We all know from either first hand experience or have heard about the joys of London, England. The bright lights and historical city. The theatre, the atmosphere and the electricity of the place is something I associate with my childhood and adulthood that hold some of my most treasured memories. However there is so much more to England than the capital, with so many places in the home counties that people don’t know about and I’m excited to bring one of them to you today!
In fact it’s the county that I grew up in, Hertfordshire. The county that has both rolling hills of countryside as well as the movie studio they filmed Harry Potter in and one of England’s most beautiful and historical hotels, The Grove. These are the two places I’d like to introduce to you to. With the perfect weekend away at The Grove, followed by the thrilling Harry Potter Studio Tour at Leavesden Studios just a ten minute drive from the hotel which I'll talk about in my next instalment!
My first memories of The Grove were from my 21st birthday. I was looking for a special place to go to celebrate and The Grove was the only place that I felt would truly be a memorable occasion for such an event. It also happens to be a birthday where I have some of the fondest memories of my grandmother.
Drawing up to the beautiful grounds takes your breath away. The grand path that leads up to The Grove as you enter through the gates, followed by the sweeping driveway is simply stunning. In summer when the sun shines it lights up the beautiful surrounding countryside and in winter, especially at Christmas time when the magical Christmas lights sparkle in the wintery midst only make the historical house look even more spectacular.
We visited The Glasshouse for my birthday meal and the memories of the incredible food, as well as the great atmosphere made the meal taste all the better. The dessert station was my grandmothers favourite. Always one to have had a sweet tooth, the array of treats available made her eyes light up as she sampled every single one! She was in heaven, as was I watching her enjoy every mouthful.
With The Grove being such a place of fond memories, I couldn’t wait to revisit, this time staying at The Grove overnight, sampling the afternoon tea and the Pop Up Colette restaurant.
For this particular weekend, I took my mum for a ladies weekend. Checking in to the hotel you can instantly feel how special it is.
The first house that was built on the site was in the 1400s, however The Grove as we know it today is an eighteen Century building that has seen some incredible changes over that period of time, making it the perfect location for those who like both a historical building but one with all the benefits of its modern updates.
THE DELUXE MANSION
Inside is a wide screen TV mounted on the wall at the perfect height, a study work area, sofa area and cubed coffee table with fashion magazines and other leisure reading material.
To the left of the room is the double sliding doors that lead to the spacious bathroom with its gorgeous free standing bath, double sink and conveniently placed stools to get ready.
After taking a bath, using The Grove’s delicious smelling bath soaps, I get ready for afternoon tea served in the elegant lounge just downstairs from where the suite is situated.
Once again the luxurious lounge is the perfect balance of English elegance with some modern updates. With the airy room, its white open space and glass tables, the lounge restaurant feels spacious and homely at the same time, adding to the ambience with a harpist who plays softly in the background.
We sit down to begin our tea and we are in for a treat. I can honestly say, I’ve never had anyone take care of me at an afternoon tea, who knew more about the specifics of each tea than our tea sommelier, Vera, who ran through the blends, the process of making the tea and brought out the tea boxes for us to smell, inspect and even taste!
I began with Granny’s Garden. A blend of orange, mango pineapple and kiwi exotic fruits, with rhubarb and pure vanilla. It was literally good enough to eat as we sampled the mango, pineapple and vanilla extracts from the loose tea leaves from the box.
Their new cake selection added to the menu just two days prior to our visit, are pure decadence and simply melted in the mouth.
Both sandwiches and cakes have as many refills as you require and you can try as many teas as you’d like to sample. It was by far one of the best afternoon teas I’ve had, and I truly can’t recommend it highly enough.
POP UP RESTAURANT AT COLETTE'S
As if we weren’t spoiled enough by the afternoon tea, we took a few hours to enjoy the stunning grounds of The Grove before heading to dinner at the wonderful Colette’s Pop-Up restaurant where the style of dining is small plates.
It’s perfect for those who like to try an array of dishes and spoil your taste buds with a selection of sharing plates. The atmospheric restaurant with its wooden decor, and homely vibes is giving the idea of fine dining a modern makeover.
Speaking to Colette’s Chef Ross Bott after our meal about the style of dining, he tells me, “I believe it’s the way contemporary fine dining is going. Yes, you’ll always have traditional fine dining but I really do believe small plates is the way modern dining is headed. How many times do you have a taster menu where you actually like everything? This way you can choose the dishes you like.”
Choose from the menu we did, with dishes including the flaked salmon rilettes, that was perfectly balanced, rich in flavor yet remained light at the same time, to the non-traditional fish and chips, with a flaky cod that was seasoned with salt and vinegar scraps (a memory from the Chef’s own midlands childhood) that made each bite melt in your mouth perfection. The turbot “en papillote” with brown shrimp beurre noisette and charred leaks, pave of mushroom with black truffle, the truffle macaroni and cheese and the walled green vegetables that came straight from The Grove's very own gardens all complimented one another beautifully. What was so genius about all the dishes were the familiarity of the plates, but with each one, Chef Bott had put his own unique take on them, making them both full of flavor and personality.
Ending the meal with two items I’ve never seen on a dessert menu before, coconut panna cotta with spiced mango (uniquely made dairy-free with coconut milk) and my personal favorite, baked marshmallow with cranberry compote designed to ignite memories of roasting marshmallows over a bonfire as a child. Bringing back the fun in food, and reminding us of childhood memories with an adult twist. What could be better than that?
THE MOST IMPORTANT MEAL OF THE DAY
After a blissful nights sleep in the Deluxe Mansion's four poster bed, and before checking out there was time to have some breakfast. With everything from omelettes and eggs of any kind to the fresh fruit bar, smoothies, yogurts, cereals as well as all the ingredients to make up a perfect full English breakfast including vegetarian quorn sausages, the breakfast was the perfect end to our stay.
The restaurant even provided fresh honeycomb, homemade yogurt fruit parfait and introduced the new way to drink tea with T-Sticks. Simply sit them in hot water for two to three minutes for a mess-free cup of tea!
Everything at The Grove from beginning to end was perfect. From the restaurants on offer, to the beautifully decorated room and the friendly and helpful staff. The hotel even offers a full selection of spa treatments if you really want to be pampered during your stay.
The Grove is the most beautiful hotel outside of London for the ultimate English country retreat. Having spent this weekend together with my mum made it even more precious. My mother also loved my 21st birthday and sharing that special occasion with my grandmother, who has now sadly passed away. However just as with my grandmother, this weekend will hold memories we shall look back on and treasure for years to come.
With thanks to The Grove for their wonderful help during our stay.
For more information visit https://www.thegrove.co.uk