Our man stumbles on a newly-invested-in hotel going the extra mile to pull locals and Londoners alike. NICK HAMMOND reaches for his swimming shorts…
I’M not much of a gym bunny, if truth be told.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve spent my fair share of time on the treadmill or dreaded Stairmaster; pounding down the fast lane of the pool or grunting and groaning on the torture chamber of the gym floor proper.
But I’ve never been one of those types that truly lives for it; who feels bereft and adrift when they miss a single day.
And while I like the endorphine rush and general sense of wellbeing from a gym session as much as the next fellow, I always guiltily hanker to just hit the steam room and jacuzzi and miss out the middle man.
Which is why a sudden visit to the Crowne Plaza Gerrards Cross was, in its own small way, a life-changing event.
My family and I, more by luck than judgment, it must be said, found ourselves late one recent Thursday afternoon, in the leafy shade of South Bucks. After copious U-turning and no small amount of accusatory co-piloting, we swing into the car park in front of the great, white-fronted expanse of the hotel.
I am, at first, trepidatious. It is not my ‘typical’ hotel.
I have found, as a general rule of hotel thumb, the smaller, the better. It’s easy to feel like a lost soul in many modern hostelries which can resemble Balkan states more than cosy places of repose.
But staff at the Crowne Plaza have been well-drilled. The hotel is but a short drive into Central London and so the competition for business is fierce. They must strive for the best.
And a £20 million refurb spend later, it’s this they do so admirably. Whether in making sure your room is topped up for the night with Origins slumber-inducing skincare, or guiding you to the Executive Lounge where a certain strata of guest can enjoy a free coffee and snack any time of the day. Nice touch.
And the 1269 Restaurant, Bar and Grill – named after the year nearby Beaconsfield market was first licenced – is what really begins to set the place apart. A lot of thought, hard work and not to mention money, has gone into this.
Let me start with the bar, which is where, after all, I like to begin most of my adventures.
It’s a great, backlit, speakeasy type affair and the range of whiskies (always a telltale sign of quality and knowledge) is pretty special. There is even a whisky vault around the corner where aged and rare bottles of the amber stuff have been mounted in glass display boxes to form part of the wall. Another nice touch.
I feel compelled to have a large Scotch and soda, just to see how it’s served. Very well is the short answer and with my good lady wife bagging a white wine and the girls some fancy juice, we settle down for an impromptu game of charades before supper.
We are visibly relaxing by the moment, it interests me to note. I order another SAS.
We are shortly afterwards shown into the restaurant, which would be at home in any swanky London venue; a great, airy space, complete with open kitchen, glass Prep Room, chef’s table and a much-prized Josper Grill.
This is an interesting, carnivorous menu; 35-day aged Himalayan Salt Rock embalmed steak from Glenarm; Buccleuch Estate Beef; Denham Woodpigeon and much more.
If steak is your thing (and, frankly, it’s definitely mine) Chateaubriand, rib eye, hanger steak and more can be singed to your taste over the Josper. Let’s digress on this subject.
The Josper, which I duly inspect thanks to the chef on duty, is a great stainless steel beast fired by charcoal, which can reach temperatures of up to 350 degrees centigrade and cooks deep and fast – perfect for meat.
It was inevitable that we sample some – especially with a T. Rex of an 11-year-old among us. The flesh was as promised; chunks of dripping cow, crusty and bovine, in various cuts and degrees of bloodiness. Excellent.
And it would only be fair to sluice it down with some grape of the red variety, which we dutifully did. Oh, and I really should mention a really excellent octopus starter. Very easy to get octopus wrong and this was delivered with aplomb.
But back to the main thrust of the pleasure I discovered in spending a night at Crowne Plaza Gerrards Cross, or CPGC as it will forever be known in my tiny brain.
The Wave Spa & Wellness Centre is another facet of the hotel designed to tempt the spoiled London masses. And it works. While I note that the gym facilities were second to none – even Yoga classes each week and I love yoga (no, I sincerely do, it’s the way forward) – I felt emancipated enough to pass them by and head to the wet side. Well, my girls were desperate for a swim, weren’t they?
So while they splashed, frolicked and tried to generally drown each other, I steamed and bathed like a delicate fillet of lemon sole. And I remembered that I really rather enjoyed this sort of thing.
The day after I got home, I rejoined my local gym. I have even been seen on the running machine, heavily disguised.
All this, I owe to my brief yet fortuitous visit to this newly-loved South Bucks hotel. Life is a journey – and the CPGC will forever have a red flag on my map.
Crowne Plaza, Gerrards Cross, Tel 01753 893891, www.cp-gerrardscross.co.uk