Beaverbrook is not your typical country house hotel. Yes, it is set in 400 acres of landscaped gardens (revamped by leading garden designer Richard Bisgrove no less). Yes, it has a lauded, members-only golf course. And, yes, it has a characterful library where guests can peruse the heaving shelves of vintage books. But there the similarities to other rural boltholes end.
Found in the gentle Surrey Hills, just 19 miles from central London, The House at Beaverbrook is the re-imagination of what was once the grand home of press baron Lord Beaverbrook. Dating back to 1866 and formerly known as Cherkley Court, it is steeped in history and is famous for having hosted a guest list that reads like a Who’s Who of the 20th Century. A great friend of Churchill, Beaverbrook was one of the most influential figures of his time, with the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Elizabeth Taylor and Ian Fleming just a few of his friends who stayed at the house.
Calling on its rich heritage but with an eye firmly on a modern-day guest, interior designer Susie Atkinson (most renowned for her work with the Soho House group of hotels) has revamped the glorious rooms with flair and style. Original architectural details and vintage furniture reference the house’s former life, while black and white war-time photography and framed period adverts (“We Want Your Waste”) are a reminder of the important times that were lived out here. In the light-drenched hallway there is a framed poem written for Beaverbrook by Rudyard Kipling (another famous former guest) and an oversized Gerhard Richter tapestry. Its eclectic yet wonderfully sympathetic to the house’s history.
Each of the 18 rooms are named after the famous guests who have passed through the property and all ooze character and charm. The pretty Turret Rooms, for instance, are tucked away in the decorative towers of the house, and boast quirky bathrooms and cosy sleeping quarters carved out of the eaves. At the other end of the scale is the impressive Dowager Suite – once Lady Beaverbrook’s bedroom – with its original fireplaces, four-poster bed and dual aspect views of the Surrey Downs or Italian Garden. The vast marble bathroom with walk-in rain shower, stand-alone Victorian tub and a wall of textile artwork by Louise Bourgeois is the stuff of dreams. While the Bamford toiletries and bottle of Sipsmith Gin will appeal to a ‘knowing’ crowd.
Beautifully restored is the house’s original cinema – found just off the lobby and once the place where Churchill and Beaverbrook would mull over reels from the war effort. These days, it’s lined with plush, red-velvet armchairs for Netflix viewing, the original honey-coloured wood panelling polished to perfection.
The star of the show is undoubtedly the avant-garde The Japanese Grill restaurant found in an elegant dining room. Here, cuisine is courtesy of ex-Nobu head chef, Maruyama Taiji, and is far removed from what you’d normally find at a country-house table. There are Sushi and Sashimi menus, as well as a Robata and Josper Grill choice, but for a real gastronomic journey opt for one of two of the ‘Chef’s Selections’. The tasting menus include ‘Crispy Rice Tuna with Spicy Mayo’, ‘Yellow Tail Tiradito’, ‘Popcorn Shrimp’ and ‘Special Nigiri’. It’s authentic and delicious – with the chef using seasonal ingredients, many harvested from the estate. Head gardener Elliot Beveridge has already cultivated Shiso Leaf, a variety of Japanese herb and edible flower, and is working on Daikon and Wasabi. Seating just 40, on muted floral dining chairs or velvet banquettes, the room itself is also a delight – decorated in a sage-green and cream palette and enhanced with a touch of bling from the restored ceiling gilding.
For an utterly glamourous start to your meal, kick off proceedings in the next-door Parrot Bar. A decadently-styled drinking lounge, with teal velvet bar stools, a shimmering bronze bar and tropical-print armchairs – this is straight out of the Roaring Twenties except there’s an innovative menu direct from Soho. Head barman Rafael Sanchez’s signature concoction the Japanese Blossom cocktail (made from Hakusshu whisky, Chambord, raspberries and rhubarb bitters) sets the tone and echoes the Japanese dining theme.
While The House is impressive by itself, it’s not the only offering on the estate. You’ll also find The Garden House, which opened late last year as a precursor to The House. It’s a smaller, sweeter bolthole with 11 whimsical bedrooms designed by Nicola Harding (think roll-top baths, a mix-match of floral prints and retro furniture), a cookery school and a seriously good ‘Britalian’ restaurant, overseen by chef Kaz Suzuki.
Next to come – early next year – is the final stage of the Beaverbrook project. The standalone Coach House Spa will have its own cottage garden, botanic-inspired therapies and a Deli restaurant, offering organic, healthy meals. Opening at the same time will also be a collection of Glass House Cottages to boost the number of rooms on offer. Welcome to a new kind of country-house hotel.
Room rates start from £330 per night, beaverbrook.co.uk
This review is also published on The Arbuturian