Having spent 4 lovely days holed up in a charming cottage in Hampshire, we decided to check into the Alexander House hotel and Utopia Spa for the second part of our post-lockdown staycation.
The Alexander House hotel is part of the ‘Alexander Hotels Collection’ - a handful of luxury hotels which are dotted around the southern part of England, all easily reachable from London. A few years ago we had spent a great weekend in one of their hotels – the Langshott Manor – and we had high hopes for a similar stay at Alexander House.
The Alexander House Hotel is situated in a gorgeous part of West Sussex, and the drive to the hotel through the surrounding area is punctuated by picturesque local villages, tree-covered forest lanes and amazing National Trust Parks and Gardens.
Arrival and check-in at the Alexander House in this new post-Covid reality was a strange experience – all hotel staff (of which there were very few) were in PPE face helmets, social distancing was enforced and anti-bac gel dispensers were everywhere. The hotel has also temporarily done away with porters who help with luggage as well as arrival tours of the property, all of which makes perfect sense as we navigate the pandemic.
So armed with our access keycard and verbal instructions on finding our designated room, we made our way through the hotel. We had booked ourselves into one of the hotel’s ‘Luxury Superking’ category rooms, and it is fair to say we were a bit disappointed with what we found.
On the plus side, the room was large, as was the bathroom, including a delicious deep bath tub as well as a separate shower. The superking sized bed was comfy, and coffee / tea making facilities rounded off the amenities. On the other hand, as luxury hotel accommodation, in our opinion, this fell short. The furnishings of the bedroom had the feel more of a business hotel than a luxurious country escape. Large bay windows made for nice views outside, which also let in plenty of sunlight, although given these hotel rooms also lacked air-conditioning, this left the room stuffy and warm at times during our summertime stay.
Hotel grounds, gardens and facilities
In a covid-dominated world the Alexander House hotel makes much of their vaunted gardens. It turned out however that there were not all that many of those. There are some lawns around the side of the hotel with chairs and tables spread around, and a croquet set for amusement, as well as a champagne terrace with some couches. There is also a small sunken garden, comprised of mostly shrubs and moss-covered paths, which took a couple of minutes to discover.
Elsewhere on the grounds is a tennis court, but tennis enthusiasts be warned – while the court is serviceable it has not been sufficiently maintained and stray bounces are common.
And that was mostly it...
Towards the rear of the property we did find a large open field, behind which was some forestland which made for a nice walk, but could not realistically be described as part of the Alexander House hotel’s gardens nor used as such.
Food and drink – Restaurants
There are no physical menus in the Alexander House hotel’s restaurants at the moment, all ordering is done via the hotel’s food and beverages mobile phone app. Which works fairly well when the hotel staff are expecting an order. However, no less than 3 times during our stay we’d seated ourselves on the terrace and ordered from the restaurant menu app, and waited in vain for our orders to arrive. Not good enough by the standards of a luxury hotel.
The Reflections restaurant
The Alexander House hotel’s Reflections restaurant – a brasserie according to the menu – is a nice enough space, but also does not feel particularly luxury. The breakfast buffet has been replaced by table ordering via the app. During our 4-day stay we managed to review many of the breakfast options on the menu, and they were almost uniformly good – the scrambled eggs and fried mushrooms were absolutely delicious!
Dinner during our stay was a different matter. The Alexander House’s main AG's Restaurant having not yet reopened, all our dinners were necessarily taken at the Reflections restaurant too. Unfortunately, the experience was underwhelming – the dinner menu was quite limited, and most of the dishes which we tried were lacklustre, uninspiring affairs, and not up to the standards of a 5-star hotel restaurant.
One of the things which the Alexander House Hotel prides itself on is its Utopia Spa, and we decided to give it a try. It turned out that the spa had its own hair salon, which was a godsend after going 4 months of lockdown without haircuts, and we jumped at the opportunity to have our mops chopped. We also each opted for a full body massage during our stay. Overall the Utopia Spa services were professional, our haircuts good and our massages relaxing, and despite the elevated prices common in this kind of hotel spa we were happy with the experience.
Would we recommend the Alexander House hotel & Utopia Spa – a final review
It is probably obvious from the above comments that the answer is ‘not really’.
The Alexander House hotel is a gorgeous old mansion house building set in a beautiful part of Sussex, an area that is well-worth visiting. However, the hotel experience itself for us fell short. From bedrooms that did not feel particularly luxurious to a restaurant which was a bit uninspiring, and some service issues during our stay, our experience at Alexander House felt like it was just a bit shy of the mark. This is a hotel that pitches itself as a luxury 5-star property, but which felt more like an upscale 4-star accommodation.
The cost of a stay at Alexander House is also not cheap, prices generally exceeding those for their sister hotel the Langshott in Horley, which we would recommend as a better choice. Or for an example of a luxury countryside stay at a not-dissimilar price point, look at the Manor House hotel in the Cotswolds’ Castle Combe – a great hotel worth considering for anyone wanting an amazing and comfortable countryside break. The Alexander House hotel & Utopia Spa is, in our opinion, unfortunately not.