I’m always amazed by just how quickly you can get out of London and feel like you’re practically in the country. It took us just over an hour to get to The Grove from east London for a little restorative staycation, yet driving through the impressive grounds it felt like we must have travelled much further. The Grove sits pretty on 300-acres which includes a golf course, spa and three restaurants. Parking up, we couldn’t help notice that every other car was a Lamborghini and Andy confirmed that the clientele included a footballer or two.
The Grove is absolutely massive – by far one of the biggest hotels we’ve ever stayed in, yet this had the unexpected bonus of ensuring there was a good buzzy atmosphere at dinner without ever feeling overcrowded thanks to the well thought out space. It felt like it took a good 20 minutes to get to our room (perhaps a slight exaggeration) and staff told us they could host two weddings at the same time.
I’ll be honest. The rooms could do with some modernisation. They’re perfectly fine (and huge, I lost Andy in our king size bed multiple times) but they wouldn’t miss a DAB radio and a Nespresso machine. I mean – is it even a mini break without nursing a coffee in bed, weekend papers everywhere, listening to the dulcet tones of Radio 6’s Cerys Matthews in the background? However, the bathroom included a roll-top tub, so big that it’s probably still not full to the top now. And with so much to see and do outside, we really weren’t in the room long anyway.
Arriving shortly before dinner, we made the most of the evening light and grabbed a glass of champagne on The Grove’s main terrace. The grounds are absolutely stunning, dotted with perfectly manicured wild flowers, ponds, sculptures and seating.
We were eating at The Glasshouse – a high-end buffet including a robata grill, crustacean station (which I took immense pleasure in repeating over & over), pizza oven, live pasta station, live Asian noodle station, tandoor oven, salad bar and of course a dessert station.
Buffets’ generally gets a bit of a bad rep, don’t they? But we mean it when we say we were blown away, not only by the quality of the food but the care and attention from the chefs at each of their stations. Nothing was too much trouble and we noticed at breakfast the next morning, a chef coming out with a freshly cooked eggs benedict for a guest that had perused the empty station earlier (food is always being refilled so you should never find you’re waiting for long).
We were a little worried that it would be frowned upon to go up more than once but we really didn’t have anything to worry about. We started with avocado and salmon sushi, a few prawns, scallops, mussels and smoked salmon. Next up I tackled the spinach and ricotta ravioli with garden sage butter, cooked fresh in front of me whilst Andy created a Sunday roast from the robata grill with hickory rubbed beef ribeye steak and all the trimmings. I squeezed in the most delicious half a lobster, drowning in garlic butter before we doubled up and visited the tandoor to get a trio of spicy fish, chicken and veg. How we found room for dessert I’ll never know, but we did, polishing off a plate full of sweet treats before gravitating to the roaring outdoor fire with an old fashioned.
As you might imagine, breakfast follows a similar buffet-style but we kept things lighter as our first appointment was with the spa.
Changing into my waffle robe & flip flops in the immaculate changing rooms, I clocked the heat experience rooms, sauna and steam rooms vowing to return after my treatment. I chilled out in a hanging egg chair (where there’s fruit infused water and herbal team complimentary to all) until my therapist called me through.
I was booked in for the OSKIA Luxury Face & Body Treatment – A.K.A an hour and 50 minutes of pure bliss. It began with a thorough back massage and when my therapist asked me how the pressure was and I said it could have been firmer, she happily obliged. At one point I could tell she was about to finish a section of my back but then found a knot – so she kept going back until it was completely gone. Very impressive and lovely to know staff aren’t just ‘going through the motions’, instead really listening to what my body needed and adapting accordingly. After that, my face got a much-needed radiance boast, with serums and oils galore. I left feeling shiny as a conker and super fresh. Once we’d had a dip in the jacuzzi we begrudgingly threw on our clothes in search of food. We found ourselves in The Stables munching on halloumi burgers and a light, fresh and vibrant salad with crispy Asian beef, whilst looking out over the golf course.
The Walled Garden
Still not quite ready to return to the delights of East London we went in search of The Grove’s elusive walled garden. Located away from the hotel, the garden can only be accessed by a hotel key card and contains a heated outdoor pool with sandy beach (!!) and deckchairs, tennis courts, giant chess, a mini football court and the piece de resistance – the outdoor Everyman Pop Up Cinema! As luck would have it we were just in time for a screening of – what else – The Secret Garden. Free to residents, you just grab a pair of headphones and choose a bean bag, popcorn in hand.
This area is also where the Potting Shed is located, which looked stunning – reminding us of Richmond’s Petersham Nurseries or even The Pig restaurants. In a similar way to these, they utilise the nearby allotment where we could see them growing tomatoes, squash and every herb you could imagine. Covered in gorgeous buzzing bees, there was a super cute ‘bug hotel’ too.
With so much to see and do we think you could easily spend a couple of nights here without ever stepping off the property, whether you’re a couple looking for a romantic weekend away within easy reach of London, or are trying to keep a young family entertained.