This month, Josh Mann has been appointed as head chef of South Lodge’s acclaimed Camellia restaurant in Lower Beeding near Horsham. Nick Mosley asks the questions.
Tell us about yourself
I’m Josh Mann, aged 34. I started my career by doing two years at culinary college in Stamford, Lincolnshire. Following that I worked in a few local pubs as a commis chef and worked my way up to second chef at The Hatton Arms in my local village Gretton in Northamptonshire. After this, I worked a ski season in France for a renowned private chalet company.
Upon my return, I wanted to explore the world of Michelin stars so I managed to secure a job at the then Michelin-starred Olive Branch in Clipsham, Rutland.
A few years later I returned to do a few more ski seasons, in France and Portugal and back when I returned to England I wanted to get back into high end restaurants, so accepted a sous chef role at Restaurant Tristan in Horsham which then had two AA Rosettes. By the time I left, the restaurant had been awarded its third rosette and a Michelin star.
After this I went for my first head chef role at Alexander House Hotel in Turners Hill, West Sussex where I retained the three AA rosettes in AG’s restaurant. After a couple of years I decided to start a street food business ‘Mann and Moore’ with a good friend, specialising in American BBQ.
In the 3 years we traded we won Sussex Street Food of the year twice. During this period, I returned to work for the Alexander hotels group at Langshott Manor in Horley where I also retained their three AA rosettes.
What attracted you to the role at South Lodge?
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. Along with a better work-life balance – and the knowing that the company wanted to invest and push Camellia to greater heights – the role really shouted out to me.
You’re following the footsteps of some very renowned local chefs who cut their teeth at South Lodge. Are you up for the challenge?
Absolutely, the challenge to push the restaurant further than it has ever been, gives us a great opportunity to put myself and The Camellia on the map. That and my constant need to better myself.
How will you be putting your own unique stamp on the Camellia restaurant?
I am really focused on giving Camellia its own identity. We are investing 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 or smoked makes me really excited for the future. I also take a huge amount of inspiration from South Lodge’s kitchen garden and grounds, often going for a wonder to see what I can find and forage. Camellia has always had a strong focus on local produce – which local farmers and fishers are you working with?
For fish we are using Brighton and Newhaven Fish Sales (BNFS) – they focus on sustainability and have a fleet of their own vessels. I don’t think a day goes by where I don’t speak to Alex or Kier there to see what has been landed for delivery the next day.
I use Hill House Farm in Dorking for our rare breed pork. They farm, butcher and deliver all the meat themselves. The pork has outstanding flavour and amazing fat content. Their pork has been a staple on the menu since starting.
We use South Downs Venison for all the venison on the menu. They source from all over Sussex and Surrey, and their butchery and quality of the meat is always top notch.
Can you share some examples of seasonal dishes that will be appearing on the menu the next month?
A great example of this would be a dish that has just been put live on our menu, inspired by the hotel’s gardens and reducing food waste: Line Caught Bass, Smoked Dashi Cream, Pickled Magnolia, Chicken Fat Pomme Anna and Morels.
The dashi cream sauce is made using the bones and trimmings of smoked eel, a byproduct of a starter on the menu (Asparagus, Smoked Eel, Cherry Blossom Infused Ewes Yoghurt and Umeboshi Plum). The sea bass is caught with hook and line off the south coast. The magnolia is foraged from the grounds and simply pickled; it’s very fragrant and has a slight ginger flavour.
In a nutshell, why should people book a lunch or dinner at Camellia?
I think if people want fresh, local, seasonal and inspired food then Camellia is the place for you. Our food coupled with the stunning hotel, grounds and fabulous views of the South Downs from the restaurant and al fresco you couldn’t really ask for more. We are constantly evolving so it’s unlikely you will see the same thing twice.
Locally, which other chefs do you admire?
Since I’ve been in the area I have always followed Matt Gillan - the local superstar chef.
He has taken everything in his stride, changing his style to fit the ever changing needs of the local community. His meal packs during lockdown were sublime and he is shining at his new restaurant Heritage. He never fails to impress.
I try to explore the local food and drink scene as much as I can, but at the moment my options are fairly limited due to having a 9 month old daughter. That said, I can often be found at the Dragon in Colgate tucking in to one of their fabulous steaks.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I would like to add a special thanks to my chefs, pastry team and restaurant team as none of this would have been possible without every one of them. They’ve had to deal with a huge amount of change and have welcomed it with open arms.
Camellia restaurant, South Lodge, Lower Beeding, Horsham Road RH13 6PS
01403 892 235 • www.exclusive.co.uk/south-lodge/