Ashdown Park, East Sussex

Set in nearly 190 acres of beautifully landscaped (and when we arrived, snowy) countryside, lies Ashdown Park Hotel – a grand manor house which fits in perfectly with the kind of place you’d imagine your perfect English spa getaway to look like. With secret gardens, lakes, fountains and winding roads, it’s almost like a little fairytale of your very own, which can be enjoyed from the comfort of the hotel itself – clad with wooden beams and a roaring fire.

Danielle and I have travelled an enormous amount last month, even venturing to Prague in early January, so having a relaxing getaway on the cards was a very welcome addition to our usual active city breaks. Ashdown Park is part of the Elite Hotel Group who specialise in luxury five star accommodation. I have been lucky enough to stay at each of their hotels over the past year – Luton Hoo, Tylney Hall and The Grand and I’m pleased to say that this hotel certainly didn’t let down my expectations (which if you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know the bar is set very high) and I may actually be able to deem this one my favourite!

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We arrived pretty late to the hotel (partly due to me booking silly train times – and partly down to traffic) so unfortuntately I wasn’t able to treat our new room to a photo-shoot however I can say it was absolutely beautiful. The one element I love about the Elite Hotel Group is how unique every single room is, with no single corner left empty or out of place. The grand bedrooms, with high ceilings and plush carpets are all spectacular – yet no two rooms are the same. Everywhere has been refurbished with the history of the building in mind, yet it still feels homely! Plus, they have my absolute favourite toiletries brand stocked in every single one of their bathrooms – Molton Brown!

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Very soon, it was time to head down for our dinner reservation in the Anderida Restaurant, which has previously been awarded two AA rosettes for exceptional cuisine – so we knew we were in for a treat! Just like before, we were shown a far more civilised way to dine – perusing the menu over a glass of wine in the bar area, before being taken over to our table which had been prepared for us.

The fine dining restaurants within the Elite Hotel Group all strike a very similar tone – hosted in a beautiful, tall-ceiling, high windowed room with the twinkling of a piano in the background, yet a certain hushed but relaxed feel to it. You are treated like absolute royalty from the moment you enter to the moment you leave, with no request missed. The menu tends to have a fine dining feel to it – featuring a few dishes with elaborate names, but it’s never inaccessible and if I was treated to a birthday meal with family or friends, I’d have no hesitations in booking in here.

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Both Danielle and I opted for the smoked chicken starter, which was deliciously tender and prepared to perfection. Usually you expect quite small portions – however I actually had to leave half of my dish in order to save room for the next two courses!

My main was absolutely incredible – sea bass with parsley mash and grapefruit – perhaps a weird sounding combination to some but absolutely amazing nonetheless. Sea bass can very easily be ruined with too many flavours but this was so delicate in texture it almost melted in the mouth. Danielle chose the lamb rump with parsnips – which I did have a little taste of myself and can personally vouch for it’s amazing taste and texture. I’m not really a fan of lamb usually (in fact I’ve recently stopped being a vegetarian so my meat-based taste buds are all over the place) but it had an amazing full flavour, without any of the greasiness that usually accompanies it.

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Dessert for me was a no-brainer, simply because Creme Brûlée was on the menu, my all-time favourite! Served with a berry salad and a shortbread biscuit, I tucked into the whole thing without hesitation and was left feeling full – but without that horrid bloat that normally accompanies it! Danielle chose the white chocolate pistachio mousse, which also looked delicious!

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After a wine-fuelled conversation about life (you know, those kind of heart to hearts), Danielle and I headed up to our room to catch up with some television, finish the rest of our (belated birthday) champagne and relax. Although still satisfied from dinner, we ordered a hot chocolate to the room, a tradition we’d created during our visit to the last Elite Hotel and wanted to maintain since their interpretation of the famous hot drink is like nothing else you’ve seen before – freshly baked cookies, marshmallows, whipped cream, white chocolate flakes – you name it. You can create your own chocolate masterpiece!

Following a restful night’s sleep, we headed down to the restaurant once again – although this time, for a hearty breakfast. The traditional buffet with the usual suspects was on offer – however they also gave us the option to order hot food from the kitchen within the bed and breakfast package, which was a lovely touch – since I much prefer fresh hot food than the buffet selection. With lots to choose from – I eventually settled on poached eggs on toast, washed down with steaming hot peppermint tea. Mmm…

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A hour or two in our room later and it was soon time to say goodbye – our fleeting visit was over and our time spent in a place that enables you to imagine you’re royalty was sadly over. We were checked out swiftly by a very friendly gentleman (I didn’t catch his name), a taxi was ordered and we waved goodbye. We’ll be back soon though!

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