Gravetye Manor

Gravetye Manor West Sussex – food heaven in a luxury country house hotel

There are some places that are so lovely you can’t stop thinking about them after you leave, and Gravetye Manor in West Sussex is most definitely one of those.

[Note: this review of Gravetye Manor in West Sussex was first published in 2015 and some of the details might be out of date. There has since been a new restaurant at Gravetye Manor and I will be visiting it soon and will update my review accordingly!]

It probably helped that I visited this luxury country house hotel – which is undoubtedly one of the best country house hotels in West Sussex, despite stiff competition – during one of the most glorious weekends of the summer, so even though I arrived all hot and bothered after three hours crawling along the M25, a mere five minutes later I was feeling wonderfully soothed and relaxed thanks to being at the stunning gardens at Gravetye (the gin and tonic probably helped too).

gravetye manor
Gravetye Manor in West Sussex is a 16th century Elizabethan house and a foodie and horticulturalists’ paradise
Visiting Gravetye Manor gardens

The gardens at Gravetye Manor are stunning and justifiably renowned: a riot of different colour and sizes and far removed from the formality of grander establishments. There are some tables on the main lawn but we – my mother was my lucky plus one for the stay – were shown to a lovely table round the side of the manor, in a beautiful courtyard overlooking a wild flower meadow beyond which was a sparkling lake.

gravetye manor
There is a more formal dining room inside but al fresco dining at Gravetye is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon
Dining in the gardens at Gravetye Manor

With the traffic delay I had worried I would be too late for lunch but no, at Gravetye Manor food – as well as being served in the new Michelin-starred restaurant at Gravetye – is served in the gardens or lounge from 10am until 10pm which is extremely civilised, especially for a Sunday in the middle of the West Sussex countryside. The menu wasn’t just a ‘light bite’ option either but top-quality British food, from wild cress and nettle risotto to salad of seared pigeon breast. I had dressed south coast crab followed by the fish of the day, pollock, with summer garden vegetables and they were both as wonderful as the view.

To book directly with the hotel, go to: Gravetye Manor
To compare prices for Gravetye Manor click on: Trivago – HotelsCombined –
To read more reviews and get the latest prices click here to go to Gravetye Manor on TripAdvisor

gravetye manor
There are little tables and chairs dotted around the gardens
gravetye manor
Salad of seared wood pigeon breast, preserved brambleberries and sorrel
pollock lunch
Fish of the day with summer garden vegetables

We had been the only ones in our garden glade for a few hours but the other tables – all at a good discrete distance apart, tucked under the trees – were starting to fill up as people spilled outside for post-lunch coffees (there was a very formal party who were all wearing black tie and cocktail dresses) or arrived for afternoon tea.

Checking out the bedrooms at Gravetye Manor

It was time to check out our room at the top of the manor and it was vast, with a fabulous view over the gardens, large bathroom, desk, sofas and a perfect window seat on which to have a post-lunch snooze.

Gravetye Manor awards

While Gravetye Manor is a beautiful building and fast building a reputation as one of the best hotels in the country – recent accolades include best independent hotel of the year from Caterer magazine, AA hotel of the year, and Conde Nast’s best countryside hotel – the atmosphere is still very relaxed and informal.

It has a classic country house feel where you are left alone to wander at will, to curl up with a book in a snug corner, to play croquet on its immaculate croquet lawn, to amble around the kitchen gardens, down to the lake or have a drink at its cosy and well-stocked bar. Staff are there but invisible, so it genuinely feels like a grand old house and you can almost convince yourself that you actually live there.

Gravetye Manor history

Built in 1598 by local landowner Richard Infield for his bride, Katherine, Gravetye’s origins as a notable garden site were – literally – sown in 1884 when world-famous gardener William Robinson bought it and the 1,000 acres which surrounds Gravetye. Robinson was known as the creator of the classic English garden, where the idea was to enhance the natural beauty of woods and gardens rather than forcing or controlling them into more formal styles.

Gravetye Manor
The beautiful view of Gravetye’s gardens from our bedroom window
Gravetye Manor
Our bedroom (or half of it) with a windon seat from which to admire the gardens
New owners at Gravetye Manor

Peter Herbert, who bought Gravetye in 1958, established it as a top hotel, but after his retirement the hotel’s new owners struggled to keep it afloat, and it went into administration in 2010. Thankfully after its rescue and a £2.5 million refurbishment by its new owners, Elizabeth and Jeremy Hoskings, Gravetye is very much back to its best, a fact very much in evidence at its stunning evening meal.

