THE WEEKEND: Wanting to rusticate in luxurious splendour, we paid a visit to the newly launched accommodation at Leonardslee House. Owner Penny Streeter OBE has brought back a hefty slice of South Africa to rural England and filled the Grade I listed grounds with things to do and art to gawp at for all ages – but the real focus here is gastronomy.
WHERE? Just over an hour’s drive from London in West Sussex, Leonardslee House is within Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens. The wide-spreading grounds has seven adjoining lakes and gardens cultivated over 200 years ago, as well as a sculpture park and the UK’s first ever Pinotage vineyard.
THE STAY: The 10 elegant bedrooms in the 19th century Mansion feel like stepping right into Downton Abbey, but with better food as in reality this is less a hotel and more a Michelin-starred restaurant with sumptuous beds you can roll into afterwards. Entering to the tinkle of piano music, every room is flooded with light and panoramic views of the grounds. The Magnolia Suite, whose bathroom alone is the size of a small flat in Brixton, is a riot of pastel blush and duck egg blue. A lavish combination of opulent wallpaper, velvet sofas, antique furniture, and marble fireplaces beneath crystal chandeliers. Delicate mirrored trays hold decanters, ornaments and tastefully piled vintage books. The roll-top nickel bath-for-two looks out over the treetops before you wrap yourself up in the fluffiest of towels. Despite stepping back in time there is thankfully all the mod-cons such as coffee machine, wine fridge and flat-screen TVs (in both the living and bedroom) and there is constant Wi-Fi throughout the grounds.
At 5pm the day trippers leave and, with a discreet code for the front door, residents are encouraged to return for a moonlit stroll among the ancient redwoods in peace
If you can tear yourself away from the period drama of it all, outside there is a wine garden offering tastings from South African Sister-Estate Benguela Cove and a farm shop and café. Pinotage is South Africa’s own grape variety, invented there as a crossing between Pinot Noir and Cinsault and is rarely found anywhere else. First harvested in 2020, these Leonardslee wines will be available to try from 2023, though the hotel serves wines from their sister vineyard in South Africa currently. Pinotage in the UK is a risk due to our climate so I’m interested to see how these turn out. Also outdoors, don’t miss the wallaby enclosure (feeding time is at noon) or exploring the rambling pathways to bluebell banks, tall ancient redwoods and the famous collection of rare rhododendrons. Come 5pm the day trippers leave and, with a discreet code for the front door, residents are encouraged to return for a moonlit stroll in peace.
THE FOOD: Descend the turning staircase to the bar at 6pm for cocktail hour before being escorted to the high-ceilinged restaurant Interlude, overlooking the park. Dietaries are taken but the menu is set, but as this is 18 courses one hopes there would be something for everyone. Michelin starred Chef Jean Delport’s menu is a “hunter-gatherer” concept combining components foraged, cultivated, or raised on the Estate with flavours from South Africa in an incredible 4-hour dining experience. Each course comes with its own little card and map showing where on the estate this dish was sourced. Wine-pairings are recommended.
Visit Leonardslee House yourself
Rooms start from £292.50 per night for a classic double
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