Why Camellia Restaurant In Horsham Was Awarded 3 AA Rosettes


Josh Mann is a chef that clearly likes a challenge. He explains to Mark Kebble how he juggled fatherhood with taking Camellia at South Lodge to a whole new level

It’s not easy to find a chink in Josh Mann’s diary, but somehow we have managed it as we needed to speak to the head chef at Camellia restaurant about his first year at the helm. And what a first year it has been. “It has been a whirlwind time,” he smiles. “In my first month of starting, my daughter was born, so the last year has been crazy. Trying to change a restaurant around and bringing up a baby girl hasn’t been easy to say the least.”

Josh Mann Camellia Restaurant South Lodge
Camellia head chef Josh Mann

Perhaps not easy, but Mann has clearly put in the hard graft as, within 8 months of starting at the Horsham restaurant, he saw Camellia move up from 2 AA Rosettes to be awarded the prestigious 3. “This is the first time I have taken a restaurant from 2 to 3,” he says proudly. “Previously I have just retained the Rosettes already in place, so this time around is definitely the most significant for me. I wanted to bring my flair to the menu and achieve 3 AA Rosettes in the shortest time possible. Changing people’s perceptions of the restaurant has probably been the hardest challenge.”

Mann has come far from his earliest experiences in a kitchen when growing up in the East Midlands. Looking back at his first job at a local pub, he describes the kitchen as “being small and hot, I did not enjoy it one bit” – but he still decided to head off to catering college for two years. He never looked back as his career has taken him all over the UK and overseas, nurturing his culinary skill set and developing a globally influenced palate. He worked in France and Portugal, fully embracing their local cuisines, and back on these shores he has spent years in the kitchens of Restaurant Tristan, Alexander House Hotel and Langshott Manor – and then Camellia came calling.

“Since I have lived in the South East, South Lodge has always been on my radar of places I would love to work, so naturally when I heard of the position in Camellia I jumped at the opportunity,” he says. “Along with a better work/life balance and knowing that the company wanted to invest and push Camellia to greater heights really shouted to me.”

South Lodge Exclusive Hotels © Amy Murrell
Camellia makes full use of South Lodge’s grounds

Then there’s the South Lodge grounds, too. “The grounds are wonderful and vast,” Mann enthuses, “I can often be found wandering the gardens looking for inspiration. We make use of as much as we can, whether foraged or grown by our garden team.”

As we talk, Mann is busy preparing new dishes for the tail end of summer, and if what has come before is anything to go by, foodies everywhere should be excited. Previous menus have reflected the seasons, featuring fresh, local produce and typically making the most of one single ingredient on each plate. A stand out dish Absolutely Sussex sampled, and which truly showed what Mann’s ethos is all about, was South Downs venison loin featuring venison faggot with Medjool date, Choucroute and wild garlic.

South Lodge Food December
The food is simply stunning

Other highlights on the menu include Rabbit black pudding-stuffed loin and buttermilk-fried leg with nettle and black garlic, and Butter-poached squid with braised oxtail, smoked potato, and preserved lemon jam for starters. For mains, South coast brill with brassicas, crab ravioli and lime, and Wild garlic gnocchi with braised chicory, smoked broccoli purée, pineapple and chamoy dressing. For dessert, Mann and the pastry team have created a Rhubarb Mille-Feuille with vanilla crème pâtissière, white chocolate crèmeux, orange and rhubarb sorbet; Chocolate and coffee delice with cocoa nib tuille and coffee ice cream; as well as Pear and limoncello tart with Mouneyrac pear, limoncello and pear ice cream. You can see why the 3 AA Rosettes were awarded.

With that in the bag, does Mann and the team feel any added pressure to deliver constantly? “I don’t feel it has added more pressure as we have been consistent in delivering food to the highest standard anyway,” he says. “The pressure for me comes from wanting more for the restaurant – let’s not stop at 3 AA Rosettes. I am really focused on giving Camellia its own identity. We have invested in a top of the range dry ageing fridge that gives us a unique opportunity to create our own charcuterie, cheese, dry aged meat and fish. That coupled with my obsession with everything BBQ and/or smoked makes me really excited for the future.” What pressure?


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