A Healthy, Hearty Wellness Day at The Spa at South Lodge
All imagery courtesy of Jennifer Chee.
Situated on the scenic grounds of South Lodge is The Spa. Set amongst the expansive green of the Sussex countryside, the natural exterior blends seamlessly with the wilderness beyond. With an ethos for drawing together spa experience with the natural world, The Spa at South Lodge incorporates this not only into the exterior, with its wood panelling and natural pool, but also through its interior, facilities and culinary options. This union provides the perfect grounding for full-body rest and relaxation, as their nod to nature is implemented from the outside in.
This award-winning spa has collected an array of achievements over the years, including Comfort Zone's Sustainable Spa of the Year Award in 2022 – a nod to their natural ethos – as well as European Spa's Top 10 UK Spa Gardens.
Customer service was paramount and exceptional during our visit to The Spa at South Lodge. Their friendly staff was available at all times for queries or questions, alleviating stress and providing an utterly enjoyable experience. Upon arrival, I was swiftly escorted to the Botanica lounge, where I reclined on the plush sofas and escaped the rain with a hot oat milk latte. Better yet, guests are invited to remain in their robes and slippers if they desire, when visiting the Botanica restaurant and lounge, which echoes the relaxing ethos of the spa and its staff. Infused water was on-tap throughout the entire experience, providing a citrusy refresh after a not-so-stressful afternoon.
Continuing my stay at the outdoor hydrotherapy infinity pool, I lounged on the pool-side sun loungers and enjoyed the simple comforts of my robe and slippers. After being immersed in the warming water, it provided some needed relief from the brisk English climate. If you are brave enough to brace the unheated wild swimming pool, it makes for a beautiful setting for a morning swim. With aquatic plants lining the pool, and designated platforms for entry and exit, the natural pool echoes the united approach to nature The Spa at South Lodge seeks to integrate into their spa experiences.
Comprised of two main floors, the spa offers a variety of sauna and steam rooms, depending on temperature, humidity and body intentions. Following my outdoor pool experience, I directed myself towards the rooms for a contrast of climate. Firstly, I tried out the Aromatic Infusion, with a temperature of 35-50 degrees Celsius and a humidity of 10-30%, using gentle heat and humidity and fragrance to rejuvenate the body and mind. I also tried out the Botanical Sauna, an intense heat and humidity of 70-90 degrees Celsius and 5-25%, for full body relaxation. Both offered time to unwind as my morning concluded and I prepared myself for lunch.
I have to pay my thanks to not only the general staff at The Spa at South Lodge, but particularly Spa Operations Manager Ian Mackie. Following my lunch, Ian offered the option of testing out their popular The Spa Bamboo Massage. Upon confirmation, it was time to unwind in one of the upstairs treatment rooms. Using natural-toned interiors, the spa incorporates its natural approach consistently throughout.
The massage itself used smooth bamboo sticks alongside traditional methods to provide deep-tissue relief. Beginning with deep stretches and setting the ambience through breath work and essential oils, the massage then moved onto the bamboo. Through rolling and kneading techniques, the bamboo alleviates tension and works out stress. The experience was transformative as stress melted off my body, the fluidity between traditional methods and the bamboo provided an immensely peaceful experience. The flow of the bamboo, the aroma of the oils and the drifting relaxation music moved my into a state of intense tranquility.
Following my massage, the staff sought to continue my journey of relaxation as they escorted me to their Relaxation Room, a quaint space with reclining chairs and private light, heat and sound mood pods. The mood pods were a welcoming conclusion to my treatment, as they progressed from warming red to cooling blue, and invigorating yellow to recharge the body following my treatment. Accompanied by this private space, herbal tea is on offer to guests, chosen by your masseuse – a personal and appreciated touch. After spending time in the pods, I moved to the reclining chairs, slowly getting ready to continue my day.
The spa's restaurant, Botanica, is nothing if not of the time, as a completely dairy-free establishment. Not only dairy free, the restaurant incorporates sustainability and health-focused Mediterranean-inspired dishes under the oversight of head chef Jonathan Spiers. As a result of the lack of dairy, their chefs experiment with new flavour combinations and textures to create innovative dishes. It must be known, that this adventurous approach delivers some of the best dishes I have had the privilege of tasting.
The naturalistic interior perfectly matches their organic approach to spa experiences, pairing nature and luxury in a simple, yet serene ambience. Constellated with natural art, the restaurant's modest architecture maintained its attitude towards rest and relaxation. From the seating area, the kitchen was in clear display, creating a kitchen-to-table approach, and allowing guests to see the masters at their craft. The overall intimate arrangement was reflected in the food itself, as their chefs included locally sourced ingredients in their dishes, from the Sussex area and specifically the South Downs, the back-drop of the spa itself.
The attention to detail was not limited to their culinary skill. A salted rim set upon the leaf-printed glassware, a subtle nod to their natural ethos. I began my culinary experience with their Persian Lime and Nori Margarita. As an avid Margarita drinker, I was immediately caught by the incorporation of Japanese heritage with the introduction of nori. The salt-crust enhanced the oceanic elements of the nori, building a refreshingly subtle flavour following my morning spa experience. This saltiness was a pleasing contrast to the sweetness of the agave, cut with the acidic lime. As a self-proclaimed margarita expert, this is a definite must-try for naturally subtle flavours.
I paired my drink with an entree, the Slow Cooked Pork Belly. This dish executed the experimental ethos of Botanica's chefs, introducing all aspects of flavour in a beautiful display of cuisine. Melt in the mouth is the only words to describe the perfectly cooked pork, with a crispy crust and soft, velvety meat. The dish had a blanket of tangy 'mojo sauce', a tangy tomato base with a slight smokiness that was well-matched to the golden pork crisps. As an addition to the creation, chargrilled hipsi cabbaged enhanced the smoky flavour, which was cut with fresh radish and leaves thoughtfully laid atop. The final component of the meal, a fresh salsa verde, revealed a crisp parsley flavour to introduce an explorative blend of flavours.
For the final course, I opted for the Nutmeg Custard Tart, accompanied with poached forced rhubarb and stem ginger and created by its in-house patisserie. First of all, the artistic presentation of this dish, from the vibrant rhubarb to the edible flower, the plate itself seemed to be good to eat. Upon tasting, I was glad I did. A sweet and spicy ginger compote built a heat that was perfectly cut with the tangy poached rhubarb that brought a burst of flavour to the palette. The complex flavour was complete with a creamy custard that continued the warmth with a sweet nutmeg flavour. The tart itself, not to my surprise considering the other course, had the perfect jiggle.
Contrasted with the sleek black tableware, the locally sourced ingredients created a colourful arrangement, which was meticulously crafted to create an artistic display of colour. The dishes really were as good as they looked.
Address: South Lodge, Brighton Road, Crabtree, Horsham RH13 6PS, United Kingdom | Phone: +44 1403 891711 | Website: exclusive.co.uk/the-spa-at-south-lodge | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Instagram: @SouthLodge_Spa | Facebook: @ExclusiveSouthLodge