IF ASKED, I wouldn’t list Watford in my top ten destinations for a romantic getaway. Yet after negotiating a swarm of roundabouts we were cruising through the breathtaking grounds of the Grove hotel, flanked by 300 acres of exquisitely-kept English gardens.
This revamped 18th century mansion still throws up a sense of its lavish past, boasting a history of landed, royal and political visitors including Queen Victoria herself. The current clientele ranges from the general well-to-do seeking a bit of spa pampering to City workers and business execs, not to mention the odd celeb.
Welcoming staff escorted us to our room past a never-ending line of art installations (plastic cows in a glass cabinet, stuffed chicks in a glass cabinet – you get the general idea). The interiors are a smart mix of art deco, gothic and minimalist contemporary.
The one oddity is the Seventies-style carpeting throughout, which is at odds with the place’s otherwise flawless look.
Our Mansion bedroom was a modern delight, complete with gigantic flat screen TV, a futuristic bathroom equipped with sliding doors, and White Company cosmetics with which I promptly slathered myself after an indulgent soak in the stand-alone bathtub.
The whiter-than-white Sequoia spa was dotted with robe-clad, attractive folk sipping jasmine tea and eating finger sandwiches. The main highlight has to be the relaxation room – a warm, spiritual space to snooze and offload. I tried out a Replenishing Facial. Using ESPA products focusing on aromatherapy, my therapist analysed my skin and then designed a bespoke facial. The products were gorgeous, an onslaught of delicious aroma and comfort. I left feeling relaxed, buzzing with a sense of wellbeing.
Meanwhile my sports-loving other half was experiencing the Grove’s golf treats. He was impressed by the valet who took his clubs, the top-notch practice facilities, and the beautifully manicured course, which boasts some challenging holes and well protected greens.
Washed and groomed, we hit the Glasshouse restaurant for the Grove’s answer to all you can eat. The fish and seafood was superb (fresh lemon king prawns a highlight), as was the carvery, particularly the rare roast beef. If you are a fan of tapas, grilled Manchego, fabulous marinated anchovies and cured sausages were copious. The chocolate fountain and strawberries for dessert were in keeping with the Grove’s general decadent ambience. You come here to be spoiled, and you are.
We shared a romantic drink in the gardens after dinner followed by a stroll. Although the hotel was packed, hosting at least two functions that evening, the magical secret garden atmosphere and lit fountains under a full moon was the recipe for a gorgeous end to a memorable day.
Rooms from £290 B&B. A round of golf is £140, or £90 after 3pm. Facials and massages in the spa start at £90. www.thegrove.co.uk