Set in 376 acres of National Trust formal gardens and Parkland, Cliveden is a grand stately Home of unparalleled luxury. Its importance in the history of the United Kingdom cannot be overstated. A quick look at the visitors book would show the names of every British Monarch since George I, not to mention Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill, Harold Macmillan, President Roosevelt, George Bernard Shaw, and of course John Profumo and Christine Keeler. The Estate was so well regarded that Queen Victoria was famously ‘not amused’ when the Duke of Westminster sold Cliveden to the American Astor family in 1893.
Each bedroom is named after a prominent guest from Cliveden’s past, and furnished accordingly with priceless antiques. Most rooms either have the expansive rear view of the Berkshire Countryside and River Thames, or the impressive Grand Drive with its pretty clock tower and ‘Fountain of Love’ which featured in the Beatles film ‘HELP!’ Despite the bedrooms being of the utmost elegance and luxury, the hotel has a ‘dogs allowed’ policy, acknowledging how difficult it can be to leave these family members at home, and this is just one of the unexpected touches that I love. There are 250 acres of National trust woodland and paths to explore, and so this is a seventh heaven for our four legged friends.
I dined in the opulent Andre Garrett Restaurant, and opted for the special Valentines tasting menu with wine flight. Highlights included the rich caramelised sweetbread with carrot, mushroom and brioche crumb, and the Cornish Turbot with potato ‘risotto’, seaweed, and oyster leaf veloute. Andre, who arrived in 2013 has really put the hotel on the gastronomic map with his creative, elegant dishes and is a hugely experienced, award winning chef with great flair.
The Astor Grill, where I enjoyed a late brunch is a charming converted stable block, with a courtyard near the melodic clocktower, perfect for breakfast or afternoon tea in the warmer months. The grill has huge character and has been beautifully decorated, leaving much of the original equine features in tact but upgraded with striking and comfy teal coloured seating, and has a laid back feel, ideal for the weekend.
Although the Spa is not yet completed, it is due to open in a matter of weeks and is said to include a state of the art gym. The aim was to create a facility worthy of the 5 star hotel, and with GM Kevin Brooke’s guiding hand, I have no doubt that it will be highly impressive. Kevin spent 13 years working for the Aman hotel group, where he learnt all there is to know about high standards and true luxury .
The spa and outdoor pool area is the very place where John Profumo first spotted Christine Keeler skinny dipping in 1961. She was the mistress of a suspected Russian Spy, and married John Profumo was the up and coming secretary of State for War. They embarked upon an affair shortly after meeting which was to bring down the Tory government and see a seismic change in British politics. Perhaps this is the reason that the outdoor pool is the first and only listed outdoor pool in the UK!
One of Cliveden’s longest serving staff members. Michael, gave us the ‘Butler’s Tour’, a fascinating walk and talk around the house, and even below stairs. It’s not often that you have an opportunity to see into the bowels of a great house, and to walk ‘backstage’, so it was thrilling to see the original brick foundations in the wine cellar, and to walk the staff corridors and see the engine rooms of Cliveden in full swing.
Cliveden is a special place and undoubtedly one of the UK’s greatest hotels. Everybody should experience it at least once in their life. To book your stay at Cliveden, call 01628 668561, or visit www.clivedenhouse.co.uk.