We’re off to Beaverbrook. Come hail (a lot) or shine (a little) an A Class Mercedes spinning through Surrey on the stormiest day of the year is just what the doctor ordered although possibly not the meteorologist. The gated sprawling estate – legendary hectares of rollingness – is divided into The Haves (see you at The Garden House) and The Haves Even More (we’ll be calling up to see you at The Big House). Ever versatile, we’ll do both. Especially since our guests have travelled 12 hours to make if for lunch.
So what’s the hotel really like? Well, take the terrace of Castle Leslie (County Monaghan), the parterre of Luton Hoo (Bedfordshire), the grotto of Curraghmore (County Waterford), the glasshouse of Walmer Castle (Kent), The Carriage Rooms of Montalto (County Down), the glamour of Corniche John Fitzgerald Kennedy (Marseille) and throw in a larger than life Kensington Palace Gardens villa (London) and you’ll get the picture.
The Garden House staff, led by the stylish restaurant manager from Battersea, are so gregarious that by the dill and beetroot amuse bouches we’re swapping film tips (Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast is very watchable but what is Dame Judy’s mangled accent all about?). It’s easy to get into the tongue and groove of rural life. There are more pictures of prize cows on the Farrow and Ball’d walls than a mar’t auction catalogue. Outside the storm is brewing again but we’re in the old fashioned sitting room propped up by Christian Lundsteen cushions and Old Fashioned cocktails. All hatches are battened down… except for The Drinking Hole.
Can life get any better? Yes it can: lunch is being served in the dining room next door. Before long we’re devouring farmers’ helpings of crispy polenta squid with smoked garlic, basil and lime, followed by Dorset halloumi and heritage beetroot with radicchio, date and parsley. Everything, and we mean everything, is freshly wild and wildly fresh. Our well informed waiter tells us about the hotel’s Sir Winston Churchill connection and the Spitfire emblem and the eponymous Lord Beaverbrook but ever so distractingly the restaurant manager arrives with salted chocolate and blood orange petit fours masquerading as “posh Jaffa cakes”.
Forbes, the only other publication to join us a few years ago in Montenegro at the behest of the Government of the former Yugoslavian state, has beaten us to today’s destination. Its verdict? “Beaverbrook is arguably England’s most beautiful new hotel.” Last week’s Sunday Times is almost as glowing, “One of the UK’s top country house hotels.” Scrawled on a blackboard in the glasshouse is a flower recipe, “Wax flower, statis, limonium, gypsophila, spag. moss.” It’s a metaphor for Beaverbrook: classy, quirky and drawing on the best that nature has to offer.