It’s not very often you get to live like a princess, but at the Luton Hoo hotel, where grandeur, breath-taking décor and chandeliers are the norm – you can do just this.
Modelled on The Ritz, Elite hotels took over the mansion from the Wernher family in 1999, who made their fortune from the South African diamond mines. Refurbishing it to the highest possible standard, it now stands as a five star hotel and spa, popular across the country (and around the world) for conferences and magical, fairy-tale esque weddings. Situated within close proximity to Luton Airport and just 25 minutes by train from London St Pancras, it stands as the perfect venue for a weekend retreat. As long as you don’t mind being waited on hand and foot.
I recently had the pleasure of staying at the Luton Hoo, just for one night, but long enough to feel just how special this place is. The pillared front of the mansion is absolutely stunning and as soon as you pass through the grand doors at the entrance, you won’t ever want to leave. Noticing I was struggling with my rather ridiculously packed suitcase, the staff at the hotel were immediately on hand to make our stay as luxurious and as stress free as possible.
Check in was swift, easy and simple – with the receptionist taking us straight up to our room, a magnificent master bedroom suite (room 9, in case you were wondering) complete with a stunning chandelier, Molton Brown toiletries, original Wernher family portraits and a walk in wardrobe. Once the bedroom of the daughter of the family, it upholds incredible views over the gardens and a circular window in the bathroom, which looked like it had come straight off a film set.
Talking of films, you may recognise Luton Hoo from one of many cinematic productions it has hosted over the years including Four Weddings & A Funeral – Hugh Grant hid under the sink in the room next door – and Quills with Kate Winslet. The stunning architecture and handmade wood carvings in the ballroom make it the perfect venue for filming and photography – it is certainly very photogenic.
The spa, which is based in the ‘stables’ area of the grounds, is a short walk away, however there is a rather handy fleet of black cab taxis to take you anywhere you wish. We were too enthralled by the main mansion house and the comfort of our bedroom to explore the spa any further than a quick peek through the window, but it looked every inch as stunning as the photographs. The floor to ceiling windows of the hydrotherapy pool are a constant (and welcome) reminder of the sprawling, gorgeous countryside surroundings that the hotel boasts.
Our dinner reservation was for 7.30 in the very royal ballroom style Wernher restaurant, which with high ceilings and grand windows overlooking the gardens, felt so vast at first that we spent the first part of the evening whispering to one another across the table. With delicate, faint music playing in the background and just a few tables of guests (the clientele was varied – ranging from tables of older guests, clearly visiting for a treat, to couples on a romantic date), it did feel very formal but with attentive, helpful staff on hand, you soon felt at ease.
The a la carte menu at the restaurant offers something for everyone, which surprised me initially since more formal, fine dining venues tend to be rather limited. Vegetarians are catered for with pea soufflés and pumpkin ravioli, whilst meat eaters can be rest assured that the beef and lamb options are of extremely high standard. Our waiter brought over a very delicate peach and honey blossom South African wine to match our seafood choices, in addition to a selection of canapés and a very tiny (Alice in Wonderland esque) salmon and smoked cauliflower starter, presented in a tea cup.
Sion opted for the Rabbit & White Bean Terrine to start, whilst I chose a very delicious scallop dish with sour apple jelly and beetroot puree. Scallops, as an expensive dish to start with – often tend to be few and far between in restaurants, however I was presented with a very generous serving – much to my delight since they were the out of this world, melt in the mouth variety. Our main courses followed, mine a coconut and coriander monkfish plate, with baby corn, roasted peppers and saffron rosti, and Sion’s a beef and parsley gnocchi dish – which I had the pleasure of trying too (and can confirm, was also very delicious). The portion sizes were generous in terms of fine dining – especially in comparison to some of the other restaurants I’ve sampled, and we left feeling satisfied, without going hungry.
Never one to turn down dessert, we shared a rhubarb and custard Cheesecake and a lemon meringue pie, before retiring upstairs to our room which had been ‘turned down’ and all ready to dive into the duvet.
After a very restful night’s sleep (the beds are the comfiest – ever) we headed down to the Wernher restaurant for breakfast – which boasted another delicious spread of food. I’m not a huge breakfast person, but even I couldn’t resist the delicious scrambled eggs and beans on offer.
The formal dining room felt a little less intimidating in the morning light, with more of a relaxed feel – however the staff’s attention to detail certainly didn’t waiver, with a variety of other egg choices available should nothing on the vast spread not take your fancy. Egg dipped toast with maple syrup sounded amazing, whilst poached egg with hollandaise sauce was also nearly ordered. However, after heavy sighs – we headed upstairs to pack our bags and leave, with intentions to return very soon!
If you want to sashay around for a weekend channeling your inner princess, Luton Hoo really is the perfect place for both girlie pampering and a romantic break. Only in the UK can you stay in gorgeous historic buildings like this one, granting yourself access to something once the rich and aristocratic could enjoy. Only here can you really feel like a royal for the weekend, and really relax. I’d go back in a heartbeat, and if you’re planning anything special – this is certainly a venue to consider.
One night’s stay starts at £280 for a Deluxe Room. To book, call 01582 734437 or visit lutonhoo.com