Part of a very impressive hotel and spa, one of the Historic Hotels range in the village of Cuckfield in West Sussex and therefore well-placed for the allure of Brighton, Ockenden Manor doesn’t do things by halves.
It’s a spa, a hotel and a restaurant in one; it looms out of its grounds which suggests about five different periods of British heritage rolled into one, with the impressively Gothic-looking facade offset by charming conservatories and beamed extensions.
And the food on offer here makes good use of the local abundance of producers in presenting a series of dishes which tend to focus on the ‘less is more’ approach rather than throwing everything at the central ingredient, flavour-wise – but which manage to do so in dazzlingly well-executed style.
After spending time in the spa, which is fed by its own underground spring, and well-appointed rooms, visitors to the dining room are treated to a pleasantly formal environment which smacks distinctively of refinement (as a result, some form of smartness of dress is advised).
The dishes range from very classic combinations to things which are a little more unusual but which never stray too far from the familiar; there is a prevailing sense of luxury in the food on offer, as well. So oysters, scallops, truffles and cuts of longhorn beef might appear alongside more hearty staples like venison, pheasant, local cod and turbot. The aforementioned longhorn might be deconstructed into a starter consisting of marrow, bresaola, brisket and tongue; saddle of venison might come served in a ‘pasty’ with cabbage and wild mushrooms.
The wine list is extensive and individual menus might come with tasting selections available.