There's something about The Grove...

Seven or eight years ago The Grove was the place to stay in London. Except it isn’t really London, it’s Hertfordshire (shh, don’t say Watford), just minutes from the M25 (but you really wouldn’t know it).

“London’s country estate” remains The Grove’s strapline – and probably rightly so. I headed over, with my partner, to see what all the fuss was about - and whether it remains a viable London go-to (even though it isn’t really London).

Blog baiting with celebrity drops (sorry)

I’m going to report this review in chronological order, because there’s a lot to take in. The Grove isn’t a hotel, it’s a resort – and that name has become synonymous with any number of things, taken in any combination: fine dining, award-winning spa, prestigious golf course, and some serious spot-the-celebrity (the England football team famously stay here before any Wembley match; Tom Cruise is said to have holed up more recently whilst filming Edge of Tomorrow. Not enough? I once came here for afternoon tea and spied Take That hoofing around. Yes I know this is all shameless blog-bait - and only three paragraphs in - but The Grove does seem to pull in the A list, and its got the helipad to prove it).

So what first? The location. Not only is it a mere 20 minutes from London by train (18 miles if you can face driving), but it’s also literally three minutes from the M25, making it perfect for Heathrow stop-overs (Honeymooning this year? I’d plan a post trip stop-over and prolong the romance for one more night).

The Grove is an Elizabethan mansion house set in over 300 acres of land, most of it landscaped. There’s a beautiful walled garden, a living larder basically for head chef Russell Bateman.

This place has a beach!

They do the seasons really well here– in the summer it’s ‘let’s all head to the beach’ (very cleverly created); in the winter they can try less hard because – frankly - it’s the kind of place that lends itself as beautifully to the snow outside as it does those roaring fires in.

The Grove is actually only 11 years old as a hotel. Its transformation incorporated ‘the west wing’ extension, created to house various function rooms and more bedrooms (I sneaked a peak and though the rooms are nice enough, they don’t have the character or cache as those in the mansion house).

Baby grand piano – the best room?

The coveted mansion suites are worth paying the extra for. Fun, sexy ( ‘groovy grand’ I think they’re referred to?), each room is individually decorated. Original artwork adorns the walls, antiques are dotted about. I hate to use the word sumptuous but, well, it is. Feeling plush? Some suites have their own private lounges; one has a baby grand piano. The rooms have light, space, and personality. Comfy beds too.

Our suite (in the main mansion block) was all understated luxury and elegance – high ceilings, thread-count linen and palatial bathroom (replete with Ren goodies)...basically everything you’d expect from a five star resort. It was also a room with a view (look out for the garden sculptures). The only snagging issue for us was the ‘cornershop chocolate’ in the mini bar (if I’d wanted a Mars bar I could’ve stopped off at the services).

There are three restaurants here – The Glasshouse, The Stables and Colette’s. Even if you don’t stay at the hotel, Colette’s and The Glasshouse are well worth a visit, albeit for different reasons.

Colette’s is The Grove’s fine dining element (tip: head along early and enjoy a cocktail at the small but uber-glamorous bar). Everything is curated by the talented (and supremely nice) Russell Bateman. The awards speak for themselves: National Chef of the Year, 3 AA Rosettes... we had food that looked like art, and showcased both Russell’s talent as well as the most beautiful (and yet sometimes unexpected) tastes and textures from each ingredient. All this brilliantly paired with wine. It was faultless.

But The Glasshouse (aka the world’s poshest buffet) is absolutely worth a visit too. Described as an “international theatre of cooking” it also makes for fantastic value for money; the desserts alone are truly worth it (from a chocolate fountain to ice cream bar). There’s even a roast on a Sunday. With a relaxed vibe and buzzy atmosphere (it can get very busy at weekends) I loved this place.

I haven’t been to The Stables – its apparently more gastro-pub / comfort food - but hear that it too is popular - and family friendly - as well as a natural habitat for all those golfers.

Jewel in the crown

Two other options that are worth a mention (I told you – there’s a lot to squeeze in here) are the juice bar at the spa (where I first heard of juicing garlic) and afternoon tea in either the library or one of the beautiful lounges. In fact we spent our last couple of hours languishing on a sofa, surrounded by books, warming ourselves by the open fire, whilst being served tea. Haters, hate me all you want but for £35 you could’ve been there too. The lounges are the jewel in the Grove crown. What a lovely place to lose yourself in for an hour or two.

OFSTED ‘outstanding’

Before I forget, and I mustn’t forget, The Grove is really family-friendly. Apart from Colette’s (and at certain times, the spa) kids are welcome everywhere. But if you need some time-out from parenting, there’s also Anoushka’s, which offers a kids club and a crèche (both rated ‘outstanding’ by OFSTED) – plus a kids’ only indoor pool. Likewise the hotel offers babysitting and all kinds of activities to keep junior entertained.

Yikes, my skin looks great!

Finally, Sequoia, the spa - a destination in itself. Everything seems to orbit the glitzy black-tiled swimming pool. Beyond this is a vitality pool, sauna, steam room, relaxation room, and a menu of treatments to deal with pretty much any aching muscle or needy complexion. I was recommended to try the Natura Bissé ‘Hollywood’ facial using its Diamond skincare range. Apparently this is a favourite of those previously mentioned A listers. I can’t remember what my therapist did (she did tell me but I was too zen’ed out to take it all in) but when she showed me my complexion in the mirror afterwards I was genuinely surprised – and pleased – to see the results, and proceeded to princess it up in front of the mirror for an hour or so afterwards (“look at how glow’y my skin is!”) I felt like a spoilt housewife never mind A list'er.

It’s incredibly easy to fall under The Grove’s spell – there’s a real sense of being cosseted from the outside world (helped, I suppose, by that half mile gravelled drive way from grand gate to umbrella-wielding doormen; it was raining as we arrived).

I think that what really makes this place carry on ticking is the ambience, the service, the sense of being away from it all, the attention to detail (and quite possibly Russell’s food). Sure you could pay to actually be in London – but why would you? The Grove offers the best of both worlds – a city-based attitude (the facilities are world class) with a bit of room to breathe. There’s definitely something about The Grove...

Chandler's Cross

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