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28 July 2014

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Let’s be blunt: Gatwick Airport isn’t a great place to spend time. It’s badly in need of the TLC promised by its new owners (though at least it coped better than Heathrow with last winter’s cold snap). If you’re entertaining clients or colleagues before or after they catch a flight, the next four pages will be indispensable, outlining the best beds, food, meeting spaces and entertainment in the Gatwick area


WHERE TO MEET, EAT & SLEEP

gatwick - AH_Pool_copy-Alex_House-35.jpg5.jpgAlexander House Hotel & Utopia Spa
You’ll find Alexander House just outside East Grinstead, so it couldn’t be much closer to the airport. It has six meeting rooms of various sizes but the hotel’s big draw is the Utopia Spa, which will put a huge and long-lasting smile on the faces of female delegates in particular. There are two restaurants: AG’s Grill Room and the less formal Reflections. Executive chef Paul Nixon has previously worked at The Savoy and the Roux brothers’ restaurant in Amsterdam, so the food is well up to scratch.
Word to the wise For smaller meetings, book the Chester Suite, with oak panelling that dates back to the 17th century.
Cuckfield, West Sussex RH10 4QD, tel:
01342 714914, squaremeal.co.uk/alex-house
BR:38  FR:8  M:80  D:115  R:150

Ashdown Park Hotel & Country Club
We could easily have filed Ashdown under ‘Where to Play’ – after all, its 18-hole golf course and tennis courts make it popular with weekenders down from London. But Ashdown retains a sharp focus on corporate events, with 16 well-equipped function suites and meeting rooms suitable for anything from small boardroom gatherings to banquets for 150.
Word to the wise Book your group a candlelit dinner in the Anderida restaurant.
Forest Row, East Sussex RH18 5JR,
tel: 01342 824988,
squaremeal.co.uk/ashdown
BR:106  FR:16  M:160  D:150  R:200

Felbridge Hotel & Spa
Felbridge might not have the visual ‘wow factor’ of, say, Gravetye Manor, but it is easily the best hotel in East Grinstead, on Gatwick’s doorstep. It can handle anything from meetings for two people up to banquets for more than 300. There are two restaurants, while the Qube bar lends itself to cocktails and canapé events, and the spa is supremely stylish.
Word to the wise The courtyard is ideal for summer barbecues.
East Grinstead, West Sussex RH6 9LN,
tel: 01342 337700,
squaremeal.co.uk/felbridge
BR:120  FR:10  M:500  D:330  R:500

Langshott Manor
Three acres of gardens, a medieval moat and only two miles from the airport (yet not under the flight path), Langshott has an awful lot to recommend it. With just 22 rooms, the hotel lends itself perfectly to exclusive use, allowing your delegates to unwind when they are not holed up in one of the three meeting rooms.
Word to the wise There’s a great exclusive-use meetings package, including breakfast, elevenses, lunch and dinner.
Horley, Surrey RH6 9LN,
tel: 01293 786680, squaremeal.co.uk/langshott
BR:22  FR:3  M:40  D:60  R:100

Lingfield park marriott hotel & country club
The hotel, which is in the grounds of Lingfield Park Racecourse, does not celebrate its first birthday till May. Its state-of-the-art conference suites overlook the winning post. The sports theme is reinforced by some top-class facilities for weary delegates: an 18-hole golf course and training academy and a health and leisure club.
Word to the wise As well as having five meeting rooms of its own, the hotel benefits from the racecourse’s 450-capacity venue. 
Lingfield, Surrey RH7 6PQ, tel: 01342 830930, squaremeal.co.uk/lingmar
BR:116  FR:4  M:100  D:96  R:80

Nutfield Priory hotel & Spa
This neo-gothic slice of Victoriana is a member of the ever-reliable Hand Picked Hotels group, and is just 20 minutes from Gatwick. There are 40 acres of grounds, the fine-dining Cloisters restaurant and nine conference rooms. After their meeting, delegates can disappear into the spa or splash around in the indoor pool.
Word to the wise Ask about the upgrades
on meeting packages – they’re great value.
Redhill, Surrey RH1 4EL, tel: 0845 072 7485, squaremeal.co.uk/nutfield
BR:60  FR:8  M:100  D:60  R:100

Ockenden Manor - Ockenden_Manor_2008_-_ock01_hig.jpgOckenden Manor
Home to the nearest Michelin-starred restaurant to Gatwick (hat-tip to chef Stephen Crane), the hotel is tucked away in Cuckfield, one of England’s prettiest Tudor villages. With just 22 rooms, Ockenden makes for a great corporate retreat if hired exclusively. Its plush new spa, opened in 2010, adds to the attraction.
Word to the wise You’d be mad not to try the restaurant’s seven-course tasting menu.
Cuckfield, West Sussex RH17 5LD,
tel: 01444 449182, squaremeal.co.uk/ockenden
BR:22  FR:1  M:20  D:96  R:150

