Last month Allyn and I packed up our swimsuits and best country-glam outfits and took ourselves away from the city for a little staycation. Just 45 minutes from Blackfriars station, we hopped off our train in Luton, ready to be whisked away into a world of argyle sweaters and champagne for breakfast.
A five minute drive down a long gravel driveway took us through golfing enthusiasts and couples on country walks before our taxi door was opened. “Welcome to Luton Hoo Hotel” we were greeted. “Please may I take your bags?” Oh sir yes you may!
We’d booked a night at the 5* Luton Hoo Hotel and Spa, one of the Elite Hotel’s most luxurious properties. Surrounded by green acres and lush thick forest, you wouldn’t know that just 5 minutes away is the busy Luton Airport, an ideal location for just landed visitors or city escapees like ourselves.
The magnificent Mansion House makes an imposing first impression, once owned by George III’s Prime Minister in the late 18th century. Luton Hoo has a memorable history being an estate since 1601. In 1903 it was bought by Sir Julius Wernher who was a leading dealer of diamonds. He commissioned the architects of the Ritz to redesign its interiors before it was passed down to his son Harold Wernher.
After becoming a site for tank testing in the Second World War, Sir Harold and his wife Lady Zia hosted an important visit from Sir Winston Churchill who addressed over 110,000 people to thank them for their support in the war. Since, Luton Hoo Hotel has become a popular set location, featuring in films such as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Vanity Fair and Bleak House.
The interiors reflect the historical past of the hotel, with grand high ceilings and striking staircases. But first our bedroom! We’d scored a Mansion Master Bedroom for the night, larger than a suite with a luxury bathroom, complete with Molton Brown products, and a bed fit for a King.
Unfortunately our high views looked out onto the car park but we looked past the vehicles to the green course beyond. The décor was classic English country with quality furnishings and a beautiful lounge area ready for me to put my feet up with Country & Home Magazine.
A selection of fresh fruit and local fudge greeted our arrival, which I quickly stuffed in my face before we popped out to the grounds. Through the beautiful lounge, filled with ladies at lunch, we came across the striking gardens that looked down towards the river. I pranced around feeling like an aristocrat before we headed back inside for a fine dinner at the award-winning Wernher’s Restaurant.
Named after Sir Julius Wernher, one of the richest men of his time, the 2 AA Rosette restaurant is a setting to behold. Marble walls and warm luxury wall hangings surround diners dressed in their best attire, beautiful chandeliers sparkling from above.
With it being English Wine Week it was almost mandatory to try a glass of our British Grapes and so I was poured a large helping of Surrey Gold white from Denbies Wine Estate.
We were greeting by a complimentary selection of canapes from the Chef, each delicate to look at and even more divine to taste. A blue cheese and beetroot mousse was strong and powerful, matched perfectly with a meaty duck leg pie. However my favourite was the salmon nori with blood orange squares.
A creamy artichoke soup with truffle oil served as amuse bouche before we set our eyes on the menu. Very reasonably priced with a option to suit most, we decided on the 3 course set menu for £42.50 which offered a variety of seasonal choice.
Allyn picked a deliciously fresh plum tomato soup with Modena balsamic and tarragon whilst I opted for the corn-fed chicken rillettes with an orange glazed wing and pistachios. The sticky nutty base mixed with the citric chicken was a unique flavour combination, equally surprising and pleasant.
We scoffed every bite alongside a selection of bread which was quite honestly some of the best I’ve had in a restaurant. Lemon scented sourdough and a rich walnut dark loaf were both highly addictive as we went back for more and more. Next came a citrus palate cleanser, reminding me of the scene from The Princess Diaries.
Yet the main was what I had been highly anticipating since seeing my chosen dish served to our neighbouring table. Carrying on with an appetite for white meat and seafood, I picked the grilled lemon sole, placed alongside a crab and coconut cake. With sweet mango and salty sea vegetables it was a beautifully fragrant dish that had me smiling with delight with each mouthful.
Allyn was equally happy with his selection of braised ox cheek, served with dauphinoise potatoes, button onions and pancetta. As expected each element was perfectly cooked and rich in flavour.
I sadly left a small crumb of crab cake to ensure I had room for dessert, for there was no world where I could live without trying what was to come.
A delicate strawberry and elderflower mousse came topped with candied lime and lemon sorbet, so beautiful in presentation I had to force myself to take a bite. It was so powerful in flavour, mixing the citric sorbet with the fresh light berry and elderflower taste.
Allyn selfishly picked a pudding I would never want to share… on purpose I can only conclude! His baked banoffee cheesecake with hazelnut nougatine and banana crisps looked almost too pretty to eat and from his satisfied grin it must’ve tasted just as good.
After resisting the temptation to lick our plates clean, we made our way back up the grand staircase, now seeming a little too grand for our heavy food babies, and quickly collapsed onto our enormous bed.
The next morning we woke bright and early for breakfast back in the Wernher’s Restaurant, enjoying a mixture of fresh fruit, pastries and best of British hot eggs and bacon.
Bags packed and stored we waved goodbye to our beautiful room but without a frown for we were costumed up ready for a day in the Country Club Spa. Just a few minutes’ walk from the Mansion House is the Grade II listed building, home to the hotel’s second, more casual, restaurant and two bars.
Here you’ll also find a selection of old stables that once housed winning racehorses including Brown Jack who won 25 medals during his time. Now they outline the entrance to the courtyard spa, where fluffy robes welcome you to an afternoon of tranquillity.
With the British sunshine surprising us with his presence, we sunbathed in the peaceful outdoor garden before taking a dip in the serene swimming pool. For the next few hours I bobbed between the sauna, steam room and relaxing with the Sunday Times Travel, the utmost of relaxation.
Next door we popped for a quick lunch at the 19th Bar, Luton Hoo’s Country Club Sports Bar which is frequently visited by its keen golfers. We were also tempted by Adam’s Brasserie and an additional offer of a picnic hamper to be enjoyed in the 1065 acre lands.
The weekend seemed to have sped by but at a wonderfully relaxed pace if possible. Fine luxurious dining, a peaceful quiet spa and grand impressive décor all hosted within stretches of green golf courses and country land… Luton Hoo Hotel had us hooked.