Venetia van Kuffeler visits Beaverbrook, a glamorous country house hotel in the heart of the rolling Surrey hills
Given the magazine’s readership, how fitting that I was to be sleeping in the Joe & Rose Kennedy Suite. I was staying at Beaverbrook, an elegant country house hotel in the heart of the rolling Surrey hills. A fascinating history, the house played host to the great and the good over the past century, entertained by its former owner, the press baron and war-time MP Lord Beaverbrook.
Rumour has it that whilst out driving with his friend Rudyard Kipling in 1910, they spotted the ‘for sale’ sign and bought it on the spot for £30,000. The following year, Beaverbrook installed heating, electricity, a swimming pool and what’s thought to be the UK’s first home cinema. As the proprietor of the Daily Express and Sunday Express, Lord Beaverbrook’s infamous bashes entertained Charlie Chaplin and Elizabeth Taylor, all while Sir Winston Churchill was holding court at the bar. Joe and Rose Kennedy had arrived in the UK as US Ambassador in 1938. Their nine children included President John F. Kennedy, and during their tenure in the UK they were frequent visitors to Beaverbrook.
After his friend Churchill became Prime Minister, Beaverbrook became Minister of Aircraft Production, and the property was used as an alternative war bunker, known to host the entire war cabinet on occasions. Beaverbrook was responsible for the famous wartime ‘saucepans for spitfires’ campaign, asking British people to give up their aluminium pans so they could be melted down to make much needed spitfires.
Today, Beaverbrook has been magnificently restored. On arrival, visitors drive through 470 acres of beautiful parkland past immaculate hedgerows and landscaped grounds. The Joe & Rose Kennedy Suite was one of 18 elegant guestrooms found along corridors lined with endless colourful artworks in The Main House. Each room, named after its former prestigious guests, reflects the history of the building while adding chic, contemporary touches and elegant antiques. Huge windows revealed dreamy views over the abundant gardens and Surrey Hills rolling beyond, and the grand marble bathroom with underfloor heating and an open fireplace was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.
Evening began with a pre-dinner cocktail in the glorious art deco Frank’s Bar, with walls lined with hundreds of Victorian botanical paintings, and soon moved outside to the terrace, complete with warm rugs and heaters. Dinner was in the Japanese Grill, which serves innovative Asian cuisine created by ex-Nobu Executive Chef, Taiji Maruyama. With a large menu bursting with so many tempting choices, we followed our waitress’s lead with the seasonal tasting menu. Seven courses of delicately flavoured sushi, sashimi and nigiri, along with and the finest cuts of meat and fish from the grill then followed, including yellowtail Tiradito, popcorn shrimp and Beaverbrook black cod. Just when we thought we could eat no more, the most spectacular corn-fed baby chicken accompanied by delicious Koshihkari rice with sliced truffle was placed before us. Heaven.
Guests can still enjoy a movie in the plush cinema, lined with its original art-deco wood panelling. This was the room where Beaverbrook and Churchill would withdraw to discuss the war’s progress. During our stay, nothing was too much trouble; the staff were full of pride for the property and were happy to go the extra mile for their guests.
Recently, Beaverbrook opened the sleek Coach House Health Club & Spa. Housing indoor and outdoor pools, a deli serving fresh dishes from the hotel’s kitchen garden, a fitness centre with daily programme of classes, and a series of treatment rooms, this is a destination in its own right. Offering a thoroughly holistic approach to wellness, treatments are nurturing and nature-based, inspired by the British countryside, to encourage guests to recharge and re-energise.
For the holidays, Beaverbrook has an exciting festive line up, including a new ice-skating rink in the grounds. From 4 December until the end of January, guests will be able to glide on ice followed by an indulgent mulled cider, hot chocolate or waffles from the rink-side cabin. Elaborate decorations will recall renowned aforementioned guest, Rudyard Kipling, who in 1911 wrote Christmas at Cherkley Court (the estate’s former name) on the pages of Lord Beaverbrook’s guestbook. Guests can then ring in 2021 with performances from ice dancers followed by champagne and dinner in one of the various restaurants, leaving New Year’s Day to pamper in The Coach House Spa. After a year of uncertainty, switching off to enjoy cosy but luxurious celebrations at Beaverbrook is certainly very tempting.