A few months ago I won a Michelin Star dining experience through my bank.. oh yes, very nice indeed to get something back, isn’t it? The voucher was valid for over a year so I took my time deciding where to spend it. In London, I had either already visited some of the restaurants or I wasn’t really interested.. so I thought it would be lovely to spend a weekend in the countryside in a cosy hotel and enjoy a great dinner. We picked Ockenden manor, in West Sussex. Not too far from London, with a spa and dog friendly. I also liked the sound of their menu.
We booked a Saturday night stay in their cheaper rooms, as these are the ones where pooches are allowed. They are on the ground floor and not exactly cheap at £190 (+£10 for the dog), but they are comfortable, clean and with enough comforts such as nice toiletries, free wifi, flat screen tv and a comfortable bed. With regards to the dog this was the very first time we took her with us to a hotel. She behaved swimmingly and made us proud, yet the hotel itself doesn’t offer much. No water bowls, no ‘dog bed’ but mainly, they do not allow dogs in the common areas. I understand in the Michelin star dining room but in the lounge? It just seems a bit strange. Nor they have dog poo bins anywhere in the grounds. Strange, we thought. The spa is gorgeous and unfortunately, thanks to mental London traffic, we got there too late to try it but it looked smart, modern and clean and it is separate from the main body of the hotel, which is a very old, stunning building built in different eras with wood beams and stone masonry and pretty gardens.
The dining room is fairly modern looking (a contrast to the rest of the hotel areas which are period) and fairly comfortable. We were given an odd table, at the back of the room, in a corner – not sure why since we had booked fairly in advance. We enjoyed an aperitif and canapés in the bar lounge, where the professional (Italian) maître took our orders for the food as well. This meant that by the time we got to sit down, it was only a short while before we received our amuse bouche. This was a small, delicate morcel of house smoked salmon. The bread basket was really good – a selection of different breads, warm from the oven. A good start. Since I was harbouring a cold, I opted for a smooth, warming leek and potato soup, with smoked haddock quail egg and truffle cream. This came in a bright pea green colour (was there pea in it?) and was delicate and very pleasant.
I opted for game for my main, choosing a Balcombe wild duck with kale, apple and celeriac puree. I did like it, and it was cooked nicely, the fairly intense flavour complemented by the fruit’s sweetness. Given the season, I thought I would try the Cox apple and white chocolate mille feuille with a quince sorbet. The cream was not too overpowering and the apple delicately sweet, while the cold sorbet added a light finish to the dish.
We thoroughly enjoyed our dinner at Ockenden Manor – head chef Steven Crane is doing a good job of using locally sourced ingredients with French influences to create a warming, solid cuisine which is perfect in such a British countryside setting. The service was good and professional, the wine list well assembled and overall it’s a good experience. Shame that the breakfast the next day incredibly disappointing – not really worthy of such a place nor such a kitchen. I am thinking that the head chef has nothing to do with it!
Sustainable: seems so enough, scallops were hand dived, the sea bass hand dive
Dog friendly: only in ground floor rooms and outdoor areas.