Gravetye Manor
The manor become the home of creative and innovative gardener William Robinson in 1884 who lived there for more than 50 years
Our food experience at Gravetye Manor

With only one wrong note – the flaked Dorset cock crab which was hidden underneath a bed of crisps and a very strange green cucumber jelly disc – the food was superb, from the canapes to the amuse-bouche watercress soup, to the hand-dived Orkney scallops with miso glaze. The main courses of Cornish turbot with black rice and girolle mushrooms and herb-crusted saddle of lamb with roasted garlic and haggis were really special, and rarely has a cheese trolley been so expertly and enthusiastically explained as by our fabulous waiter James, who hasn’t been at Gravetye Manor for long but who’s destined to go far.

Gravetye Manor
The food at dinner was beautifully presented, such as my Cornish turbot with girolle mushrooms
A chat with Tom Coward, Gravetye Manor’s gardener

With 95 per cent of all the fruit and vegetables coming from Gravetye’s one-acre walled kitchen garden, the food could hardly be more local, and after a superb breakfast the next morning (poached eggs and award-winning black pudding, no less) we had a lovely walk around the grounds with Tom Coward, the head gardener who clearly knows his onions (and flowers and fruits and….).

He’s been responsible for the gardens for the last five years, working closely with the head chef to decide what goes into the kitchen gardens and greenhouses, and managing the tricky job of preserving William Robinson’s vision while also taking it forward for the years to come.

Gravetye Manor
Head gardener Tom Coward is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about his work

We bid a reluctant farewell to Gravetye, waved off by the very smart and debonair managing director Andrew Thomason, and headed off to the local delights of Wakehurst, Kew Garden’s country estate and local vineyard Ridgeview. However we will most certainly be back, but until then I will have to content myself with telling everyone I know about this gem in the English countryside.

Gravetye Manor, Vowels Lane, West Hoathly, Sussex RH19 4JL 01342 810 567

Gravetye Manor is a member of Pride of Britain Hotels, Relais & Chateaux and has three AA rosettes.

Throughout the year there are many events at Gravetye Manor including garden tours with Tom Coward, wine-tastings and a Guy Fawkes evening with dinner and fireworks. For special offers at Gravetye Manor and last minute deals contact the hotel directly.

To book directly with the hotel, go to: Gravetye Manor
To compare prices for Gravetye Manor click on: Trivago – HotelsCombined –
To read more reviews and get the latest prices click here to go to Gravetye Manor on TripAdvisor

We ate:
Lunch in the garden
Dressed south coast crab with garlic mayonnaise and gem lettuce
Pollack fillet with mashed potato, summer garden vegetables and gem lettuce
Salad of seared wood pigeon breast, preserved brambleberries and sorrel
Strawberries with cream

Flaked Dorset cock crab with Jersey Royal potato salad, baeru caviar and cucumber
Hand-dived Orkney scallops, miso glaze, spring radish, sesame and seaweed cracker
Fillet of Cornish turbot,  black rice, grelot onion, girolle mushroom and chicken jus
Herb-crusted saddle of new season lamb, roasted garlic, haggis, wilted spinach and mint jellies
Gooseberry crumble souffle, clotted cream ice-cream, gooseberry and mint compote
Selection of British artisan cheeses

To book directly with the hotel, go to: Gravetye Manor
To compare prices for Gravetye Manor click on: Trivago – HotelsCombined –
To read more reviews and get the latest prices click here to go to Gravetye Manor on TripAdvisor


If you love country house hotels with award-winning gardens then you’ll also love:

My stay at Cliveden House luxury hotel (favourite of poets, players and princesses)

Barnsley House – a wonderfully cosy Cotswolds hideaway

Pennyhill Park – a luxury hotel fit for the England rugby team


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Sarah Bridge

Every review is personally researched and written by me, Sarah Bridge, who, when I'm not writing about leisure for a national newspaper, spends my time seeking out the best leisure experiences, from city centre boutique hotels to country house estates, Michelin-starred dining to the newest openings. Some of the links on my reviews are affiliate marketing links, which means if you click through I get a small commission if you end up buying on these sites. This in no way affects the independence of my reviews, but helps with website running costs and I just wanted to let you know so as to be fully transparent.
Sarah Bridge

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