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Ashdown Park - Luxury country house hotel

Ashdown Park - Clifford Mould revisits a luxury country house hotel in the heart of Sussex

When I heard that Ashdown Park was promoting a new Sunday lunch menu, it set me wondering how long it was since we first reviewed the hotel. I looked up the earlier review, it was written in the last century! May 1999 to be precise. Chefs of course come and go, but essentially the description of the hotel and its idyllic setting remains the same.

As I explained in my original review, to qualify as a proper country house hotel, certain criteria have to be met. There should be a terrace with views probably including a lake, so that guests can eat alfresco in the summer. Comfortable lounges with roaring fires and plenty of newspapers and magazines are essential. Easy access to country pursuits such as riding, shooting and fishing goes without saying. A private golf course is nice, so long as it does not impinge too closely upon the hotel itself. The bedrooms should be luxurious and the dining room should be the principal place of entertainment and delight. After my visit the other day, I can confirm that Ashdown Park maintains and fulfils these criteria in abundance.

The Sunday lunch menu, reasonably priced at £26 50 for three courses including service, is sensibly traditional with favourite dishes such as roast sirloin of beef, with Yorkshire pudding and gravy, or there is seabass, loin of pork, or breast of corn-fed chicken with Lyonnais potato sugar snaps and salsify. Our old friend the desert trolley is making a comeback nowadays, while coffee and petits fours attract an additional £4.25, which can be served in the luxury of the lounge. The Sunday lunch menu is available all day - until 7 p.m. in the evening. It was explained to me that this is to enable people to plan their Sunday around their chosen activities rather than a specific lunchtime. Seems like a good idea to me.

The weekday lunch table d'hote menu is well priced at £23.95 for three courses and changes daily. The a la carte menu, which although weighing in at £49.50 per person, looks interesting in a slightly retro kind of way, but definitely worthy of attention. Sadly, it was beyond our budget on that occasion. It's probably worth pointing out that half the six non vegetarian main course dishes, that’s the Dover sole, the fillet steak and the Chateaubriand for two, carry supplements of £8.00, £6.00 and £12.00 respectively. That leaves only one meat dish, the canon of lamb, unless you’re prepared to pay nearly £56.00. However, there is yet a further table d’hote menu in the evenings, priced at £35.00 for three courses including service.

I am pleased to say that our lunch was excellent. The leek and potato soup was full of beautifully integrated flavours, and the texture was as smooth as velvet – someone had been busy with the sieve! Rare beef salad was generous with the beef, which I imagine was cut from a large joint that is only economically feasible in a big hotel kitchen. For his main course my guest enjoyed the herb roasted loin of pork which was miraculously tender. It came with a delicious Dauphinois of root vegetables and braised and caramelised endive. I had the confit duck leg which came neatly presented on a tasty garlic rosti and with a star anise reduction that was a little unusual but partnered the duck really well.

For dessert, the yoghurt tort with zests of orange and lime was a perfect way for my guest to freshen his lunchtime palate. I was really wowed by the beautifully constructed orange curd tart accompanied by a very naughty dark chocolate ice cream. All our dishes were artistically presented, in keeping with such a lovely dining room. The service, executed by a highly professional French team, was both impeccable and friendly. There is a most impressive wine list, though it being lunchtime, we prudently limited ourselves to a glass each of a very drinkable house wine.

All in all a very enjoyable visit – but what would I really like? To take over the hotel for Christmas, and invite all our friends. Dream on, old chap!

Also see:

Ashdown Park Hotel, Wych Cross, near Forest Row, East Sussex, RH18 5JR
T 01342 824988
F 01342 826206

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