Gravetye Manor is a beautiful country house hotel with 17 bedrooms and suites, nestled in the most glorious gardens. The gardens at Gravetye, created by William Robinson who lived there from 1884 until his death in 1935, are really rather special, and their history and that of the Elizabethan Manor is fascinating to discover during your stay.
There is a very warm, welcoming feel as you enter through the main doors, which is in equal part due to the fantastic staff as well as the roaring fire in the great open fireplace. It is reminiscent of staying at great house parties; you pass the boot room on your way in, with wellies and socks for all, should the grounds be wet when you go for a constitutional around the incredible grounds. The discreet reception area is tucked under the stairs, and after an official welcome we are guided up several staircases and along a corridor to our exclusive, deluxe room, reinforcing the country house, rather than hotel, feel.
We stayed in Lime, all the rooms are named after trees found on the estate, which was spacious, luxurious and incredibly welcoming. I loved the Radio Times helpfully placed next to the television; it was like staying with friends. Incredibly comfortable bed, enough wardrobes to satisfy a very large suitcase of clothes, select reading matter in the bookcase, nice bits of furniture and a decent long mirror. All the little extras in place: jug of water, fruit from the garden and great bathroom goodies. The bathroom was wonderfully comfortable and modern - though only a shower, no bath to luxuriate in. The view from our room of the abundant blooms in the Flower Garden and Azalea Bank was stunning, both as the sun set and in the early dawn hours.
After a little nose around through the sitting room, where afternoon tea was in full swing, we enjoyed a wonderful amble round the garden, taking in the Flower Garden, Lake, Kitchen Garden, Orchard, Croquet Lawn and Summer House. It was extremely relaxing, though rather chilly by the end, so it was wonderful to flop in an armchair by the fire and enjoy a glass of Bluebell Seyval Blanc, local sparkling wine and absolutely delicious, which revived ones spirits perfectly.
Once dressed for dinner we headed for the delightful wood panelled bar, which has doors on to the garden, for a few more glasses of Bluebell and some divine canapés, while anticipating the delights of dinner from the recently awarded Michelin Star kitchen, led by Head Chef George Blogg. It certainly did not disappoint, it was spectacular. We started with the Tasting of Gravetye Smoked Salmon, beetroot, nasturtium and citrus, and the Flaked Dorset Cock Crab, creamed brown crab meat and potato salad, osetra caviar and cucumber. Both incredibly beautiful to look at and heaven to taste. For our mains we plumped for the Fillet of Cornish Seabass, black rice, grelot onion, girolle mushroom and chicken jus, and the Herb Crusted Saddle of South Downs Lamb, roasted garlic, haggis, wilted spinach and mint jellies - a wonderful fusion of flavours. Pudding scored the hat trick; Caremelised White Chocolate Mousse, variations of apple, treacle and cinnamon, and the pièce de résistance, the Raspberry Crumble Souffle, clotted cream ice cream, raspberry and mint compote, which is really something everyone should try at least once.
The dining room consisted of two comfortable rooms, plus a small private one as well with a great view of the lake; we were in the main one which was full, quite something considering this was a Monday evening. The service and atmosphere was great and the food sublime, this was definitely an experience to be repeated.
Breakfast in our room the following morning was a relaxed affair, beautifully laid up by the waiters who brought it. Fresh fruit salad, pastries and a divine plate of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs - heavenly. Another wander round the grounds completed our all too brief time at Gravetye; it really is an incredibly relaxing place, the house and staff are so welcoming, and the food is seriously good. It is conveniently located in Sussex close to Gatwick airport, so there really is no excuse not to go and stay there. We will certainly be back.