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|Address:||South Lodge Hotel, Brighton Road, Lower Beeding, West Sussex RH13 6PS|
|Price: £64.00||Wine: £24.50||Champagne: £50.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sun 12N-2.30pm 7-10pm|
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A sudden change of plan brought us to this stunning part of Sussex. Period buildings naturally occupy beauty spots and this was no exception where we discovered an unpretentious statement of grand with the utmost comfort and warmth. The other surprise was to find ourselves dining at Camellia as The Pass wasn’t open for lunch.
Though intricately ornate and heavily oaked décor is not normally my style, I loved the way this place had been restored. Sensitive modern tweaks subtley augmented without tarnishing the period feel. We were first led to a classically styled lounge decked with hand-studded chesterfields and chandeliers, but this wasn’t sufficient to distract me from the sandwich selection being delivered nearby tempting me to ask for ‘a plate of the same please’, but our table was already waiting and we were soon shown through to the comfortably furnished dining room.
Quite an array of choices faced us, but I soon decided that it was a fish day. Duck with marmite soldiers was a novel idea, no twist except for presentation in a terracotta egg box; not my choice but apparently it was good, followed by fillet steak, also classified ‘good’. I enjoyed crab croquette with tempura squid and a sticky chilli dipping sauce. But, what came next for me was a refined example of bouillabaisse with cavernous depth of luxurious flavour put with unlikely but fabulous cajan gnocchi, and the obligatory gruyere croutons and rouille weren’t overlooked – I have had fish stews/soups around mainland Europe and closer to home, but this was in a class of its own. Also on offer was chicken chasseur, various cuts of grilled meats, fishcakes, home-smoked haddock or sausage and mash plus a few lighter options.
Everything about this place was substantial from the structure, giant heavy crockery and wooden serving boards to the portions served. Service was impeccable whilst relaxed, and our waiter provided some characterful input which made the experience all the more enjoyable. We asked to see The Pass, where two glorious kitchens were flanked on one side by a line of tables to accommodate I’d say about 20 diners and one day I intend to be one of them.