A £15m new spa opening at this traditional country-house hotel in Sussex has transformed it from classic to cutting-edge.
When you arrive at South Lodge, on the edge of the South Downs, it is exactly what you’d expect from a country house hotel: pretty grounds, a honey-coloured stone exterior and a crunchy gravel drive give you a warm welcome. While you can certainly decamp here for an enjoyable weekend away, with some stellar food to boot (the hotel has two standout restaurants: The Pass and Camellia), the new cutting-edge spa, tucked away behind its trad façade, will surely further elevate any jaunt away from home.
Designed by architects Felce & Guy, it has a sleek, modern look with plenty of glass and anthracite metal. Sustainability is a strong focus of the design, with green oak cladding, a grass and sedum roof, a biomass boiler used for power and a reed bed for sewage treatment. Throughout, there’s also an ‘outside-in’ ethos, with plenty of features that make use of the hotel’s idyllic setting. Retractable glass doors give an airy feel to the interiors, and outside there’s a bubbling outdoor hydrotherapy pool and cute cocoon-pods found on sun decks. Best of all is the UK’s first heated natural swim pond – which is like a mini wild lake. Meanwhile, public spaces have a cosy, eclectic feel with mid-century-style lighting, tactile ‘tree-trunk’ tables and lime-green velvet sofas.
Aside from the infused sauna, two steam rooms (one salt and the other is herbal), indoor infinity pool and mud room, there are more than 50 treatments on offer across 14 treatment rooms. Choose therapies from Hungarian skincare brand Omorovicza and the hotel’s own The Spa range. The Omorovicza Botanical treatment – a pampering body scrub, massage and facial using botanicals of sage, chamomile, calendula and jojoba – is a highlight and is exclusive to the hotel.
Men are not forgotten with the dedicated male grooming bar, overseen by local barbers Grizzly’s, and which offers a cheeky beer with your haircut or wet shave. The state-of-the-art gym is also impressive with Technogym equipment, an outdoor training terrace, and spin and yoga studios.
Chef Jonathan Spiers is at the helm at the in-spa Botanica, which goes way beyond typically unimaginative wellness menus of limp lettuce and yoghurt desserts. Spiers’ menu is largely plant-based, local and seasonal plates, such as the vegetarian Wasted Burger, made from leftover ingredients from the morning’s juices (it tastes way better than it sounds). The brunch options are also delicious and have a Mediterranean feel – with English chorizo, house baked beans, sourdough toast and a South Lodge hen’s egg setting you up for the day. There’s a delicious dessert section while, for those looking to assuage any guilt later, there’s a range of sweet ‘small bites’ including ‘lavender shortbread’ and ‘courgette and polenta cake’.
The Ridgeview Beauty Bar, which has the UK’s only sparkling wine Enoflute dispenser, to keep the bubbles flowing while you enjoy a pedicure or manicure.
After your treatment, make sure you try one of the futuristic Four Senses Lounge beds, which combine sound, light, scent and vibration for the ultimate in relaxation.
To stay at South Lodge, rooms start at £265 (for B&B and spa access). Beauty treatments begin at £20 for a manicure or £15 for a men’s clipper cut or beard trim. To book or to enquire about membership, visit exclusive.co.uk/south-lodge/
This article was also published in City AM Newspaper on 19 August 2019