Wilkinson his partner Monika Zurwaska will leave the Michelin-starred restaurant with rooms at the end of the month after five years at the helm, joining The Pass at South Lodge as head chef and restaurant director respectively in August.
“We are very pleased to be joining the team at South Lodge to reopen The Pass,” says Wilkinson, whose CV also includes stints at Holbeck Ghyll in Windemere and Daniel Clifford's Midsummer House.
“It is a fantastic venue where we will be able to produce a really exciting menu and experience for our guests and add another great restaurant to the hotel. It is a big move down from The Lake District, but I am excited to get working with the produce and suppliers of Sussex.”
Wilkinson's menu at The Pass will feature a focus on seasonal and local produce, built around an 'immersive' chef’s table-style dining experience.
Dishes on the seven-course tasting menu will include Sussex Downs venison with fennel, caper, smoke and rye; wild sea trout with cucumber, oysters and roe; and a dessert of strawberry ewes’ curd with vanilla and elderflower.
Wilkinson's permanent appointment at The Pass comes after the restaurant operated as an incubator space during the pandemic, hosting chefs including former Midsummer House development chef Greg Clarke on a temporary basis.
“We are delighted to welcome Ben and Monika to The Pass,” says David Connell, general manager of South Lodge.
“The past two years have seen us working with some fabulous chefs for short term residencies, however, we now feel the time is right to bring in a more permanent team to take the restaurant onto new levels. The Pass has always been about providing excellence and fabulous dining experiences, and we believe Ben is the chef to deliver this for the longer term.”
The Cottage in the Wood is owned by hoteliers Kath and Liam Berney, who took over the running of the 17th Century site 20 years ago and transformed it from a traditional bed and breakfast into a cosy but contemporary restaurant with rooms offering modern British food.
Wilkinson and Zurwaska joined the business in 2017, with Wilkinson winning his and The Cottage’s first Michelin Star in 2019 – within 18 months of taking on the role.