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Muddy review: Alexander House, West Sussex

With a stunning spa and newly launched fine dining restaurant, this five-star country manor house should be at the top of your list for a luxe post-lockdown escape.

THE LOWDOWN

The jewel in the crown of the luxury Alexander Hotels group, you’d never guess that Alexander House is a mere 16-minute zip down the road from Gatwick Airport. The handsome 17th-century manor house is set within 120 acres of peaceful grounds and rolling Sussex hills and is every bit the countryside bolthole if you’re looking to escape the daily grind for an indulgent weekend away.

THE VIBE

Alexander House has all the hallmarks of a classic luxury hotel (the helipad was the first clue) but without the stuffiness that can often come with a five-star stay. The oak-panelled lobby, which leads onto the several dining areas and lounges, is warm and welcoming (as are the staff who were nothing but polite and genuinely friendly throughout our stay). The roaring fires and comfy sofas give it a surprisingly homely feel.

The decor is interesting too – each room plays with a different colour scheme from deep fuchsia in the relaxed lounge area (where afternoon tea is served), to orange in the Reflections Restaurant and bright turquoise for AG’s Restaurant.

Antiques, gilt-framed paintings and the manor house’s original features are offset with contemporary furnishings and styling that’s larger than life (minimalists look away now), adding to the indulgent experience and fun of staying at a luxury hotel.

THE SPA

The subterranean Grecian-inspired Utopia Spa is a destination in its own right and encompasses an entire wing of the hotel – it even has its own concierge service and reception if you’re just visiting for the day (there are loads of spa day packages to book or a £20 charge per hour for guests).

Facilities are excellent with a Relaxation Room (think chaise longues, majestic music and mood lighting), fully equipped gym and fitness studio with classes (Covid dependent), 25 treatment rooms (including three for couples), but the real showstopper is the pool area decked out with grand pillars, marble floors and dome ceilings above the hydrotherapy pool and bubble tubs scattered with stars. In a word: peaceful.

It was tipping buckets on our visit (*sob*) but we would’ve love to check out the hot tub and bespoke outdoor barrel sauna set among the grounds – Instagram catnip!

And as for the treatments – how long have you got? The spa exclusively uses ila and Temple Spa products for its 40+ experiences (all available to buy in the spa boutique), which include body wraps, Indian head massage and a Champagne and Truffle facial (yes, really!). I opted for a heavenly 55-minute full body massage and left the room feeling totally zen.

SCOFF & QUAFF

There are a several options for dining here including private rooms, the 2-rosette Reflections Restaurant and Afternoon Tea (I would recommend the Tiramisu blend from Brighton-based tea company, Hoogly, or upgrading to the Nyetimber Wines experience) – but if you really want to make an occasion of it, AG’s Restaurant is a dead cert.

Relaunched in autumn 2020, the fine dining restaurant offers a changing seasonal 10-course menu (£85 or £150 with wine flight) created by newly appointed head chef Johnny Stanford, who brings with him over 12 years experience in Michelin-starred kitchens – so, you know, not too shabby.

We were blown away by the food – from the first course to the last, each dish was sophisticated, inventive and a pleasure for the tastebuds. It’s hard to pick our favourite courses but the beetroot tartare, above, with quince, picked beetroot and chocolate jelly (I know!) was one of the most delicate and interesting dishes I have ever eaten.

Other stand outs were the whipped burnt butter with muscovado sugar served with bread and pumpkin velouté for the second entrée (rich, indulgent – I could’ve eaten a whole bowl of the stuff) and my +1 raved about her quail with picked onion, IPA and yeast sauce, above. The kitchen was very accommodating, swapping the quail for a king oyster mushroom for my plate – it was an excellent example of giving veggie food a ‘meaty’ dimension without using a substitute. It’s very clever cooking.

The oat milk panna cotta with roasted oats and brambles also deserves a mention – it had the perfect wobble and texture despite being totally vegan, which is no mean feat.

I won’t bore you with my spiel about how beautiful the presentation is – you can see for yourself:

Blowtorched mackerel with buttermilk, salsify and hazelnuts
Pollock with cauliflower, clam chowder and sea herbs

The wine flight was excellent too, with bottles predominately from Western Europe and Australia. Each dish and glass came delivered with tasting notes from the super-professional staff (although a little hard to hear at times due to face masks), plus the head chef came out to personally deliver one dish to each table, which was a lovely touch.

PILLOWTALK

You can either stay upstairs in the main building, or for an extra special occasion there’s the Cedar Lodge Suites, a short walk away from the house and spa (you’ll find fluffy robes and slippers in your room to make the trip), which is where we bedded down for the night.

The rooms here are bigger than most decent sized two bed flats (seriously, I’ve lived in smaller), ranging from 52-square meters to full duplex suites, each with an outdoor area or balcony, the prime location for a morning brew. Our room featured a king-sized bed, sofa, dining area, huge TV and all the mod-cons including mood lighting.

However, my favourite part was the stunning bathroom – it was the epitome of tranquility with a freestanding bath, rainfall shower and L’Occitane toiletries.

OUT & ABOUT

Westwood Valley, Wakehurst

If you fancy leaving your 120-acre bubble of luxury (which, honestly, I doubt you will!), drive seven minutes in one direction to the National Trust’s Wakehurst estate and botanic gardens or 17 minutes in the other to Ashdown Forest – the fictional home of A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Alexander House has pretty much all bases covered but a romantic weekender or spa weekend with the girls would be at the top of my list. Both the spa and the foodie offering at AG’s are worth the trip even if you’re not staying over (although why wouldn’t you?).

Not for: Part of the hotel’s charm is its extrovert interiors so if you’re looking for a sleek, modern stay then this may not be for you.

The damage: You’re looking at around £229 for a Cosy Attic Double, up to £829 for a two-floor Garden Master Duplex Suite.

Alexander House, West Sussex, RH10 4QD. Tel: +44 1342 714914

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