apart on contact with the fork, the roasted vegetables had just the right amount of crunch and the Polenta chips were teaming with flavour.
For dessert (me being a self-confessed chocaholic) I seected the Milk Chocolate delicewith mango salad and passion fruit sorbet. Tangy, sweet and smooth it really is a tease for the tastebuds. Flittering between sharp and silky, smooth and crunchy, it heightens all of your taste buds and creates a dessert that leaves you more than satisfied.
My partner chose the cheese board – this itself is something to marvel. With a huge variety of cheeses wheeled out on a trolley, he got told the story and flavours of each, before selecting three favourites and being presented with an array of crackers.
From the first bite of amuse bouche to after-dinner coffee every aspect is perfect and this is one of the best meals you will ever have the pleasure of indulging in. Even if you don’t stay at Ockenden Manor, it’s well worth a trip for dinner – to celebrate an anniversary, a birthday or simply as a treat, you will leave feeling full, satisfied and relaxed.
Ockenden Manor is a hotel that is so much more than a Hotel. It’s a home away from home and one that you will get looked after beyond any expectations.
Seen in the City was hosted by Ockenden Manor Hotel & Spa, a member of Pride of Britain Hotels – a collection of 48 privately-owned independent British hotels. Situated within nine acres of picturesque parkland and gardens in West Sussex, the Elizabethan manor house is a relaxing retreat with a Michelin-starred restaurant and luxury spa offering a range of treatments and complete with an indoor/outdoor linked swimming pool, sauna, steam room, rain shower, Ispod, hot tub, gym, treatment rooms and relaxation room. A one-night stay costs from £180 per room (two sharing) including breakfast. Call Pride of Britain Hotels on 0800 089 3929 (www.prideofbritainhotels.com).