A spitfire plane casts a shadow over the imposing walls of Beaverbrook as we pull up at nightfall to one of the most luxurious country estates homes in Surrey, a little over an hour’s drive from London. A valet in a cap and chequered shirt waits up front to relieve us of a car that pales in comparison to the vast array of sports cars and 4x4s fringing the entrance. We’re feeling fancy.
Once checked in, it’s up a grand staircase to one of the main rooms. In this case, Somerset Maugham, named after one of many famous friends of Lord Beaverbrook.
There’s a hint of international glamour about the place, as the backdrop of English country heritage mingles a touch of the theatrical via scented hallways, American swing music coming from Sir Frank’s Bar and a slick Japanese Grill that is very much the reason we’ll return.
It is in The Coach House where you found holistic luxury at its finest. Multicoloured tiles cover a corridor bordered by rivulets of water either side, a masterpiece in un-fuddyduddy spa design, by stained-glass artist Brian Clarke.
Now let’s peel off to the spa facilities. There’s an extensive indoor pool - with wicker armchairs to lollop into with the papers - that tends to attract paddling families. The sauna and steam room area is more where a couple might nuzzle before a massage. Then it’s up to the treatment waiting rooms where a modern fire roars and guests potter around in dressing gowns.
If so inclined, there’s a decent, uncramped gym that also offers classes like morning yoga, and running machines overlooking the outdoor pool area. Treatment wise, it’s all very back to nature, and tailored. By that I mean, instead than rolling out a set procedure for your massage they make it really very specific to your body. The biodynamic massage combines Thai, Swedish and Chinese techniques - a heady mix, much more than the sum of its parts.
The apothecarist who came up with the peppermint and lime oil combination - one of two choices - took the ingredients from the surrounding gardens. The experience starts with a foot bath and gets increasingly vigorous, climaxing with an instruction to decompress in the steam room then drink lots of water. Instead, we went for saké, which leads me to...
For a casual coffee and a masterful brownie bite, we suggest you stop off pre spa in your gowns at The Deli. Unless of course, you’re being virtuous, in which case there are bright salads and matcha lattes galore here. Beaverbrook has two restaurants: The Garden House Restaurant and the Japanese Grill. Which to go to? If your weekend is all about cosy English country homeliness, head to the garden for comfort food and Italian style dining (plus dogs are welcome).
However, if you’re a Londoner in Surrey looking for your idea of a pull-out-the-stops time, put on something crisp or silk and get yourself to the Japanese Grill, via a quick stop at the luxurious Frank’s Bar for a Nineteen Eleven cocktail with Nikka whiskey.
Resisting the urge to set a Japanese stage for the restaurant - you know, lots of wood, cherry blossom and orchids standing skinniliy in tall narrow glass cylinders - the decoration in this room is plain “posh” but in a gloriously American take on that word: plush, pale fabrics and flowered chairs, light Gatsby-esque drapes you expect to billow through the room at the crack of a window, and views looking out to the extensive grounds.
In short, a grand but tasteful sitting-room that serves Japanese food to rival Zuma but looks like it could also be a French fine-dining concept. Thank God it’s not because this is the most interesting bit about the place. Start with Japanese tacos - a tuna and miso morsel in toasted nori, perched high on a stick structure - balanced by a more heart shrimp popcorn with spicy mayo. Sip on an expensive bottle of sake on ice while you mull over what’s next.
Then on to the sushi course, followed by a robata grill with the cabbage “everyone is talking about”, which now I don’t want to talk about but it was… everything. While the wagyu steak may be the popular choice - certainly very good - I’d recommend skirting around the seafood all night - with a Nordic King Crab and Black Cod still offering rich flavor notes. Rich it is - and you must be - as this feast is not cheap, but the happiest surprise of the trip.
Lesson: an exciting interior does not a killer restaurant make.
Reasons to Love
The extensive gardens offer the sort of bracing and efficient walk made for a Londoner. Without leaving the property you can cover enough ground to find yourself walking through country woods (check), traversing through a crickety gate (check), mounting a gentle incline and building up an appetite for breakfast.
Then there’s the welcoming bottle of gin in the room, which further warms the cockles after dinner - and the screening room if you can make it for a late-night film.
Expect to pay around £450 for a cosy room, closer to £600+ for most. One night is plenty, two would likely be the best weekend of your year.
It comes as some light wallet relief to know there are also curated offers including the Sunday Cinema and Stay (£380) for two adults, with dinner at either restaurant, breakfast, spa access and a popcorn-fuelled movie in the cinema.
Beaverbrook, we came thinking you were just a pretty face, but you’re a sophisticated, playful little beast we’re just about primed to marry.
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For more info, see beaverbrook.co.uk