SOPWELL HOUSE ST ALBANS HOTEL REVIEW
A 4-STAR COUNTRY HOUSE HOME FROM HOME WITHIN THE ROLLING HERTFORDSHIRE HILLS
It was a quick drive from London to St Albans, but it had the feeling of being in the middle of the countryside. Nestled deep within the rolling Hertfordshire hills sits Sopwell House, an enchanting country estate. They’re currently undergoing an exciting extension and refurbishment which is due to be complete next year. The dazzling white 18th Century Georgian manor house, surrounded by acres of charming countryside, stands proudly at the end of a meandering driveway lined with blossom trees. The entrance lobby area has a wow factor, with plenty of natural light and is a nice spot to relax in. Our room (well, house) was just opposite the reception area in a private gated Mews. A nice concept for those who like a bit more privacy and a home away from home feel. Throughout the hotel corridors it was cool to see there are framed signed sports shirts from football teams that have stayed at the hotel over the years (playing the nearby Watford FC no doubt).
Boasting elegant English naturalism and charm, each mews suite has a botanical name such as Juneberry, Foxglove and Hawthorne (the one we stayed in). With the choice of studio, one bedroom and duplex, each of the properties is styled in a quintessentially British manner, offering guests their own living space. For those lucky enough to be staying in the private Mews area, you will be able to access this peaceful idyllic street of houses teamed with perfectly manicured gardens and an infinity edged hydrotherapy pool. Originally standing as stable blocks to accompany the main farmhouse, the newly refurbished oasis comprises 16 Mews Suites surrounding a stunning botanical garden designed by Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medalist, Ann-Marie Powell. Some of them also encompass their own private courtyards with sunken private spa baths and dark wicker seating areas.
Adorable country home features - such as real timber wood flooring, farmhouse doors, pristine Wellington boot stands, exquisite wall coverings and cosy window seats - are set against elegant slate and leather furnishings. A muted colour palette of rich mustard and subdued tan tones, complemented with dark accents, echoes throughout each property. Eclectic artwork hangs on the walls, while a contemporary take on traditional tartan fabric adorns each sofa. The immaculate bathrooms have under-floor heating, bespoke vanity units, luxurious gowns and slippers, along with chic ESPA toiletries. For colder months, most of The Mews offer neatly stacked logs alongside sleek gas fireplaces.
The restaurant had great service and offered a relaxing evening with a good ambience. The food we ordered was mouth-watering fine dining, which was to expected from a 2AA Rosette restaurant that marries British and European cuisine to achieve an eclectic menu offering. Head Chef Matthew Bird, who previously worked for prestigious hotels such as Clivedon House, has devised a tantalising à la carte menu using only seasonal and local produce. Officially opened by footballing royalty, Arsene Wenger, the split-level space boasts striking pendant lighting and white linen tablecloths with deep maroon-coloured armchairs. Breakfast was served in the nearby brasserie which is a more informal setting that has floor-to-ceiling windows with views across the hotel’s picturesque grounds. The breakfast is a buffet selection that is vast and delicious, centred around an open kitchen.
The Cocktail Bar & Lounge
As we were visiting just before London’s Old Fashioned Week, we deemed it rude not to order one. The cocktails here are top class and we ended up having more of a selection than we planned. If it wasn’t for our dinner reservation, we could have stayed here all night (and then carried to our suite no doubt). The Cocktail Bar boasts an ornate marble topped-bar accompanied by pale aqua blue bar stools. Authentic French doors stand to the side of the bar, offering landscape views of the front lawns. This characterful, cosy room with 3-metre wide fireplace serves traditional Afternoon Tea throughout the day also.
Naturally lit and spacious, The Spa at Sopwell House has 14 treatment rooms including one double treatment room, a 15-metre swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room, fully equipped gymnasium with dedicated weights area, dance and yoga studio, plus a spa lounge and relaxation room. There is also a tranquil seated terrace and spa garden and it was very popular during our visit, regardless of the ongoing refurbishment. We will certainly be back to see the result once it is complete in 2019.