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 (AAH/Alan Wright)

A new restaurant and wine lounge will be officially launched at the Mannings Heath Estate this April. The Vineyard Kitchen and The Wine Lounge have been introduced to broaden the estate’s appeal beyond that of golf members and to make it more inclusive. 

Managing Director Barry Anderson said: ‘The challenge we have is conveying to the wider public that everyone is welcome here. For more than a century, the venue has been inextricably linked to golf and perceptions don’t change overnight. We have tried to be accessible, but non-members never felt completely comfortable coming here, as the first thing they saw when they walked in was an Honours Board and club shop. Those who did order something to eat or afternoon tea would occasionally find themselves sharing the space with golfers. It wasn’t fair on anyone, so we have addressed that through an extensive refurbishment, creating a clearer definition of the space.’


Anyone visiting the Vineyard Kitchen will now find that the Honours Boards has indeed been relocated, and no golf trolleys are parked in the entrance hall! One feature that has survived the refurbishment is a propellor from a Halifax bomber, which crashed on the 14th green during the Second World War. It is now surrounded by colourful paintings and photography, as well as striking sculptures by Anton Smit, whose work is also displayed at Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens. The dining area offers fantastic views of the golf course, but it no longer feels like a clubhouse. 

The Vineyard has a lunch menu from Wednesdays to Saturdays, with last orders at 3pm, and roast dinner is served on Sundays. Diners can pick from a selection of small plates including grilled beef with rice noodles, tuna Niçoise, chicken bowl with guacamole, pappardelle with Tuscan sauce, and chicken ballotine with butternut puree. Dishes are individually priced, although sharing is encouraged, with three costing £25.Emma Hodges, Wine Experience and Sales Manager, said: ‘We offer good food done well, and there’s a strong focus on fresh, local produce. We have a flexible approach, so guests can share several dishes, order just one or two, or perhaps enjoy one of our desserts. This is a great place for families to visit, as we’re child and dog friendly. On Sundays, we see lots of people walking along the rural footpaths nearby, like at Roosthole, and we’d like to see some more of them coming here for a fantastic roast. We have beautiful views from the restaurant, especially in summer when we can open up the outside terrace.’ 


One reason behind the changes is the growing importance of wine to the Mannings Heath Estate. The Wine Lounge, in a room previously occupied by the pro shop, has a relaxed décor, with sofas providing the comfort and Champagne riddling racks giving an aura of authenticity. The room can be used to host a wide range of tastings and events, as well as private functions and occasions. 

The Lounge offers a tasting menu (£30pp) with four small dishes, each paired with wines from the Benguela Cove Estate. The dishes include Asian tuna salad, home smoked fish (below), chicken ballotine and roast beef, paired with Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Collage and Cabernet Sauvignon, respectively.Benguela Cove is a South African wine estate owned by Penny Streeter. It is where she developed her passion for winemaking, before buying Mannings Heath Golf Club (as it was called) and later Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens. 

Barry explains: ‘Having established Benguela Cove as a market leader in South Africa, Penny and head winemaker Johann Fourie talked about growing the brand in the UK. They also followed the burgeoning sparkling wine industry in this country with interest, and this inspired Penny to find an ideal location to plant vines. Mannings Heath was perfect. It not only had a great golf course, but had potential for a vineyard and also presented opportunities to sell Benguela Cove wines too.’ 

‘So, those are the wines that we offer here. We host a wide range of wine tasting experiences and try to make it as unpretentious as possible. Sometimes, it can be quite intimidating, but we want our tastings and tours to be accessible to all, so those who are new to wine can have a good time too.’


Following the recent planting of vines in a small area next to the house, there are now 37 acres of the Mannings Heath Estate devoted to viticulture. Confusing matters slightly, these vines are to be used to make Leonardslee branded wine. The first release of English sparkling wine produced from the estate will be released in June 2024. Some 50,000 bottles are now in the fermentation stages, from three different vintages, starting in 2020. It is hoped that there a new winery can be built at Mannings Heath to serve as a base for production, as well as wine tasting tours. However, the proposals have yet to be grantedplanning consent. 

Barry said: ‘It is important to make the distinction between the two wine estates. The Wine Lounge is the UK home of Benguela Cove wines, whereas the home of our UK wine will be Leonardslee, at least until we can build a winery. There are only four acres of vines planted at Leonardslee, so the vast majority of the wine will come from the vineyards at Mannings Heath. However, as Leonardslee is such a historic English brand, it makes sense that it should be the name of our UK sparkling wine.’ ‘We’re all very excited about the release of the first bottles next year, especially as the 2020 and 2022 vintages were exceptional.’


So, what of the golfers? They have headed downstairs, where members have the Spike Bar all to themselves. It can cater for up to 120 people, with a bar and menu of its own, including hot snacks and home-made pizza.
Barry said: ‘We don’t want our members to feel like second-class citizens, so we have listened to what they wanted. They have a bar open seven days a week, with good food and easy access to changing rooms. We have kept the Honours Board and pro shop, and built a new cabinet for club trophies. Everyone appreciates the need for compromise. The golfers don’t really want wedding parties in their bar, and brides using this as their wedding venue certainly don’t want to arrive to see golf bags outside the entrance. Those issues have now been resolved.

‘We can now move forward, but we still have to work hard to attract people, especially as some people don’t realise just how close to Horsham we are! We want to become a destination venue, but to succeed, we must alter perceptions and convince people that this is a place where they  will feel comfortable, have a good time and want to return to.’

Article first published in AAH Magazine on 2nd April 2023. 

For more details visit www.manningsheath.com