Whenever I was asked to name my favourite restaurant, I didn’t need to think for second. ‘The Wolseley’ I’d reply, conjuring up the images of the grand restaurant in London’s Piccadilly.

When I lived and worked in London I’d drag my husband, friend or colleague there every week. It wasn’t for the opulent surroundings, or even the very boujee clientele. Sir Trevor McDonald was always in there, as was the late Cilla Black, at least one member of Monty Python and I even spied Hollywood actor Orlando Bloom in there once followed by The Addams Family star Christina Ricci.

No, it was for a very simple dish that is still on the menu today: Soufflé Suisse with a Gem Heart Salad for a very reasonable £23.75. The soufflé is melt in your mouth, always perfectly risen, with just the right amount of cheese, while the fresh, crunchy lettuce offsets the richness of the main dish. I order it every time and it is always perfect.

The cheese souffle had me at 'twice baked'. The cheese souffle had me at 'twice baked'. (Image: love heart photography)

So, it was with a mixture of excitement and trepidation that I spied a similar dish on the menu of TERRA, the redesigned restaurant at Tottington Manor Hotel in the heart of rolling Sussex countryside near Steyning.

The stunning eaterie, which has been given a very upmarket makeover, complete with a fresh living wall, and coral banquet seating, is a dining destination in its own right, attracting locals as well as hotel guests and foodies looking for something special.

Executive Head Chef Chris Hilton has been hard at work curating a new menu to match the new look using fresh, local ingredients surrounding the four star hotel, nestled in the South Downs.

Delicious Baba Ghanoush is on offer at Terra Delicious Baba Ghanoush is on offer at Terra (Image: love heart photography)

Dishes at TERRA, which translates as earth, land or country, are driven by a desire to honour the best of the local Sussex countryside so fish is landed at Newhaven, meat is from the South Downs and vegetables are seasonal and grown locally. Even the bread, butter and eggs, Chris explained, are from farms just down the road from Tottington Manor.

But I wasn’t listening. All I could see, think and dream about was one thing on that menu: Sussex Cheese Twice Baked Souffle with a celeriac and walnut remoulade for just £9.50.

To be honest, there were loads of vegetarian and plant-based dishes on the menu, along with gluten free options. The aubergine Baba Ganoush with sunflower seed hummus, and wafer-thin toasted focaccia (£5.50) was a delicious flavour bomb, while I was tempted to try the beetroot, fennel and apple soup (£7) or the Great British charred asparagus (£8).

Terra celebrates the best of Sussex. Terra celebrates the best of Sussex. (Image: love heart photography)

But while my teenage daughter tucked into a Buttermilk Chicken Burger with smoky bacon, siracha slaw, and marinated chicken breast smothered with cheddar in a challah bun with chunky chips (£19.50) without saying a word – always a good sign with a picky 16-year-old – I couldn’t stop admiring my souffle and took at least a dozen photographs to post on social media for my London foodie friends to admire.

Light, smooth and airy, with lashings of cheese sauce, it tasted just as good as it looked – and even better than my old favourite at The Wolseley. Plus at less than half the price, I could even have two if I was hungry or greedy enough.

Suffice to say the souffle didn’t last long. Within minutes two empty plates sat before us, and we both couldn’t stop smiling. ‘That was delicious,’ I said and my daughter nodded, posting a picture of her burger onto Instagram.

Local, seasonal ingredients with a glass of Sussex.Local, seasonal ingredients with a glass of Sussex. (Image: love heart photography)

For dessert I was tempted by the Sussex cheeseboard but thought I might be all cheesed-out, so I opted for the Sussex Apple Tart (£8.50) while my daughter went for the Mocha Delice (£8.50).

Layers of shortcrust pasty made the base for a tangy Ticehurst apple compote and oat crumble top drizzled with caramel and served with super smooth vanilla ice cream. Not usually one for sweet things, I polished it off before my daughter could finish her chocolate cremeux on a crispy praline base with caramelised cob nuts and coffee meringue.

Throughout the meal I sipped on glasses of sparkling Sussex with a cocktail (or two!) before we went for coffee (OK and more fizz and cocktails for me) in the snug.

Tottington Manor has a fascinating historyTottington Manor has a fascinating history (Image: Tottington Manor)

Here we heard about the manor of Tottington, which was often called Tottington Wowood in reference to the wood in the north-east of the parish, belonged in 1066 to King Harold and mentioned in the Domesday Book. In 1626, it was ‘settled’ on Sir Garret Kempe while it came into the possession of Henry Arundel in 1668.

The land has had such a fascinating history that the superior rooms and suites in the hotel are named after historical owners including the Kempe duplex suite, which I was staying in, along with Barwick, Bravington and Ricardo, a family that are still local and own Ricardo engineering.

The north range of Tottington Manor is timber framed, with a 17th century three-roomed plan, that has been extended in the 19th and 20th century. It’s an authentic, atmospheric manor house, with giant door keys, and floorboards that creak when you navigate the corridors.

As I sat nursing a coffee, and my daughter went to bed in our suite, which has a living room, giant bathroom, and cosy bedroom at the top of the duplex, I discovered that the hotel is reportedly haunted. The Wyndham room to be exact.

The cosy bedroom of the Kempe duplex suite. The cosy bedroom of the Kempe duplex suite. (Image: John Scofield)

‘No guests has mentioned any sightings or sounds,’ I was reassured by the friendly and attentive staff, ‘and we don’t know who the ghost is but it’s mentioned in a Henfield history book.’

I shivered, imagining ghostly goings on, and even though it wasn’t my room that was supposedly haunted, I left my bedside light on. The only ‘apparitions’ I saw were the Highland cows gazing down from their portraits on the wall when I went to the bathroom in the middle of the night – they’re very fetching: one is wearing a suit and bow tie while the other is dressed in a leather jacket.

But my daughter was very disappointed when I told her about the rumoured ghostly guest in the morning. ‘Why didn’t you wake me up?’ she moaned. ‘I’ve never slept in a haunted house or hotel before. That would have been amazing – I could have stayed up all night.’

Terra restaurant Tottington ManorTerra restaurant Tottington Manor (Image: love heart photography)

So now she’s desperate for a return visit and I’m happy to oblige. After all, I have my own reason for a rerun: that cheese souffle. Who needs London when you can stay at Tottington Manor and dine out at TERRA where the incredible food might come with a side order of spookiness and a whole lot of history?

Rooms from £140 per night including breakfast. Honeymoon Suite: £225 per night including breakfast. Duplex Kempe Jacuzzi Suite £325 per night including breakfast & complimentary mini bar

These are exclusive rates for Sussex Life readers who can book by calling 01903 815757 and quoting SL24.