Lord Beaverbrook would be chuffed.
Cherkley Court, the press baron’s Victorian villa overlooking the Surrey Hills, has undergone a five-year restoration (rumoured to have cost £90 million) and is now one of the most thrilling hotels in the country.
A rising force: Once a few niggles have been ironed out — and when the spa opens next year — Beaverbrook will be right up there with Cliveden and Chewton Glen, the Inspector says
Thrilling because of its history (everyone from Churchill to Elizabeth Taylor, Rudyard Kipling and Ian Fleming were among Beaverbrook’s regular guests); because of its grand rooms beautifully reinvented; because of its great art; because of its well-stocked library; and because every last little corner has been given the attention it deserves.
The Bel & The Dragon group (Joel Cadbury and Ollie Vigors) are behind this ambitious venture and, once a few niggles have been ironed out — and when the spa opens next year — Beaverbrook will be right up there with Cliveden and Chewton Glen at the top of the country house hotel league.
We are in a room called Kipling, the lowest category, but it’s huge. Stupendous high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, marble bathroom, wonderfully comfortable bed, sofa and regency-style chairs. The kooky young woman showing us the room knows some of the house’s history and she, like all the staff, seems proud to be performing on this spectacular new stage.
But they also need to sharpen up. Getting a drink at the bar before dinner takes an age, and I have to ask three times for some nuts and olives when you might expect an assortment of canapés to be offered somewhere like this.
The main house has 18 rooms and a swish, expensive Japanese restaurant, while at the nearby Garden House there are a further 11 rooms and a more reasonably priced restaurant, much in the style of The Pig ‘restaurants with rooms’ outlets.
We go expensive. But at these prices, you should not have to get up and flag down a waitress to remind her that you ordered two glasses of wine 20 minutes ago.
Various apologies arrive, along with the salted edamame beans, and then things settle down. Afterwards, we adjourn to the library and watch the news on a big TV screen. Just outside the room are framed newspapers following Lord B’s death in 1964.
Glorious ghosts of a gilded past: Sir Winston Churchill pictured chatting with the influential press baron Lord Beaverbrook at the latter’s 83rd birthday celebrations in 1962
Breakfast isn’t yet firing on all cylinders. It’s a la carte and painfully slow. There’s no fruit or yoghurt on the menu — although you can get a Japanese omelette.
Somehow, our breakfast (one course each and three coffees) comes to more than £50. You should at least get some toast thrown in.
Quibbles, yes, but a night here comes highly recommended.
Arrive early and walk for miles, then enjoy a movie in the cinema, sink into a deep bath and prepare for an evening of Churchillian eating and drinking.
Beaverbrook, Reigate Rd, Leatherhead, Surrey, KT22 8QX.
Call 01372 571300 or visit beaverbrook.co.uk. Doubles from £225 (room only).