Getting into The Grove with kids at London’s favourite country retreat

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The Grove Hotel in Hertfordshire: "London's Country Estate"

The Grove Hotel, “London’s Country Estate”, is set in 300 acres of Hertfordshire countryside in the south of England and only 18 miles from central London.

 

The Grove Hotel: It’s billed as London’s Country Retreat, and with 300 acres and only 18 miles away from the charge zone, it’s easy to see why. There are 3 swimming pools, an award-winning spa, championship golf course and an urban beach with a sand volleyball court.

Queen Victoria used to “weekend” here and the England football team stays before matches. Recently restored (relatively speaking, the estate dates back to 1400 belonging to King Henry IV), the estate offers families a luxury weekend break, with lots to do.

We visited on a sunny weekend in September, as guests of the resort. Officially we were there to check out what The Grove has to offer families. Because the resort was not far, our weekend started as normal. Our Saturdays are busy with football and tennis and I do a bit of gardening. We left right after lunch, and with no traffic on the M25, we arrived at The Grove 40 minutes later.

Around every corner at The Grove is something intriguing, beautiful and fun!

Around every corner at The Grove is something intriguing, beautiful and fun!

 

How do I describe it? It was a bit Country London (I made that word up), mashing contemporary design with period architecture and the freshness of nearby woodlands. There’s something a bit quirky and artsy around each corner. Glass credenzas filled with white down feathers. A brass pear the size of a pony. A 30 foot-tall giraffe made of box hedge.

We stayed in a Deluxe King room, which interconnected with a twin room where the girls stayed.

We stayed in a Deluxe King room, which interconnected with a twin room where the girls stayed.

 

We stayed in connecting double rooms in the West Wing overlooking the estate. There was an “adult” room, and the girls had a “kids” room, where they squealed when they found a box of toys and games, and pint-sized robes and slippers. There was a huge television mounted on the wall, which I found annoying, but I just turned it off and warned the others not to turn it back on. There’s loads to do here, why watch TV?

The gorgeous, minimalist bathroom at The Grove.

The gorgeous, minimalist bathroom at The Grove.

 

There were other small touches – like the individual cafetière and White Company toiletries. My 9-year-old bookworm loved the modern cranberry red sofa, where she could pull the arm down and recline while consuming her 700+ page Harry Potter book. I liked the artful quirkiness; our wardrobe was hidden behind a macro shot of forest leaves silkscreened and back-lit.

Relaxing by the outdoor swimming pool in the walled garden at The Grove Hotel.

Relaxing by the outdoor swimming pool in the walled garden at The Grove Hotel.

 

Our first discovery was the famed Walled Garden and Urban Beach. Hands up, this was the girls’ favourite. The Olympic-sized outdoor swimming pool is surrounded by stripy lounge chairs, which called out to me and said: “Sit”. “Relax”.  “Read a book while the girls swim”.

Adjacent is an expanse of sand, a beach volleyball court, more stripy beach chairs and pastel coloured beach huts. It’s a bit Deauville and it’s a wonderful getaway. If there is any sun forecast in the UK, I would immediately head over to this retreat. It’s like being abroad.

Relaxing reading Harry Potter at the Walled Garden at The Grove Hotel

Relaxing reading Harry Potter at the Walled Garden at The Grove Hotel

 

The Walled Garden is a bit like my veg patch (cough), but 500 times bigger! Oh how I’d love to live here and plan my meals based on what I could pick. Kitchen staff came in throughout the day to find the perfect ingredients for the day’s meals. My curiosity got the better of me (and I guess my forward American manner) and I ambushed quite a few of them and interrogated them: What have you got there? (Elderberries and Moroccan mint). What are you planning to make with it? (A sauce for the evening’s duck). His colleague had runner beans and dill (for the Brill) and watercress (garnish). The staff were friendly and said if we were feeling peckish we should try some of the produce! They pointed out the fat Victoria plums on the back wall, and said there was a glut of late summer strawberries and a few golden raspberries left. Cool.

Veggies picked fresh from the vast Walled Garden - to be included in the evening's meal!

Veggies picked fresh from the vast Walled Garden – to be included in the evening’s meal!

 

After swimming, we were peckish! So the girls went searching for our afternoon snack. They found apples, pears, plums, raspberries, blueberries, red currants, and white currents, and picked a sprig of Moroccan mint as a garnish.

