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Our easter break at The Grove

Located just outside Watford, in the middle of the Hertfordshire countryside, the Grove is a five star hotel,  which describes itself as ‘London’s country estate’.

Having experienced the slightly rough and ready delights of Centre Parcs over the Autumn half term, I was more than ready for something slightly more upmarket which would still cater to the boys’ needs. The Grove seemed to tick a lot of these boxes on paper.

We arrived on Thursday afternoon, following a relatively quick trip down the M25 and M1. My initial impressions of the hotel were mixed. On entering the foyer the service with a smile and  attentiveness couldn’t be faulted. However, as we were shown around the grand  extension to the original hotel, I felt a real sense of deja vue…the interior of the hotel resembles that of quite a few of the City offices I have visited over the years. Marbled floors: check; cream  interiors: check. It lacked that vital ingredient: intimacy. The only attempt made to create  any feeling of uniqueness were the impressive flower  arrangements in the downstairs reception areas. The art work, if could be called that, consisting of Damien Hirst-ish canvases of farm animals were pretty cheap looking, and already tearing.

Our executive suite upstairs although impressive was probably not  deserving of the five star rating or price tag. Rather it lacked atmosphere and any attempt to make it homely,  with a large double (possibly a king size), a mounted plasma screen and a  separate sofa bed (set up for my five year old) as well as a cot that had been  provided for my younger son.

The resort did however make up for this lack of ambience in other ways. As we were staying over the Easter break, lovely little seasonal touches were on offer, such as two massive, complimentary  Easter eggs in each room, as well as delicious cookies left each night for us all to enjoy. Thoughtfully, the hotel also provided us with a selection of toys in our room for the boys to play with.

‘Anouska’s’, the kids club at the resort had laid on  an impressive array of activities for the kids to enjoy, ranging from the usual
Easter egg hunt, and arts and crafts, to football, cricket and golf.

The hotel also boasts an artificial beach next to an outdoor pool in its walled garden, which proved to be particular popular given  the unusually high temperatures.

For me the real highlight was the outdoor sculptures  that are currently being displayed on the grounds of the hotel, which really give the hotel the aesthetic it lacks in other respects  to turn it from a slightly bland, but glamorous five star into something special. Sadly they are only on  display for a limited time.

The hotel seems to have built quite a loyal following, which  on the whole consists of WAGs, rich bankers out for the weekend with their  oh-so-perfectly manicured wives and, on the whole, bratty kids, and ‘the travelling rich’, for lack of a better word.. We all certainly felt that we  were getting an insight into a world very different to our own, where Rolexes  worth thousands are given to toddlers at the dinner table to play with, and private and education healthcare is de rigeur. I suspect that any mention of a state education or NHS would have gone down like a lead balloon.

Other guests were very friendly on the whole but  there usually came a point in the conversation where I started getting the  distinct sense that we inhabited very different worlds.

The food in the two child friendly restaurants was slightly above average but not of a standard to justify the price tags  attached: a family of four can expect to dine for over a £100 at The Glasshouse  (which serves hot and cold buffet food) and around £80-90 at The Stables.

Did we enjoy our stay at the hotel? Yes, immensely.  I suspect this may have been down to the mini-heatwave we have been enjoying,  as well as the super-friendly, if sometimes slightly disorganised staff, as well as the hotel’s ‘Sequoia’ spa, with its relaxing indoor swimming pool. Highlights for our boys no doubt included the Scalextric  which my five year old could happily have played with for hours on end.

Would we go back? If we could afford it, yes,  although the other guests outlook on life can become slightly wearing, and five
days in I am now longing to get back to my version of reality in London, and all that may incorporate, where Rolexes are most definitely not taken for granted, and £100 can buy you a week’s groceries.

Would I recommend it? Yes, probably, although expect to pay over the top prices, and don’t be put off by your fellow guest. If you are looking for a short break away from the hustle and bustle of London, this place ticks enough boxes to make it worth a visit. You don’t have to be a resident at the hotel to enjoy the facilities. If you are going to go, I would recommend a trip before the beginning of summer when the magnificent outdoor sculpture exhibition ends.

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