Woodlands Park Hotel
Oak Restaurant - Oak_Room_Restaurant_2009_-_Oak_Room.jpg Prince Edward and Lillie Langtry used to stay here, and if it’s good enough for them, it’s certainly good enough for Gerald from accounts. There are eight function rooms, while the Oak Room restaurant, with space for 30 diners, is a charming venue.
Word to the wise If your budget allows, book a helicopter ride for your team, taking off from nearby Redhill.
Cobham, Surrey KT11 3QB, tel: 0845 072 7581, squaremeal.co.uk/wood
BR:57  FR:9  M:200  D:150  R:200

WHERE TO PLAY

Mannings Heath Golf Club 
The beautiful South Lodge Hotel (which, incidentally, has great meetings spaces) just happens to be next door to the two championship golf courses at Mannings Heath, which is a five-minute drive from the hotel. South Lodge offers a range of golf packages
in conjunction with the club, including some highly competitive day delegate rates.
Word to the wise Look into hiring the 19th-century Fullers Cottage for up to 11 guests. 
Lower Beeding, West Sussex RH13 6PS,
tel: 01403 220349,
squaremeal.co.uk/mannings
BR:4  FR:7  M:120  D:110  R:130

Mercedes-Benz World
At the periphery of the Gatwick region, admittedly, but worth the 17-mile drive up the M23 and M25 to Weybridge. It’s all about the driving experiences here, from speeding a sports car around a track to hefting a 4x4 over the off-road course. For total immersion in motorsports, you can even stay at the new Brooklands Hotel (squaremeal.co.uk/brooklands).
Word to the wise Book the AMG experience: you get to drive a 6.2-litre V8 very quickly indeed.
Weybridge, Surrey KT13 OSL, tel: 0870 400 4000, squaremeal.co.uk/Mercedes
BR:-  FR:10  M:400  D:850  R:1,000

Priory Events - 1004_Priory_Events_Apache_AT_Priory_Events.jpgPriory Events
This well-established teambuilding specialist is happy to pay a visit to a venue of your choice, but we suggest you let the team play host at their beautiful 250-acre site near Redhill. Activities include archery, bush skills, quad biking, clay-pigeon shooting and off-road driving. A day here will make your team fitter, faster, stronger, better and, quite possibly, happier.
Word to the wise There are two converted barns to hire for meetings and events.
Nutfield, Surrey RH1 4EG, tel: 01737 822484, squaremeal.co.uk/oldbarn
BR:-  FR:2  M:80  D:80  R:250

Lingfield Park Racecourse
Corporate entertaining fads come and go, but a day at the races is never going to go out of fashion. One of the UK’s busiest racecourses, with more than 80 meetings a year, Lingfield has 18 trackside boxes and an award-winning caterer. Bookies come as standard, obviously, so be prepared for a flutter.
Word to the wise Our money’s on No.9.
Lingfield, Surrey RH7 6PQ, tel: 01342 834800, squaremeal.co.uk/lingfield
BR:116  FR:18  M:450  D:320  R:700

READY FOR TAKE-OFF

Spring’s big news is the reopening of the Elizabethan Gravetye Manor. The famous Relais & Chateaux hotel, which is just 12 miles from Gatwick, has been shut since January for a major refurbishment. If you want privacy, this is the place – it’s hidden in 1,000 acres of ancient woodland. 
West Hoathly, Surrey RH19 4LJ, tel:
01342 810567, squaremeal.co.uk/gravetye
BR:17  FR:4  M:12  D:60  R:60

The South Lodge Hotel has one of the UK’s best chef’s table experiences at its Pass restaurant, open Wednesday to Sunday for lunch and dinner. Up to 22 guests can watch award-winning head chef Matt Gillan in action and enjoy a six-course tasting menu with wine flight at £40.
Lower Beeding, West Sussex RH13 6PS, tel: 01403 891711, squaremeal.co.uk/south-lodge
BR:89  FR:12  M:130  D:130  R:250

OFF-FLIGHT MEALS

Sometimes only a pub will do. It’s pushing it to say it’s close to Gatwick, but we reckon you’ll be happy to make the 30-minute drive to the 16th-century Griffin Inn, overlooking the Ouse valley near Uckfield in East Sussex. It has a highly regarded restaurant, 13 bedrooms, a suntrap of a terrace and can provide private dining for up to 60.
Fletching, East Sussex TN22 3SS,
tel: 01825 722890

Opening a fine-dining restaurant in the centre of Horsham is a punchy move, but Tristan Mason (ex-Orrery) is going great guns with his eponymous 38-cover Restaurant Tristan. Definitely one to check out – Mason won a Michelin star at the tender age of 29 at his previous joint, The Hare in Hungerford.
Horsham, West Sussex RH12 1HU,
tel: 01403 255688


This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events magazine, spring 2011


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