With its dreamy rooms, glorious garden walks, and heated outdoor pool, Great Fosters has quickly secured its place as one of the best spa hotels near London to escape to. But the recent re-opening of restaurant The Tudor Pass has now positioned the hotel as the ultimate destination for a gastronomic dining experience too – and you can get to it in just 40 minutes from London by train. We stayed the night to check it out…
Modernising a historic Tudor mansion, while still keeping its charm, is no mean feat – particularly when its one steeped in as much history as Great Fosters. Built as a royal hunting lodge in the 16th century, it has some serious royal connections, documented as a home for Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, and host to a string of high-profile visitors in its later years, including Orson Welles and Charlie Chaplin.
Since 2018 though, it’s been under the ownership of Alexander Hotels who have done an excellent job in transforming the property into the ultimate gastronomic getaway.
The ultimate foodie destination to escape to for a weekend mini-break.
Upon arrival at Great Fosters, the first thing you notice is the dim lighting and interiors as you stoop through the tiny wicket door into the grand entrance hall. This room sets the tone for the seductive, dark vibe that runs through the hotel, with its polished antiques, wood-panelled walls and cosy fireplace-lit corners.
The hotel is warm and welcoming, but equally glamorous and steeped in history at the same time, with rich, textured, jewel-toned interiors. The main hall, for example, is swathed in luxurious sink-in velvet sofas and oak-panelled walls. Look up in some parts of the hotel and you’ll find Anne Boleyn’s crest and the coat of arms of Queen Elizabeth I on the ceilings. Venture outdoors and there are topiary sculptures dotted around the Saxon-moated gardens.
The hotel’s 56 bedrooms are equally aesthetic, ranging from cosy double rooms to spacious suites. All have a homely feel with individually styled décor: think four-poster beds, ornate trinkets, and tapestry-adorned walls in the Historic Suites; and modern botanical print wallpaper, high ceilings and standalone bathtubs out in the Cloisters.
Food and drink is an important part of an indulgent Great Fosters stay, and the venue’s standout attraction is The Tudor Pass – a beautiful, low-lit dining room, decked out with a giant mirror, fireplace, and charming Tudor windows. With just seven tables available to book, it has a seductive, intimate vibe: the kind of place you could spend hours sipping wine over an incredible dinner – and that we did.
Head Chef Alex Payne has created a suitably chic signature tasting menu to match, serving refined, artfully presented dishes inspired by classic flavours and seasonal ingredients, many of which come from the estate. Under Alex’s command, the newly reopened restaurant has been reimagined, named ‘The Tudor Pass’ to celebrate the unique interactive style of service diners can expect – without the noise of an open kitchen.
The tasting menu kicks off with a trio of snacks – a lobster tart with lemon verbena from the estate; a cleverly assembled ‘Chicken Jammy Dodger’ made from chicken liver parfait with crispy chicken skin; and Baron Bigod cheese and truffle.
The second course to hit the table was the succulent Brixham crab served with pickled kohlrabi and fermented mushroom broth. This was followed by a texture of heritage English beetroot, candied walnuts, dill emulsion and horseradish sorbet – a real treat; before introducing the juicy pork course with pomme Anna, onion tea gel and pickled shallots. Then it was on to a delicate halibut with morteau sausage and an aromatic herb broth. Next, enter venison with Jerusalem artichoke puree, juniper and orange gel to conclude the savoury element of the menu.
At this point, it’s worth mentioning that one of the most unique things about The Tudor Pass is the interactive service style, rarely experienced in a restaurant – all dishes are served directly to our table by Alex and his team, bringing the excitement of the kitchen straight to our table, and allowing us to truly feel the team’s passion and knowledge for what they’ve created. It’s unique and intimate, making for a truly unforgettable dining experience.
The first dessert (yes, there’s more than one) is a refreshing turn towards sweetness: a beautifully presented apple with gingerbread sorbet, puff pastry and apple and custard snow. Finally, the last, and dangerously more-ish course is a lavish honey cake with honeycomb from the estate, with bitter orange puree and yoghurt sorbet. The evening is then rounded off by petit fours: a mini cherry bakewell, white chocolate and raspberry fudge, and a whisky sours jelly.
With a relaxed atmosphere and a uniquely intimate chef-to-table dining experience, The Tudor Pass is a truly unforgettable dining destination – a real gem tucked away in the Surrey countryside. Elegant enough for a special occasion, and low-key enough for weeknight dining, it’s well worth the short trip from London.
A stay here is all about indulgence: it’s a place to eat, drink, lounge and relax. There’s also a seasonal heated outdoor pool, hot tub, and wellness treatments are available using essential-oil packed products from Temple Spa. And if you’re looking for some nature, head out to the impeccably kept gardens, where you can wander 50 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens and parkland, or cosy up with a drink on the terrace.
The hotel and dining experience is clearly steered towards adults – though families (and dogs) are welcome and well-catered for – and it’s particularly well-suited to couples, with low-lit bars and sultry common areas. Ultimately, Great Fosters is a place to come and have a good time. Five years since Alexanders Hotels took over, it’s at the top of its game, and The Tudor Pass is the jewel in its crown.
ROOMS AT GREAT FOSTER START FROM £275 A NIGHT. TO CHECK RATES AND AVAILABILITY VISIT www.alexanderhotels.co.uk.
For dinner, the signature 7-course tasting menu at The Tudor Pass is £120. Book a table here.