Cedar Lodge at Alexander House Hotel
Exquisite luxury: check. Bold finishes to a beautiful 17th-century house: check. Gorgeous food: check. An award-winning spa: check. A brand spanking new ultra-contemporary hotel annex on the property: check. Really? Yes really! Introducing the new Cedar Lodge Suites at Alexander House Hotel.
by Samantha G
You know you’re on to a winner when every time you tell someone that you are off for a stay at Alexander House you are met with envious looks, sighs with a slightly jealous edge and exclamations of “ooh I love it there…” And it’s easy to see why.
This 5-star hotel nestled in the heart of the rolling Sussex countryside has been wowing its guests year on year since it opened. The problem, however, when your popularity over a decade shows no sign of diminishin: how to try and accommodate more guests, particularly when you are based in an old manor house that doesn’t quite lend itself to numerous extensions and buildings. The answer? A bold and daring vision that led to the creation of the Cedar Lodge, home to 19 modern sumptuous garden suites including its pinnacle, an amazing duplex suite.
Arrival into the building is through the double-height glass entrance lobby. Adorned with modern art, the clean lines and unique lighting makes this more modern art gallery than country house hotel, and having only opened its cool doors back in October it still has that new smell that makes you excited to realise you are among the first to experience what awaits beyond the smooth ivory staircase.
With a personal concierge, checking into our suite was smooth; the door opened onto a large well-appointed bedroom-come-lounge, flooded with light from the doors to the balcony beyond, and a huge luxury bathroom with double-size bath, rainforest shower and twin sinks cleverly hidden behind double wooden doors.
So what’s the first thing you do when checking into a new amazingly appointed suite? Run your hands along the finishes and furnishings? Lounge on the sumptuous corner sofa? Admire the balcony views of the Sussex countryside in the afternoon sun? Run a huge Temple Spa bubble bath in the wondrous tub for two? Cocoon yourself in Egyptian cotton on the Vi-Sprung king-size bed? Nope – you play with the lights! The two preset mood panels, one each for the bedroom and bathroom areas, allow you to create your own haven of blissful luxury and if you’re in the know about these things – lighting really is everything! And so it’s the touches such as these, the clean lines, mirrors and the Bob Crooks Glass decor that assure you that the vision has paid off and Alexander House have got these suites just right.
Granted the ultra modern finish may not be everyone’s expectation of an historic country house hotel – a member of staff even likened it to the marmite effect, but of course this is exactly why they work. Guests can now choose whether to stay in the traditional suites in the main house or the contemporary suites of the Cedar Lodge, with both options offering full access to the hotel’s great facilities and dining options.
Guests are encouraged to relax and wear their robes and slippers during their stay, and whilst the first signs of spring sunshine were on the horizon, the dozen or so gravel crunching steps to the main building seemed just a tad too far in the crisp March air. So, armed with our robes in tow, we strolled to the beautiful award-winning Utopia Spa, fresh from scooping its most recent accolade: the Conde Nast Johansens Luxury Spa for Excellence 2015.
In this subterranean paradise my guest and I were drawn to the cool turquoise waters of the pool, set off against the white Grecian pillars and bright blue mosaic décor. We happily swam, lounged, made use of the Jacuzzi and bobbed amongst the bubble jets and monsoon showers of the hydrotherapy pool before heading back to the changing rooms to while away some time in the separate steam and sauna rooms. Guests also have access an amazing outdoor hot tub, too.
The top level of the spa is home to 25 opulent treatment rooms (including three double treatment rooms) and relaxation lounges. Like many who are tempted away from the standard massage/facial treatments, I opted this time to try the ‘Glorious Mud Complete Detox’ treatment. Not since my cheeky three-year-old self went playing in the rain have I had such a top-to-toe mud experience; and who knew how beneficial it is (the mineral and vitamin enriched kind, not the garden variety of course).
Having been body brushed from head to toe to encourage lymphatic flow, the mud, utilising heat and botanicals, helps to eliminate toxins and ease sore muscles, all whilst I lay cocooned in a cosy wrap and enjoyed a glorious face and scalp massage. The end result was a lovely fresh glow and relaxed muscles. My guest was equally impressed having been ‘Scrubbed up Nicely’ with a sugar buff body scrub leaving skin hydrated, smooth and soft.
After the short skip back to our lodge suite we were able to watch the sunset whilst preparing for the other great draw of Alexander House: AGs – its 3 AA Rosette restaurant.
Led by talented executive chef Mark Budd, the aim of the wonderful team is to provide “a far from ordinary dining experience”, and that’s what we were expecting as we took our seats in the plush and comfortable dining room.
The menu is inspired by the countryside, woodland and fields harnessing its location, with a creative flair to produce exceptional food that is also a feast for the eyes. The accompanying extensive wine list (now viewable from an iPad app no less) helps to ensure that the whole dining experience is planned and executed to perfection.
We lingered a little longer than normal over the menu as there were just so many choices that had our taste buds fired up, including old spot pork with caramelised apple and pig’s tail sauce, hay-smoked dry-aged rib of beef with beer and cheddar gnocchi and a red wine braised monkfish. Finally, and on the toss of a coin, we plumped for the Chateaubriand for two.
Whilst the kitchen cooked our beef to perfection we were able to sample the homemade sourdough bread with ‘from the sea’ and ‘from the land’ butters – the first salty and sharp, the latter rich from its beef dripping.
I think the best early assessment of a restaurant’s creativity and sense of flavour comes from the little extras, and our amuse bouche did not disappoint. The celeriac panna cotta was delicious, delicate and smooth under its layer of sherry jelly accompanied by blue cheese and walnuts.
By the time our Chateaubriand was presented we were positively salivating. Served at the table, the beautifully cooked beef was delicious, accompanied by pommes aligot (delightfully smooth and subtle) and sand carrots (always a wonder to devour the deeply black to pale yellow hues of this sweet vegetable) as well as a rich red wine jus; all of which was perfectly washed down with our recommended wine – the Lagarde 2011 Malbec, a zingy rich tastebud teaser.
Sated but with just enough room to give the dessert menu our full attention we were impressed with our palate cleanser, think Piña Colada in miniature! The little glass of coconut panna cotta, rum jelly, pineapple sorbet and mini marshmallow was just great and fully prepared us for my favourite course of the evening. My guest enjoyed the hot banana soufflé, the softest, lightest soufflé he had ever tasted, accompanied by a rich, sticky, dense malt toffee sauce and ice cream de-rigour toasted corn. I opted for the ‘South Lawns Chocolate Tree Stump’, and there in front of me was my own little enchanted forest, all made with chocolate! Tree stumps, chocolate whisps, ladybirds, leaves, it was all there with an intense lime sorbet and and pistachio kick – it was magically divine!
All that was left was to adjourn to the fireside lounge for coffee and petit fours before our short amble back to our suite.
Woken by the glorious spring sunshine we had plenty of time to indulge in a hearty breakfast, care of the Reflections Restaurant which offers both Continental and English breakfast options full of local free range fare, as well as fresh breads and pastries, before bidding a fond farewell the main manor house and it’s new swanky addition.
Alexander House Hotel & Utopia Spa