By Jane Knight
The Grove hotel, just 18 miles from central London, was once a lavish weekend home entertaining the likes of Queen Victoria and British aristocrats.
These days it’s a five-star retreat nestled in 300-acres of Hertfordshire countryside with recently revamped suites, restaurants, brand new spa facilities, and its very own urban beach.
A great option for a not-too-far break from the big city, it’s also worth heading here for the championship golf course and summer pop ups such as the Everyman Secret Garden cinema and air balloon dining in the perfectly manicured grounds.
The Boutique Handbook’s resident spa expert and founder of Spavellous, Jane Knight, checked in to try a treatment by The Grove’s new spa product partner, Bamford.
THE GROVE HOTEL REVIEW
The Grove hotel is just a few minutes from the Watford turn off of the M25. There’s plenty of free parking and several EV chargers at the hotel. If you’re coming by train, the hotel is a 10-minute cab ride from Watford Junction station.
As you enter The Grove hotel estate and make your way up the grand driveway you’re greeted by the lush fairways of the championship golf course, providing an emerald carpet up to the hotel.
Once inside, the welcome is warm and the reception team are friendly and eager to help. The large reception hall immediately gives you a sense of the hotel’s luxury vibe, with a flamboyant floral display and smart guests checking in with even smarter luggage.
There are 215 rooms and suites located within the original 16th-century mansion and the newer West Wing. All are stylish and comfortable and range from contemporary classic smaller rooms to spacious suites, with family and interconnecting rooms available too.
I stayed in the charming Villiers Suite on the second floor of the manor house and fell in love with its multi-aspect garden views and original features, like parquet flooring, marble fireplace and exceptionally comfy bed. The marble shower room and separate bathroom across the corridor literally just houses a freestanding bath. There is also a separate living area with charming antique writing desk.
All the mod cons associated with a five-star hotel are present: Nespresso machine, USB sockets and just-right lighting, plus a flat screen TV that emerges from the foot of the bed at the touch of a remote-control button. The décor is luxurious, but not at all blingy.
I’d stayed at The Grove previously, but the recent refurbishment of the suites takes the experience to the next level. From the welcome champagne on ice and chocolate-dipped strawberries to the Bamford shower products and room diffuser, and the well-stocked complimentary mini bar with artisanal snacks.
If you book one of the smaller rooms and fancy some sofa time, you can relax in one of the newly styled lounges in the main hotel. These six characterful and colourful spaces boast comfy sofas and cosy nooks perfect for curling up in with a book, cocktail or afternoon tea.
FOOD AND DRINK
The Grove hotel excels in the dining department with five good options to choose from, offering everything from lite bites to an extensive blow-out buffet.
The Glasshouse is the hotel’s orangery-style restaurant with a wall of windows overlooking the glorious grounds. A vibrant space with its own mirrored bar, the roomy restaurant offers a plentiful feast of fresh-cooked food from around the world including stations with carved meats, sushi and a particularly popular dessert station for anyone who’s still got room.
Breakfast is also served in the Glasshouse and has the most comprehensive menu I’ve come across anywhere in the UK. The choice is endless, from the fullest English with a choice of sausage variety and bacon cuts, to bircher muesli and fruit tapioca.
The Stables is the hotel’s more traditional option. Located on the edge of the golf course, it focuses on sustainably sourced dishes using fresh, seasonal ingredients and the food quality is excellent. My scallops were perfectly cooked and caramelised and served with teeny squares of pork and dots of apple sauce, the lemon sole was melt-in-the-mouth, and the delicious rhubarb crumble sang tartily with its citrus custard. The food was all beautifully executed, and I understood why the diners we spoke with at the next table named it their ‘go-to for a special occasion’.
Other options include Madhu’s, authentic Indian cuisine popular with hotel guests and locals alike. Sequoia Kitchen serves smoothies, fizz, and light bites to spa-goers. Verde Kitchen is the hotel’s seasonal Italian-inspired pop-up, housed in the Walled Garden and offering pizza, pasta, and salads from Jemima’s Kitchen Garden. You can also enjoy sushi platters and afternoon tea in the lovely designer lounges or book one of the Feast on Cloud 9 experiences, a summer pop up where you can dine in a hot air balloon.
The Grove hotel spa, Sequoia, has been upgraded with the addition of a Ladies’ Heat Experience space, featuring a heaven shower and wellness pool. The relaxation areas and dining space have also been given a makeover.
Sequoia has also recently partnered with Bamford, a luxury British product house with an eco ethos. Bamford’s naturally nurturing treatments fit well with the relaxed rural vibe of the Grove, and the new spa menu features imaginative treatments and signature rituals.
I tried the Bamford signature De-Stress massage which is, as the name suggests, a super-relaxing treatment. It combines the fragrant oil of your choice with a variety of soothing massage techniques, including shiatsu and Swedish, to deliver deep relaxation and muscle-melting magic. Focusing on the back, the treatment includes extra touches like a welcome foot ritual and soothing eye mask to take pampering to the next level. It also incorporates reflexology, which is an enjoyable bonus.
Following the treatment, I was shown to the silent relaxation room to enjoy a cup of herbal tea. While being mesmerised by the tropical fish in the centre of the room, I felt blissed out and my skin was silky soft.
The striking 22-metre black-tiled indoor swimming pool remains the same, along with its poolside jacuzzi and steam room. There’s also a large, state-of-the-art gym and studio offering personal training and classes for hotel guests and club members.
The spa is open from 6am to 10pm and is free to use for hotel guests. Spa days are available and start from £240 for a weekday B Clear Spa Day, which includes an 80-minute treatment, use of the spa facilities and lunch. The spa also offers treatments by Natura Bissé, including their popular diamond facials.
If the spa’s not for you, there are plenty of activities and outdoor pursuits to try, from laser clay pigeon shooting and croquet to axe throwing and, of course, golf. Summer pop ups include the Everyman Secret Garden cinema and air balloon dining. And don’t miss The Grove hotel’s very own own urban beach and heated outdoor pool. Plus, there is a separate indoor kids’ pool.
The Grove hotel is a perfect choice for a luxury near-London retreat. It’s stylish, unpretentious and has something for everyone, from fab food to the super spa and restorative treatments.
Rooms start from £370 a night and include spa access
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