A totally memorable experience...

South Lodge is part of the charismatic Danny Pecorelli’s Exclusive hotel group. Even though I’ve never met Danny (@Foodhero) I like his ethos and think he deserves the praise and accolade he’s achieved over the years.

It’s all about the service

If I was stuck in a lift with Danny however, I’d say one thing to him: whoever hires your staff at South Lodge deserves a raise. Because despite having a fleeting overnight stay with my (new!) husband, we ended up (for various reasons) chatting to nearly every member of staff we saw. And all, without exception, were just adorable.

Full disclosure: this was a sponsored press trip. But I’m certain that only the reception staff knew this. I’m a huge fan of good service and have been fortunate enough to have stayed in some of the grandest hotels in Europe and beyond. All too often I’ve been wow’ed by buildings, menus, and decor...and yet left cold by the people. South Lodge though had probably the second loveliest service I’ve ever had in a hotel (I’m still not ready to reveal my most favourite hotel in the world; it’s already gaining far too much traction by both other writers / Trip Advisor and I’m desperate to keep it a secret).

Paul (husband) summed up South Lodge perfectly: you need more than one night here. There’s a lot to take in.

Walkers Paradise

It’s an extended grand old mansion which dates back to the late 19th-century. It sits in 93 acres of grounds and woodland (with beautiful views over the South Downs). If you like walking, you’ll do well here.

The location is pretty much perfect. It’s rural enough to lose yourself in those grounds and yet you could be in central London (by train) in just over an hour, getting a night-time city fix. It’s also just over 20 minutes (by car) to Gatwick. In fact we stayed here en route to our honeymoon and it was the perfect aperitif to our Tuscan escape.

Welly Boots

There’s no getting away from the fact that this place exudes luxury (but again, the staff don’t exude ‘stuffy’ and these things count). I loved the vast lobby, the open fires, the wellington boots lined up for guests’ use, and the Library Bar - with its original fireplace, artwork, antiques and plush chandelier.

Our room was everything you’d expect from a five star property: huge – and comfy – bed; elegant furnishings; Egyptian cotton. Plus a few nice surprises: a pillow menu; gorgeous chocolates; and wow, that bathroom... it was sheer luxury - replete with under floor heating and a bath TV. If you’re into that kind of thing, the Godman Suite apparently has a hot tub on the balcony.

Live chef action!

Arriving late, we ordered room service - think posh picnic on a bed ('bed-nic'). Less than twenty minutes later and we were seriously impressed with perfectly chilled champagne, a sumptuous cheese board and (what the heck) chunky chips. Sitting on the bed with our feast and giggles and sighs it felt romantic and decadent and naughty all at once. I think this should be a 'first night' honeymoon trend. Notwithstanding I’ve heard great things about The Pass, its Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurant with an ‘open’ kitchen (you essentially watch your meal being prepared in real time). Meanwhile sister offering the Camellia has two AA rosettes.

Brilliant idea...

The Cellar however is what I wish we’d had more time for. The original, restored Victorian cellar features a large tasting table and every day a selection of 16 wines are available ‘on demand’, to buy by the glass (in three different sizes). Guests are invited to buy a ‘decanting card’ and state-of-the-art tech ensures that these wines are dispensed and maintained in peak condition, served at the perfect temperature. I’ve seen this done in London and think it’s a fabulous idea (you can sample a 1995 Château Dauzac Margaux from £10.65 for 50ml).

The Cellar contains some 300 wines, old and new world – all curated by a talented sommelier - with a distinct emphasis on Bordeaux. It’s nice to also see support of Nyetimber, an award-winning local Sussex grower. Regular tutored tasting sessions are available (to which you can add cheeses and other nibbles). What a great idea (and how much fun for a group of friends or a classy hen / stag do).

Another good idea!

I also love the Movies by Moonlight concept. A 3-course meal is served on the Camellia terrace and as teas and coffees are served, on comes the movie (popcorn provided). At £50 per person I think this is great value.

As for the cost of a room, official rates start at £250 but (shhh) I’ve seen some for nearer £195 on booking.com.

All in all, it was a flying visit – but a memorable one. We’ll definitely be back.

South Lodge Hotel

South Lodge Hotel, Brighton Road, West Sussex RH13 6PS

Tel: 01403 891711