A member of the luxury hotel group, Exclusive Collection, which includes the sumptuous Manor House in Castle Combe, the five star Pennyhill Park in leafy Bagshot, Surrey is one of the UK’s leading resorts, boasting a Michelin starred restaurant, 123 acres including landscaped gardens, an immaculate golf course (regularly used by professionals during the PGA championships held at nearby Wentworth) an impressive 45,000 sq. ft. stand-alone spa with indoor and outdoor pools, 23 treatment rooms and it’s own restaurant.
You might find yourself visiting Pennyhill Park for any of the above, but if you have time enough, why not experience it all? Well located for a day out at Ascot Racecourse, The Savill Garden, Windsor Castle or Legoland if you’re bringing the little ones, the leisure activities on offer at Pennyhill means there is no necessity for going anywhere. Rather, you’re likely to regret leaving. The concept of this luxury playground appears to be balancing health and wellness with a spot of hedonistic indulgence. Enjoy cocktails poolside after a swim. Work out in the gym followed by a two-hour Michelin dining experience. A round of morning golf followed by a full English. And why the devil not?
Spas like to adopt the term ‘state-of-the-art’, but I’ve yet to come across any warranting this description more than the jaw-dropping Pennyhill Spa. You may be glad of the map after adopting their robes and flip-flops – that’s if you manage to find the changing rooms without getting lost first (as I did). Spanning three floors, you’ll need to allow an entire day for sampling just a fraction of the facilities, from indoor hot tubs, saunas, foot spas to herbal steam rooms, plunge pools and an ice igloo, to a second floor including a tanning room, nail suite and oxygen bubble, it seems Pennyhill Spa have thought of everything. And that’s before you’ve even started on the treatment menu.
Somehow managing to navigate myself to the treatment waiting area with complimentary refreshments, overlooking the Hollywood-esque outdoor pool, my therapist, Emily, collected me for my hour-long hot stone massage therapy; soothing my back by adding some cooling gel to my tense shoulders, easing all aches in my limbs and finishing with a relaxing coconut oil scalp massage. Any ladies worried about their hair needn’t be – along with Natural Spa Factory hair products, the changing rooms are equipped with Dyson hair dryers and straighteners to ensure you don’t only feel a million dollars.
The sheer scale and diversity of Pennyhill Park means that they are able to cater to every guest’s need, from corporate events and conferences, to weddings and most definitely honeymoons, with a range of suites looking out over the estate. A pillow menu offers the perfect night’s sleep. They also have a small number of dog friendly rooms opening onto the garden, and although dogs aren’t permitted in any public hotel areas, there is the option to reserve pooch sitting or arrange doggy room service. Ours was absolutely delighted with our four poster room and was quite content to remain listening to Classic FM.
From the Themis restaurant belonging to the spa (where all diners happily wear the same outfit), the main hotel offers all day dining and afternoon tea in the Ascot Bar or on the Lily Pond Terrace in the warmer months, while the 2 AA Rosette Brasserie presided over by Head Chef Sam Straker serves an ample buffet breakfast and lunch through to à la carte dinner – a speciality being steaks prepared on the Inka charcoal grill. For celebratory occasions (or frankly if you’re only here for one night) then it has to be the acclaimed Matt Worswick at The Latymer – a destination in its own right. Located in one of the oldest parts of the original 19th century manor house, the oak beams and plush floral upholstery in autumnal tones lend an intimacy and character to proceedings.
With a charming and attentive front of house team who were extremely accommodating to my meat and alcohol free requirements, they arranged delicious mocktails from The Ascot Bar to accompany the delightful canapes of pea arancini and melting truffle gougères, and were also extremely informative when I enquired about any of the dishes, either the ingredients or techniques. The seven course tasting menu (£95pp), thoughtfully designed around my pescatarian dietary preferences, was a showcase of Worswick’s supreme culinary flair, drawing inspiration from British produce and Pennyhill’s own vegetable garden with an admirable precision and attention to detail. If we eat with the eyes, Worswick is a true artist, with flavour and texture combinations that only serve to impress further.
Having appeared on BBC1’s Masterchef: The Professionals and more recently The Great British Menu, it was exciting to sample some of Matt Worswick’s most celebrated signature dishes, and for which The Latymer have deservedly retained a Michelin star and 4 AA Rosettes since 2017. The opening course of Colchester oyster – an emulsion topped with cured sea trout, refreshing crisp apple and a palate-enlivening, vibrant sorrel granita – was as sublime a beginning to a tasting menu as I ever remember.
More expert cookery and bold flavours followed, stand out dishes being a wild mushroom risotto packed with umami, yeasty notes and adorned with crispy malt vinegar puffed rice, and a caramelised Orkney scallop served with fresh Brixham crab and a heady sauce américaine. Each course was accompanied by a presentation card with information about the central ingredient – a cute idea which doubles as a souvenir.
Two sensational desserts secured our high opinion, from an intense passion fruit set cream with mini meringues, mango gel and a silky smooth coconut ice cream to one of Worswick’s most popular dishes, an elegant, rich Manjari chocolate délice accompanied by a milk crumble and yoghurt sorbet. The information card offered a diagram of the layers and structure resembling a bowler hat. A hat we sincerely doff to The Latymer. In fact, I wouldn’t dream of hanging up my hat at Pennyhill Park without having first secured a reservation here. The only fault I have to find is with Michelin who should surely have handed out two stars.
Pennyhill Park, London Rd, Surrey GU19 5EU. For more information and reservations please visit the website.