Thanks to family ownership, the perfect balance has been maintained

editorial image

Thanks to the continuity brought by family ownership, Ockenden - and, indeed, its sister West Sussex hotels of Bailiffscourt and the Spread Eagle - that perfect balance has been maintained.

Miranda and Pontus Carminger, whose family began running the first of the three hotels - the Spread at Midhurst - in 1957 are rightly excited about the addition of the spa. It is the last of the trio of hotels to benefit from such a feature.

“The spa is a brand new building that thanks to some canny architectural design, somehow blurs the lines between old and new. We think it’ll offer visitors to beautiful Cuckfield and Ockenden Manor a truly serene experience,” they said.

Of course, an hotel is more than just a spa.

It’s about comfort, service, accommodation, and food.

It needs, too, to combine a sense of occasion with a feeling of home.

Ockenden could have lost its way if it had been allowed to become too grand and pretentious.

As it is, it oozes a comforting sense of the comfortable.

Its improved restaurant has been open for a full year and we reviewed the work of its Michelin-starred team.

The restaurant itself is a classic example of the building’s evolution. It has been extended with a huge lantern window showering the room with light, and the great picture windows giving a far-reaching view across a pure English landscape, dappled with the autumnal shades of changing leaves.

We visited as a family on Sunday and chose from the traditional Sunday Lunch menu - priced at £34.50 per person for three courses. A chef’s special starter is also included - on this occasion, turbot fritter with tartare sauce and pea shoots.

The starters ranged from pea and ham veloute, to marinated salmon, confit lamb belly and Carlingford oysters.

Traditional roasts are, as you would expect, the hallmark of the mains.

Rare roast beef and roast loin of pork were the featured meats, with salmon and homemade pasta as alternatives.

Desserts included baked apple and black berry crumble with clotted cream, caramelised lemon tart, cherry clafoutis with almonds, creme fraiche ice cream, and English and French cheese.

And our verdict?

The service was superb - extraordinarily attentive and thorough.

And every detail of the meal was thorough - from the freshly baked bread to the butter served at perfect temperature and consistency.

The meals themselves were cleverly balanced both in terms of quantity but also tastes and textures.

The meat was lean - with the beef cooked pink and the pork white.

The crackling was a mini masterpiece.

The alternative Sussex Menu was priced at £53 per person. Both this and the traditional Sunday are not cheap.

But the meal scored top marks on all counts.

A special place to go to celebrate, to meet with family and friends, or just to have a perfect escape from the everyday.