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January 28, 2024updated Jan 29, 2024

The Grove: A Surprising Bout of Luxury

The Grove offers respite for weary Londoners seeking a dose of country without veering far from the M25.

By Kim Ayling

Watford, a commuter town about twenty minutes out of central London, is not typically considered the height of glamour. You’d be forgiven then, for being surprised by the existence of The Grove – an unashamedly luxurious country house hotel just minutes away from Watford’s main drag.

Approached via a long winding drive that cuts through a golf course and manicured fields and jumps over a barge-wielding canal, the heart of the hotel is a grand 18th-century mansion house, the origins of which date to the 1500s. While once the location of lavish society parties for London-escaping revelers, the property eventually descended into disrepair at the end of the 20th century.

A lengthy restoration in the late nineties and early noughties saw a more modern (yet sensitively matched to the original building) wing added and the building throw open its doors as The Grove Hotel. Just over 20 years later, the property is once again a respite for city-weary Londoners looking for a dose of country without veering too far from the confines of the M25.

[See also: Elite Traveler Reveals Top 100 Suites in the World 2024]

the grove mansion suite bathroom
The Mansion Suites were all refurbished last year / ©The Grove

Stay

Last summer, The Grove unveiled its newly refurbished Mansion Suites, each individually designed by Martin Hulbert – the same designer who worked on the hotel’s initial design. Guests staying in one of the Mansion Suites are also privy to private check-in, late check-out and the dedicated services of the hotel’s lovely mansion experience manager.

Working carefully to celebrate the building’s long history while simultaneously injecting a modern flair, original Georgian features – like the wonderfully high ceilings, fireplaces and moldings – have been preserved, while the art program has been hand-curated by Hulbert to showcase the best of British talent.

I spent the night in the Victoria Suite – an elegant first-floor abode that combines what was once two separate guest bedrooms to create an outrageously roomy one-bedroom suite. Designed to cater to guests staying a while longer (I’d have gladly moved in), the Victoria Suite goes way beyond the standard hotel room layout, with its own kitchenette, spacious lounge with French windows overlooking the grounds below, a guest bathroom, walk-in closet and dressing room, and a dining area.

[See also: The Most Anticipated Hotel Openings of 2024]

mansion suite by martin hulbert
Martin Hulbert has mixed original features with modern details / ©The Grove
the grove hotel mansion suite
Guests staying in one of the Mansion Suite are privy to private check in and late check out / ©The Grove

In-room amenities go above and beyond, too. There are the standard bathroom products (The Grove partnered with eco skincare company Bamford last year), tea, coffee, and robes and slippers, but suite guests are also treated to a seriously impressive complimentary mini bar, stocked with champagne (Bollinger, no less) stacks of soft drinks, premium spirits and house-made cocktails

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The real cherry on the cake though, is the whole freezer drawer stocked with full-size tubs of Hackney Gelato which I was graciously told to help myself to.

[See also: The Grove of Narbeth: A Beacon of Welsh Hospitality]

Dine

the glasshouse at the grove
The Glasshouse is home to the mother of all buffets / ©The Grove

This isn’t a hotel chasing Michelin stars but you can’t fault them for that. Instead, the food on offer at The Grove is fun, abundant and tasty. First up is The Stables – a brasserie-style restaurant in one of the hotel’s many outbuildings (formerly the horse’s stables, at a wild guess) serving up refined takes on classic British dishes. Expect the likes of fish and chips, braised lamb, and steak and fries.

By default, you’d expect this to mean a meat-dominated menu but my New Years’ resolution to eat less of the stuff was deftly catered for in the form of a soft and gently caramelized grilled eggplant topped with tahini verde. The salted caramel profiteroles on the dessert menu were tempting but a tub of Sicilian Lemon and Almond gelato was calling from my room so please, someone else order them in my honor.

Closer to the main building is The Glasshouse which is home to the mother of all buffets and promises to take guests on a round-the-world tour via a myriad cuisine. Sushi, curry, pasta, pizza, desserts, robata grill, salad, charcuteries – whatever you desire, The Glasshouse has a station for it. Thrilling as this might sound, it won’t be for everyone; the extensive in-room dining menu might be better suited for those looking for the quiet life.

[See also: The Best Destinations for a Winter City Break]

the stables restaurant the grove
The Stables restaurant / ©The Grove

Relax

As the hotel’s lead product partner, you can expect to see Bamford’s organic skincare products front and center in the extensive treatment list. Therapists are Bamford-trained and ultra-skilled. My 80-minute Wellness Facial felt half intensive sculpting procedure and half intuitive therapy session. The treatment combines several massage techniques and a traditional Gua Sha to ease muscle tension and decrease puffiness. My skin still feels glowy and fresh over a week later.

The spa itself sits separate from the main hotel and is accessed via a short walk through the gardens – this might make lazily strolling back to your room in a robe post-swim a little less appealing but it does make the space feel like it has its own serene identity. Bar the inky, black-tiled swimming pool, much of the spa is underground, giving it a lovely subterranean, cossetted feel. 

Booking a treatment comes with not only access to the wider gym, pool, steam room and hot tub setup, but also a separate set of more private facilities, including a wellness pool and sauna. Post-treatment, retreat to the tranquility room for a quiet moment. The spa also has its own café for light bites – even less reason to need to leave.

[See also: How HVN is Shaking Up the London Wellness Scene]

sequoia spa at the grove
Bar the inky, black tiled swimming pool, much of the spa is underground / ©The Grove

Explore

Golf is one of the main draws here – The Grove is surrounded by 300 acres of land, much of which is occupied by its pristine Championship-level, 18-hole golf course. “It’s being wasted on you!” one of the team told me when I confessed I don’t play. 

But don’t let being a fellow non-golfer put you off exploring. Those lovely grounds also have a manicured Italianate-style garden, pretty woodland nature trails, an adventure-style escape room and plenty of extra outdoor pursuits from hawking to archery.

Mansion Suites from £890 ($1,132), thegrove.com

[See also: Beaverbrook Hotel to Open The Village]

the grove golf course
The Grove is surrounded by 300 acres of land, much of which is occupied by its pristine Championship-level, 18-hole golf course / ©The Grove

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