Enjoying the last of the summer strawberries! Guests at The Grove are welcome to try the harvest in the Walled Garden.

Enjoying the last of the summer strawberries! Guests at The Grove are welcome to try the harvest in the Walled Garden.

While we were there, we checked out Anouska’s Kids Club. Graded “Outstanding” by OFSTED, Anouska’s gives you some options if you’d like to golf, enjoy a spa treatment, or just chill out. Kids are divided by age and have a range of activities (my girls were eyeing the trampoline and collection of kids films). They also supply babysitters.

The girls went off to play tennis with daddy, and I went to check out the Sequoia Spa. If my eyes were closed when I walked in, I still would have known I had walked into a luxury spa: Essential oils and luxury cosmetics filled the air. Even though I didn’t have a treatment (the English Rose Ritual sounded divine), I used the swimming pool, steam room and sauna. Note children need to be 12 to enjoy the swimming pool (during set times).

Each evening The Glasshouse host a mouth-watering buffet, sometimes featuring fresh produce from their gardens.

Each evening The Glasshouse hosts a mouth-watering buffet, sometimes featuring fresh produce from their gardens.

 

There are three restaurants, including the romantic Colette’s in the heart of our 18th Century mansion. We opted for dinner in the Glasshouse. I don’t usually like buffets; the food is usually bland and by the end of the evening the buffet is a mess. I’d rather have someone prepare my plate and serve it to me, and having ordered it, knowing (more or less) what it will be.

The Glass House is a buffet restaurant, but on gourmet steroids. Overlooking the Formal Gardens at The Grove, you can watch the team of chefs perform as dish after dish is prepared right in front of your eyes.

Oh the choice! Salads include tomato, mozzarella and basil (from the garden), fattoush, cucumber and mint, celeriac remoulade. There’s a seafood station, with smoked salmon, sushi, a crayfish salad, crab and celeriac remoulade, and various smoked options.

Then there’s the Tapas: Stuffed peppers, olives marinated manchego, stuffed vine leaves, salami, parma ham, mini chorizo, and crostini. The star here was a rosemary and thyme macaroon with horseradish. Combined with a bite of parma ham, this sent me to taste bud heaven.

Mains included Roast rib of beef with Yorkshire puds, mini veal schnitzels, steamed lemon sole, a huge vegetable and vegetarian selection including gnocchi, tomato and basil, butternut squash, sage and Parmesan stuffed courgettes, chantenay carrots with Grove estate honey, and braised red cabbage with apple.

There’s an “Asian” selection, featuring a live wok station serving dishes such as crispy Szechuan beef, Nasi Goreng, and Singapore Noodles.

Dessert will probably put you over the edge. There’s a white chocolate fountain with strawberries and melon, an ice cream station, rhubard crème brulee, and fresh fruit. And of course there is cheese! Specialties such as Brie de Meaux, Isle of Mull Baby Stilton and Single Gloucester are coupled with quince paste, fresh figs. Yum.

Come on mum! Guests at The Grove can borrow bikes to explore the vast estate.

Come on mum! Guests at The Grove can borrow bikes to explore the vast estate.

 

We got up with the larks and walked over to the old Stables to the Golf Club (Tiger Woods played here in his heyday). There we were kitted out with bicycles to ride around the estate. Bike rental is gratuitous for hotel guests. Armed with maps and bottles of water, we toured around the grounds, following the canals and bike trails. After an hour riding around the estate, we went back to the fabulous Glasshouse for breakfast.

When in season, breakfast in The Glasshouse sometimes features summer berries from their garden.

When in season, breakfast in The Glasshouse can feature summer berries from their gardens.

 

After breakfast the girls wanted one last visit to the Walled Garden and swimming pool (we asked for a late check out). They each picked an apple for a snack from the espaliered trees at the far side of the wall before our short ride home.

All in all, we had only been at The Grove for 24 hours. A gloriously relaxing gluttonous 24 hours. But it really felt like a world away.

If you go:

The Grove Hotel London’s Country Estate, Chandler’s Cross, Hertfordshire WD3 4TG +44 01923 296015

The Glasshouse London’s Country, Estate Chandler’s Cross, Hertfordshire WD3 4TG +44 01923 296015

Anouska’s London’s Country Estate, Chandler’s Cross, Hertfordshire WD3 4TG +44 01923 296015.

Warner Bros Studio Tour The Making of Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, Studio Tour Drive
 Leavesden +44 08450 840 900 http://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk

Note: Our accommodation was provided by The Grove Hotel for the purposes of this review. All opinions are mine and my family’s.

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25 Comments

  1. 16/08/2014 / 21:20

    Wow Susanna, this looks totally amazing – and I love the sound of the spa –
    think I’ll have to start saving up!
    Emma 🙂

  2. 28/02/2014 / 17:07

    That sounds like an awesome spot for a family vacation! I am especially impressed by the fresh veggies that were picked on the grounds! How cool.

  3. 21/02/2014 / 14:33

    This is a hotel I have long wanted to visit – and it sounds like it’s got the right idea about families too. Very tempting!!

  4. 06/10/2013 / 16:53

    OMG that looks out of this world! I love it when hotels have mini robes too.
    I want to go there…now. Awesome review

    • 10/10/2013 / 18:06

      And think of THE GOLF.

  5. 24 hours? Felt like a lifetime! I just wanted to keep reading and reading more – can’t imagine how it must have been. Loungers that call out such things are a marvel and that food sounds divine. Was well over the edge before you got to dessert 🙂

    • 10/10/2013 / 18:08

      The loungers are still calling out to me… I can hear them… Come back Susanna…

  6. 05/10/2013 / 19:29

    Apparently the Grove is where Vinnie Jones hangs out when he is in the UK! It sounds like a fantastic place- its nice to be able to find a hotel with something for all the family like the Grove seems to.

    • 10/10/2013 / 18:14

      Apparently the NFL were there while we were there too, but we didn’t see any of them!

  7. 05/10/2013 / 19:26

    Sounds heavenly and like it was 24 hours that felt like a lot longer, in a good way! I’m a fan of staying in UK hotels for a bit of closer to home luxury, so I’ll definitely be investigating this place, thanks for the recommendation x

    • 10/10/2013 / 18:18

      It is so nice to be “away” without having to jump on a plane!

  8. 05/10/2013 / 14:24

    Wow, what a fabulous weekend break.
    I love the idea of picking from the veg patch to cook with and just wish I had a king sized one to choose from and that spa… what I would do now to have a spa session.

    • 10/10/2013 / 18:16

      You would love the garden Mari. It’s so cool they let you try things too.

  9. 05/10/2013 / 09:07

    The Grove is just round the corner from us so I’ve never really paid it much attention as a hotel., But I love the sound of all the fresh food, so I’ll have to pay a visit to the restaurant at least!

    • 10/10/2013 / 18:07

      That Glasshouse was really out of this world, I’m still thinking about those rosemary macaroons.

  10. 05/10/2013 / 08:33

    I absolutely love the look and sound of that, it sounds incredible! Adding it to my list of prospective places to stay when we are back in the UK! 🙂

    • 10/10/2013 / 18:11

      You’d love it, we did. x

  11. 05/10/2013 / 08:24

    that place looks amazing, we love London the hussle and bustle but that doesn’t feel like it should be there, will have to check it out one day soon x

    • 10/10/2013 / 18:13

      Hard to believe London is only 18 miles away. x

  12. 05/10/2013 / 07:49

    Wow, that looks AMAZING! Everything from the bikes, to the pool and the walled garden makes it sound like the perfect weekend getaway.

    • 10/10/2013 / 18:12

      And we were only there for 24 hours. Such a lovely break.

  13. 05/10/2013 / 07:46

    Wow, this place sounds out of this world! It’s so nice to find a little bit of luxury which welcomes children as so often there’s a very ‘adults only’ feel to these kids of places. The urban beach looks seriously cool and my mouth actually watered when you started talking about the food on offer!

    • 10/10/2013 / 18:15

      A beach just 18 miles from London, we loved it!

  14. 05/10/2013 / 07:36

    It seems luxury hotels in the UK are really getting it right now with what families want. Interconnecting rooms, good food, lots of activities. This sounds just up my street. And the beach volleyball would have been great for my husband – he’s a keen player.

    • 10/10/2013 / 18:05

      You’d love it then!