Gravetye Manor is an Elizabethan country house hotel in Sussex, set in vast grounds covering a thousand acres. The building dates back to 1598 and became a hotel in 1958. The house was formerly (from 1885 to 1935) the home of a famous gardener and author called William Robinson, the father of the English natural garden. The Gravetye Manor gardens have now been restored to the grandeur built up in that era. There are 35 acres of formal gardens plus a very large walled kitchen garden area, growing a wide range of produce for use in the restaurant kitchen. Gravetye Manor’s dining room has one of the most spectacular views I have encountered, looking directly out on to the beautiful gardens. It seats around 48 guests at one time, with 14 chefs in the kitchen to provide for them. The executive chef is George Blogg with head chef Adam Smith. Mr Blogg worked at The Square under Phil Howard, and with David Everitt-Matthias at Le Champignon Sauvage, as well as various shorter stages at various famous restaurants. It has held a Michelin star for several years. The a la carte menu was priced at £83 for four courses, and there was a three-course option at £65.
The wine list had 513 labels and ranged in price from £29 to £1,350, with a median price of £115 and an average markup to retail price of a hefty 3.64 times, which would raise the eyebrows of an oligarch in Mayfair. Sample references were Pecorino Noi 100 Roxan 2020 at £40 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £13, Loveblock Pinot Noir 2020 at £69 compared to its retail price of £25, and Gaja Assyrtiko 'Thalassitis' 2020 at £84 for a wine that will set you back £26 in the high street. For those with the means there was Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz 2019 at £198 compared to its retail price of £48, and Château Lynch Bages 5ème Grand Cru Classé 2004 at £400 for a wine whose current market value is £127. 47% of the list was from France, but there was plenty of choice elsewhere, including an unusually extensive list of English wines, which made up 7% of the list. Although only 7% of the list was under £50, fully 40% was under £100. Corkage was £30, which is well worth considering given the high prices here.
There were two canapes. A tartlet of peas with little pieces of bacon was well made, the pastry delicate, the peas having good flavour and the bacon adding its pleasing hint of smoky flavour. Gougeres were topped with truffle and made from a local cheese from nearby High Weald Dairy. They were served cold rather than warm, which was a slight shame, but the choux pastry was excellent and there was plenty of cheese flavour, enhanced by the fragrance of the truffle (16/20 canapes). Bread was made in the kitchen and the choices available, including a brioche, had good texture.
Orkney scallop was served sliced and raw, with radish, buttermilk, cucumber and a herb called salad burnet (aka pimpernelle). This was a pretty dish which heavily relied on the quality of the main ingredient. The scallop here was very good, with pleasing natural sweetness, contrasted nicely by the radish and the greenery (15/20). Pea risotto had girolle mushrooms and Sussex Brie, topped with a shaving of black Tasmanian truffle. The peas had lovely flavour and the rice had excellent texture, the girolles also of high quality. The cheese was an unusual touch but it worked well (17/20). The quality of the vegetables from the garden really showed in this dish.
My main course was spring chicken with truffle sauce, hen of the wood mushroom, broad beans, pea shoots and a little black truffle. The chicken was nicely cooked and worked well with the earthy truffle sauce, while the beans and peas were very good indeed (15/20). I had a dessert of strawberries and blueberries with meringue cylinders, lemon verbena ice cream and a delicate berry tuile. This was a pretty and refreshing dish (15/20). Coffee was just basic Nespresso, which is OK but perhaps something a little nicer would be worth adding, such as Nespresso’s own Kilimanjaro blend or a speciality coffee. This came with some very pleasant petit fours.
Service was very good, with a restaurant manager who used to work at The Ritz. The bill came to £144 per person, with us taking the four-course menu. If you opted for the three-course menu and shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical cost per person might be more like £105. Gravetye Manor is a lovely spot for a meal in the country, the menu appealing and well executed, and the dining room unusually attractive with its stunning view over the gardens.
Further reviews: 01st Jul 2004