The countryside escape mere minutes from London

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Posted by A Londoner Travels on Sunday 28th of July 2019




As a time-poor Londoner I can’t be the only one who’s often craving a Friday getaway from the city; a countryside escape to take you from desk to spa with as little effort as possible. Lucky for us the glorious Grove in Hertfordshire ticks all of those boxes and more.

Within an hour of leaving my desk after another manic Friday, I was flopped on my bed, with the hardest decision ahead of me whether to hit the spa or the buffet first. A short train ride from Euston and a ten minute taxi from Watford Junction station, The Grove hotel is set amid 300 acres of Hertfordshire countryside and the resort features three unique restaurants, an award-winning spa and a championship golf course. It’s less than sixty minutes from London and yet it feels a world away.

The original building dates from the 1500s, but today boasts a modern extension and 215 rooms, ranging from Deluxe in either the original Mansion House or contemporary West Wing, overlooking the garden, to a vast Presidential suite with its bay-fronted window and marble bathroom. We found ourselves in the former, with its French windows overlooking the formal gardens, crisp king size and roll top bath surrounded by luxurious ESPA toiletries, calling out my name for a post-prandial soak.

Agreeing to leave the spa for the morning, we headed downstairs to The Glasshouse, a lavish dining theatre that will put any buffet you’ve ever visited to shame. The restaurant features eight live food stations with chefs constantly preparing an overwhelming option of delicious, international cuisines. A word to the wise; ensure you do a lap before committing to your dining plan, this much delicious food needs a strategy.

We started at the crustacean station, piling plates high with fresh oysters, juicy prawns and sushi rolls, leaving a little sliver for some of the delicious, crisp, fresh salads. Next up was a custom creation of Asian soup, a hearty bowl of mushrooms, egg, chicken, seaweed and crispy onion in a warming broth. We skipped the roast dinners and pasta station - against my better judgement - and headed to the robata grill to pick up a couple of lobster tails, before hitting the dessert trolley hard…

There is a slight possibility we overindulged at this stage, given I selected a coconut and Malibu sponge, rose lychee mousse, crème brulée and a dish of three flavours of ice cream, drizzled with hot molten chocolate and covered in mini meringues, chocolate balls, crunchy biscotti and nuts like the overexcited five year old I clearly am inside. Nevertheless, glutton or no, it was delicious.

Post dinner take to the formal gardens for a digestion-aiding stroll; brimming with rose gardens, contemporary art and unique water features, they even lit a crackling bonfire for guests to sit an enjoy with a drink on the terrace. Inside you’ll also find several stunning lounges; packed with art, beautiful chandeliers, board games and log fires in the winter, there’s something quirky in every corner.

Alas, after such a feast it wasn’t long before we retired. After a much anticipated bubble bath I crawled into bed in my robe ready for a movie, only to disappointingly find the only options were pay to view. Disappointing that such a luxury hotel didn’t have any movie options on the TV at all; thankfully I’d brought along my laptop and ergo Netflix, so not all was lost and we eventually drifted into a peaceful slumber to the dulcet tones of Bridget Jones.

Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny and feeling revived after an early night, it was time to hit the gym and spa. With its black mosaic-tiled pool, heat experience rooms and specialist treatment options, the award winning Sequoia spa is an experience like no other. There’s a state of the art fitness studio, programme of exercise classes, indoor pool, jacuzzi, sauna and steam room, the ideal circuit for a relaxing Saturday morning. Hotel guests can enjoy use of the facilities included with their room, while there’s a range of day use and treatment packages for those wanting to indulge in a special treat. I adored having the pool to myself at 7.30am, swimming my lengths and getting a steam in before wrapping myself up in a robe and poring over the Saturday papers.

During the warmer months however there’s also another special something The Grove has up its sleeve, in the form of its heated outdoor pool. Situated within the Walled garden, a secluded outdoor space, it’s also neighboured by a ‘beach’ complete with deckchairs and volleyball court. The sun blazed on the morning of our visit, and combined with the dazzling warm water it felt like we could have been abroad, not in the middle of Hertfordshire. What a treat.

Our swimming time was going so well we almost missed breakfast; particularly as the receptionist unhelpfully told us the wrong end time, something which also wasn’t noted in any in-room correspondence. As such we were left with ten minutes to rush around The Glasshouse, grabbing from its array of breakfast spoils, when had we been a tad earlier we could have enjoyed a leisurely a la carte fare of The Stables. Given we were the last ones in we were somewhat left with the dregs; eggs en cocote that had unfortunately solidified in their time under the lamp, the last few pancakes that were more than a tad limp, dishes that were supposed to be hot but were anything but; at least the pastry basket was still going strong. It would have been nice to at least have one chef perhaps still at his station, willing to make something hot and fresh for those guests who may have lost track of time rather than us settling for the rubbery leftovers, though I guess lesson learnt to not leave breakfast until the last minute next time…

Breakfast aside, a night at The Grove was the perfect tonic for a busy working week in London; we were both astounded at how close it was. Guests staying or dining at The Glasshouse or The Stables through August will also be able to enjoy the hotel’s first pop up cinema, in partnership with Everyman. With a range of popular and classic films as well as new releases, the secluded Walled Garden will be filled with bean bags, delicious snacks and beverages, with up to 45 films screened throughout the month. There will be evening screenings from Wednesday to Sunday from 1st to 31st August, together with selected matinee viewings and late night screenings. It certainly sounds like a dream addition to a gorgeous summer getaway.

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Travel tales from our Fashion Editor Laurel; a 30-something Londoner with a blank passport and a strong sense of wanderlust.

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