Negotiating the meandering driveway, which cuts across pristine parkland, you hardly need signs to guide you to the impressive white Georgian mansion of Coworth Park in the distance – once the country retreat of Lord Derby and where the future Edward VII and Queen Alexandra were hosted due to the property’s close proximity to Ascot Racecourse.
Leafy Berkshire has long been a county synonymous with equestrian pursuits, so a luxury hotel on the edge of Windsor Great Park possessing its own stables, polo fields and teaching paddock, has to be the perfect opportunity to either learn or practice riding, whilst Coworth’s purpose built state-of-the-art spa and Spatisserie will help to ease the aches of those new to being in the saddle.
As this was a treat to celebrate my mum’s 60th birthday (and she isn’t known for her sporting ability) we happily confined ourselves to the comforts of our sumptuous mansion suite, almost the size of my London apartment, where we availed ourselves of the bottle of chilled Verve Cliquot awaiting us in our very own private lounge, complete with fridge, Nespresso maker and flat screen TV, set to Dorchester Collection’s own channel of course.
The 24-hour room service menu also makes interesting reading due to boasting signature dishes from all hotels belonging to Dorchester Collection. I love the concept of guests of the Beverly Hills Hotel being able to tuck into The Dorchester London’s mouth watering bread and butter pudding, and likewise residents of Coworth Park enjoying a lobster club sandwich made famous by Le Meurice, Paris. Of Coworth Park’s 70 rooms, 40 are located in the stables and cottages and 30 in the mansion, my personal preference due to the stately high ceilings and sash windows, through which it was glorious to watch the winter sun set.
Having become a member of the prestigious Dorchester Collection in 2001, and as their only countryside venue, Coworth Park was restored to its former glory and interior designers set about heightening the remarkably light and airy aspect of rooms overlooking the spectacular 240 acres. Each room combines both the modern and the traditional, whilst reflecting the glory of each season through a subtle and tonal colour palette and an extensive collection of modern art. Even the four poster bed was forest-like and adorned with wrought iron leaves.
Having stayed in country manor house hotels up and down the country too afraid to shake off the chintz, creaky wooden floorboards and ancestral clutter (which also have their place), Coworth is unique and utterly refreshing. It doesn’t feel particularly eyebrow raising because it works; nothing is overdone, tastelessly vulgar or futuristic, instead it boasts a tranquillity, elegance and chic which lingers in the memory like a scent by Mademoiselle Chanel.
Restaurant Coworth Park, under the command of Simon Whitley, is equally proficient at combining modern British fare with classic techniques and knowing when to leave alone. A starter of seared scallop with black pudding and caramelised shallot was a case in point; satisfying my craving for bold comforting flavours, more than anything it was a dish that showcased impeccable timing and the beautiful ingredients which demanded an expert, yet restrained hand. Service is formal yet welcoming – we were in the country after all.
The Scottish beef fillet with watercress purée, oxtail suet pudding and red wine sauce which followed felt like something Edward VII himself might have ordered – a dish overflowing in generosity, decadence and sauce, I’m pleased to report. The waiting staff don’t merely swirl the jus around and depart with the sauce boat never to be seen again, nothing in this restaurant is wanting and it became rather a bonus that we chanced to be the only ones in the dining room that evening due to several private functions taking place elsewhere.
The dessert of pink poached rhubarb was partnered with a rhubarb sorbet, candied rhubarb, a segment of pink grapefruit, blood orange jelly, an addictive cheesecake cream with just enough sourness, and a haphazard scattering of biscuit crumbs, all of which went perfectly with the sommelier’s pairing of Sauternes, Castelnau de Suduiraut, Bordeaux. I don’t usually go in for ‘deconstructed’ dishes but this cheesecake was a memorable finale to a superb meal. At £65 for three courses with coffee and handmade chocolates, it’s the celebratory option and well worth the price ticket. The restaurant deserves a Michelin star and I’m sure that it’s only a matter of time.
Meanwhile, the hotel’s brasserie, The Barn, offers guests a more relaxed and family-friendly atmosphere and is a good option if you’re staying two nights or more and can’t face another fine dining extravaganza. It’s not difficult to see why Coworth Park is world class – it appeals to equestrian types, spa lovers, gourmets, families, golfers (Wentworth is just opposite), honeymooners and business delegates. Coworth Park really is a hotel not just for all seasons but all people.
Coworth Park, Blacknest Roadd, Ascot SL5 7SE. Tel: 01344 876600. Website.
Pony Camps at Coworth Park: Coworth Park are inviting young equestrian enthusiasts aged 4-13 years to experience their extensive equine offering with Pony Camps this Easter, open to both resident and non-resident youngsters of all abilities and running daily from 10am to 4pm. Commencing with an hour-long riding lesson followed by a different ‘stable topic’, ranging from stable management to grooming and caring for ponies and horses. Meals prepared straight from the gourmet kitchens of Coworth Park are served for lunch. A different learning activity, such as polo lessons and carriage-driving are featured in the afternoon and treasure hunts on horseback and obstacle courses finish off the day at 4pm. The confirmed dates for the Pony Camps during the Easter Holidays are: 8th-10th & 14th-16th (April)– both 3 day camps. There are also dates in the calendar for May half term and the summer.