Breakfast might just be my favourite time of day at Leonardslee House. Tucked up in this West Sussex Italianate-style manor, under a chandelier and surrounded by the prettiest drapes I’ve ever seen, I really don’t want to get out of bed. There’s also a deep silver bathtub calling my name. I actually don’t even want to leave my room. The good news is, we don’t have to.
Breakfast comes right to our door in a wicker picnic hamper that’s just calling for breakfast in bed. Flaky croissants, jars of fresh berries, wax paper-wrapped house-made butter, local jam, and orange juice are on the menu as we snuggle back in under the covers.
There are just 10 rooms in Leondardslee House, several named after flowers you’ll find outside on the grounds of the sprawling 240-acre Leonardslee Gardens. We are in Rhododendron, and she’s a beauty. A pale pink palette with a dusting of creams and light green, this is my English garden fairytale come to life.
There’s also Meadowsweet, Camellia, and Rose. Splurge on the Magnolia Suite and you’ll peek out at the grounds from a deep nickel bathtub that dreams are made of.
Downstairs, we also find plenty of nods to the garden at Restaurant Interlude. The Michelin-starred restaurant has a reputation for bringing the gardens to your plate – often they are the plate! The degustation focuses on ingredients from the garden and local farms, but there’s also plenty of foraged materials. We eat off tree stump plates and find chocolates hidden in cleverly modified tree branches. The kitchen has plenty of time to be creative – this is a sumptuous 18-course affair. Some courses are a single bite of a delicate tart, others more substantial, but each dish is a piece of art in itself. A perfect gold-dusted chocolate acorn is almost too pretty to eat. Almost!
You can pair dinner with anything from the extensive international wine list but we decided to work our way through the wines of Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate, the South African sister property and we are not disappointed. Leonardslee actually has its own South African vineyard – home to the UK’s first planting of Pinotage. The harvest isn’t ready for wine yet but we do try the Leonardslee gin made by a local distillery and she is a beauty.
With dinner, breakfast, and even afternoon tea (if you can fit it in) all on-site, you don’t need to leave, but that would be a real shame. When we finally explore the grounds, we understand why the gardens are such a draw card for visitors far and wide. Towering rhododendron in every colour of the rainbow, jumbo-sized irises along the banks of picturesque man-made lakes. Ducklings paddling through the reeds. Woodlands offering shaded glens. This is an Alice in Wonderland-type playground.
There’s even a white… wallaby! That’s right, the gardens are home to a colony of wallabies including rare albino wallabies. One of the eccentricities introduced by naturalist Sir Edmund Loder back in 1889, the colony is beloved by locals and visitors alike. They live the life, these British wallabies, sprawled on the grass under giant oak trees. We also take a turn around the deer park but those residents are less enthused about having their photo taken.
Also on the grounds are a cafe, wine bar, doll house museum, a pop-up bar, and a sculpture trail that will take you all over the garden.
Whether you want to stroll through the woodlands, curl up on a day bed, or settle in for serious dining, Leonardslee House has the classic English countryside honeymoon sorted.
Lisa was the guest of Leonardslee House.