When I first arrived at Gravetye Manor, the Michelin-starred country house hotel with award-winning gardens, I soon decided that this was one of the best hotels in West Sussex and when I was fortunate to revisit recently, there was nothing to make me revise my opinion. Like other hotels I’ve stayed in which have excellent food, stunning gardens and great hospitality – the lovely Hambleton Hall in Rutland springs to mind – a stay at Gravetye Manor will stay with you for years afterwards.
Located deep in the heart of woodland just south of East Grinstead, West Sussex , the long winding drive to the front door will set the scene for a memorable stay. Consistently named on lists of the best hotels in Britain, Gravetye Manor has 17 bedrooms (each named after a tree on the estate) as well as the Robinson Suite – named after the famous gardener who created Gravetye’s stunning gardens.
The reason for my much anticipated return – I first visited it several years ago and here’s my original review was the new (to me – it opened in 2018) restaurant at Gravetye Manor which moved the dining room from the front of the hotel to the back, where glass walls mean you can appreciate gardener Tom Coward’s stunning wildflower gardens while enjoying some seriously good food (much of which is grown in Gravetye’s own kitchen gardens). However as we arrived at lunchtime, we could first enjoy Gravetye Manor’s lovely al fresco dining on its beautiful lawn, dining on the catch of the day in glorious sunshine where the only sound you’ll hear is distant birdsong.
With a variety of tables scattered around the gardens you can enjoy dining outside or in the hotel’s sitting rooms from 10am to 10pm and sitting outside in the sunshine over a long lunch is the perfect way to start your stay. Gravetye Manor is a traditional country house in the best way, meaning attentive staff, attention to detail and traditional furnishings, but no spa, pool or treatment rooms – the gardens and food are the main draws here.
Like the best hotels, it is steeped in history too: Gravetye Manor was built in 1598 by Richard Infield for his bride, Katherine Compton, and the initials R and K can be seen in the stone over the main entrance door to the formal garden.
Why not check out some more of my reviews of hotels with gorgeous gardens?
It is the gardens which first made Gravetye Manor famous, thanks to William Robinson who bought Gravetye and the 1,000 acres it stands in in 1884, and his pioneering style of enhancing the natural beauty of the garden and woods can still be seen today. Even if – like me – you know nothing about plants, you will love being surrounded by Gravetye’s beautiful gardens and for aficionados there are events run throughout the year by head gardener Tom Coward.
The lunch menu is a regularly-updated mix of light dishes – roast and blanched garden vegetables, smoked salmon and capers, ducks eggs or mackerel pate – alongside sandwiches, desserts and main courses which included catch of the day with mashed potato, beurre blanc noisettes and garden vegetables, or even fillet steak with triple-cooked chips. I opted for the catch of the day which was delicious and only increased the anticipated for the evening meal, and with a glass of white wine was perfectly set up to enjoy a relaxing afternoon in the country.
When we finally dragged ourselves away from the gardens to our bedroom, the expansive Pear at the top of the hotel, we were delighted to still be able to enjoy them thanks to the stunning view from our window.
Many Gravetye bedrooms have window seats so you can curl up with a book while soaking up the scene and Pear was no exception: the huge room also contained a sofa, large table, dressing table and an immaculate bathroom with walk-in shower and a stand-alone bath.
There were all the trappings of a luxury hotel room, from fluffy towels and posh toiletries to magazines, coffee and tea-making facilities, smart TV and digital radio and it was lovely changing for dinner in such opulent surroundings.
Dinner, of course, is a highlight of a stay at Gravetye Manor and the new restaurant was far lighter and airier than the previous dining room. Depending on what time of year you visit, you might even get to enjoy the garden view throughout your meal but we had to wait for breakfast for that as the sun had already set.
There were several menus to choose from, including a Time and Place menu at £95, which listed courses such as ‘Sea Floor – scallop, seaweed’ and ‘Open Water – sea bass, caviar’ and there were both wine and tea-pairings options to accompany the menu.
We were dining from the monthly three-course menu (£80) but this being Gravetye, we enjoyed far more than three courses, starting with a delicious prawn tempura and lime gel, carrot terrine with cumin mayonnaise, a beetroot cloud with rose gel and beetroot terrine with goats cheese before we’d even started on the dishes themselves.
These ranged from roasted Norfolk quail, native lobster with fennel, to mains of smoked roe of local Roe venison, cabbage, leeks and black garlic and Creedy Carver duck with cherries, buckwheat, honey and cauliflower.
They were all cooked and served to perfection, as you’d expect from a Michelin-starred restaurant (but without any of the long wait between courses as you sometimes get at this level) and the whole meal was flawless from start to finish, a credit to head chef George Blogg and his team.
Some more off-menu treats appeared before dessert: a raspberry sorbet with chocolate crumb, and then while my dining companion tucked into a faultness sorbet I couldn’t resist the cheese board which had been such a highlight of my previous visit.
I choose a taste each of Barkham Blue, Sharpham Creamet and Cerney Ash from the impressive range and wondered how I was ever going to find room for breakfast or even stagger up the stairs to bed.
In spite of such feasting I slept well thanks to a deeply comfortable bed and really good quality bed linen and after an indulgence wallow in the deep tin tub I emerged ready to tackle breakfast.
Again, the level of hospitality really stood out: staff greeted us a cheerful ‘good morning’ as we headed to the restaurant; we were instantly seated, excellent coffee arrived in seconds and the cooked options were great, especially the traditional English breakfast with pork sausage, Smoked Dingley Dell back bacon and award-winning black pudding from Stornoway.
Thankfully the weather remained glorious and we were in no rush to leave, instead walking off breakfast with an epic trek around the gardens and into the wildflower meadows and woods beyond, where you will feel miles from anywhere.
A stay at Gravetye Manor is not cheap but you will remember it for years afterwards – I have stayed in more than 200 luxury hotels in the UK now and it is still one of my all-time favourites.
Hotel information and how to book Gravetye Manor
Gravetye Manor, Vowels Lane, West Hoalthy, Sussex RH19 4LJ
Tel: 01342 810 567 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gravetye Manor is a member of the Pride of Britain Hotels chain, which is a collection of 50 of some of the best hotels in Britain. Pride of Britain is currently offering an all-inclusive two-night Renew at Gravetye break. Priced from £1,288 per room/£644 pp (two sharing) it includes daily full English breakfast, alfresco lunch, cream tea and dinner. Spend time exploring the hotel’s 1,000 acres which include a stunning wildflower meadow, two-acre walled vegetable garden and an orchard with 32 varieties of apple. Contact Pride of Britain Hotels on 0800 089 3929 (www.prideofbritainhotels.com). For alternative booking options try:
Other member hotels from the Pride of Britain Hotels group reviewed by ALadyofLeisure.com include: The Headland hotel, Cornwall; Stapleford Park, Leicestershire; Park House hotel and spa, Sussex (click on each hotel name to read the review).
If you want to read more reviews of luxury hotels with Michelin-starred restaurants then check out my reviews of: