By Katie Wilson
There’s a new hotel kid on the block, but it’s not just a hotel. Also a members’ club, Birch has 140 rooms, two restaurants, a wellness centre and co-working space. Oh and they also have a lido which is heated all year round.
Just 30 minutes from London’s Liverpool Street, Birch is set on the 55-acre Theobalds Estate, a big country house in the Hertfordshire countryside.
Offering stressed-out city dwellers an escape from urban living, it aims to be a place for guests to ‘release and reset’. But there is plenty to do here, should you want to get involved.
Birch founders, Chris Penn, the former managing director of Ace Hotels, and serial entrepreneur Chris King, want guests to feel like they are at a ‘funfair for adults’. So what is on offer?
From pottery and glassblowing, to candle making and macrame, there’s a diverse programme of workshops and events available.
You can make bread in the Interactive Bakery, which encourages guests to ‘put an apron on whenever you fancy and get your hands floury with the bakers’.
Kick back and watch a film in Birch’s screening room, which is kitted out with white and blue deckchairs. Or if it’s pure relaxation you’re after, take a yoga class in the wellness centre or recharge with a massage or beauty treatment.
Although it’s officially a members’ club, there is no membership committee to impress, anyone can join.
For £120 a month, members get access to the entire Birch site and can bring in two guests, although there’s an extra charge for them to use the lido or wellness centre.
As membership goes, it’s not badly priced, given it includes access to the 30-plus fitness classes on every week. Other extras include 10% off all food and drink on site and 15% off rooms.
Even if you’re not a member, you can book to stay at the hotel or eat at one of the two on-site restaurants.
Food is one of the main draws here and here is a working farm on-site, so produce is as locally sourced as possible.
For casual dining, Valeries is an all-day restaurant serving up breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Think meat and fish on the open-flame grill, tasty pasta dishes and flatbreads baked in the wood-fired oven.
But it’s The Zebra Riding Club restaurant, which offers farm-to-table dining from renowned chef Robin Gill, which is bringing in rave reviews.
Gill’s cooking is straightforward and unfussy, and dishes include salt-marsh lamb and Wild Harbour monkfish.
Although it’s worth noting the restaurant is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
There is also an interesting tale about where the restaurant gets its name.
Back in the 19th century, a flamboyant and somewhat scandalous socialite called Lady Meux lived in the country house Birch now occupies.
It is said she once rode a zebra-drawn carriage through London’s Mayfair, so it seems fitting Birch named its restaurant after this unusual outing.
As far as the rooms go, they are basic but comfy, with arty touches and original features.
All guests staying over get automatic access to the wellness centre, screening room, co-working space and 25-foot heated lido.
Prices start from £110 a night and if you book to stay Friday and Saturday, you get Sunday night free
All photos courtesy of Birch
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