What: In the amount of time it takes you to get across London (especially if you’re on the District Line), you could leave the city behind you, leave the packed tubes, the pollution, the noise and find yourself in Stoke Place, a country house sat in 26 acres of Buckinghamshire parkland…you just have to ignore the pitstop in Slough.
New? No and all the better for it. The house was initially built in 1690 as a family home for the royal chef, Patrick Lamb. Chef fact fans, he cooked Kings James II’s legendary coronation feast at Westminster Hall. Until the 1900s it passed through generations of aristocrats and military families, until in 1962 it was sold to South Bucks District Council and it became a hotel. Luckily they didn’t give it a sixties make over and the hotel still has the high ceilings, sash windows, uneven walls and low doors.
Where? A short Uber from Slough station and only 40 minutes from Paddington you’ll find Stoke Place at: Stoke Green, Slough, SL2 4HT, www.thecairncollection.co.uk
The Room: Ranging from the Standard Garden Room to the Junior Suites, there are 26 rooms all with individual character and period features. We were staying in the in the main part of the house (some of the rooms are in the Victorian walled garden) in the Gloucester Suite, hailing from South Gloucestershire it felt like it was meant to be. Quite simply it was huge, easily bigger than many London flats, although this isn’t particularly hard to achieve. The room was dominated by one of the largest four poster beds I’ve come across, it also passed full marks in my testing, primarily launching myself at it from a distance and seeing if it is wider than I am tall, which it was. Even with the bed, there was still space for a sofa, wing-backed armchairs, a desk and the pièce de résistance: a roll top bath looking out across the lawns. The dark greens and muted tones of the room benefited from the tall ceilings and sash windows which filled the room with light, otherwise it would run the risk of being too dark.
The only downside of the room was the shower, we all know that however clever you are, you’re only as clever as your ability to work other people’s showers. And this shower was permanently stuck on scalding and I didn’t really want a side of scalded skin with my stay, so I stuck to the bath, hard times indeed.
The Restaurant: Serving breakfast, lunch (including a bottomless Sunday lunch), afternoon tea and dinner, The King & Lamb is the hotel’s new restaurant, paying homage to royal chef, Patrick Lamb. Opulent fabric lines the banquettes that run down the sides of the room and antique ornaments sit on polished tables, its eclectic without being overly busy. We’re told that it reflects the lives of those Lamb would have cooked for. Likewise many of the ingredients come from the three walled kitchen gardens which were built by the last family to live in Stoke Place, the Howard-Vyse.
As well as pastries and fruit, breakfast is a traditional affair – porridge, omelettes and eggs on toast. Scrambled eggs came with a generous amount of smoked salmon but no toast, we were given some when we asked but it was rather cold, equally an Eggs Benedict looked a little deflated which matched the quiet nature of the staff in the morning.
The restaurant warmed up in the evening however, both in the ambience and the service. On the a la carte menu you’ll find dishes such as roasted quail with new season asparagus, green beans and sherry raisin salad; seared sea bream with crispy chicken wings, coco bean puree, broad beans and morel mushrooms and for pudding, buttermilk panna cotta, lavender shortbread macerated berries and honeycomb ice cream. We started with a roulade of rabbit with a butternut puree, kohlrabi remoulade and pickled mushrooms. Next up was an aged sirloin steak full of flavour, thick cut chips, juicy cherry vine tomatoes and peppercorn sauce. There was an equally good dish of spiced lamb rump with almonds, apricot cous cous and apricot chutney.
Finding space for pudding we finished with a banana sticky toffee pudding, with caramelized banana, toffee sauce and hazelnut and praline ice cream – by the number coming out of the kitchens it was clearly a popular choice.
The Bar: In the basement you’ll find the Butterfly Bar. Dark turquoise walls and polished wooden floors are given a splash of colour with mustard yellow velvet chairs and framed butterflies; and a large, curved leather banquette draws the attention of the room. After supper we took our drinks down there, surprisingly for a Friday night we were the only ones, but cosying up in a nook with a glass of red wine, we set the world to rights, thankful that we weren’t in a central London bar fighting for a seat.
Things To Do: Whilst they do have a gym, they don’t really need one. Stoke Place sits in 26 acres of parkland, so all you need are trainers. I know I’d much rather be breathing in the fresh air then stuck in a gym, pounding the treadmill, looking out at the gardens like a fish stuck in a fishbowl overlooking the sea. I say this, but I didn’t even take my trainers, I knew I would be eeking out every last minute in bed. Another activity you can partake in, although might require some planning, unless spontaneity is your thing, is getting married at Stoke Place. With its sweeping staircases, bay windows, large function rooms and proximity to London it makes for a perfect wedding venue.
Go With: Whilst this does have romantic weekend written all over it, I would also head here alone with a good book, flannel pyjamas and an inordinate amount of chocolate and just to take some time out from London.
Final Word: I like Stoke Place, it might not be as well known as Stoke Park which is just over a mile away, but it has a charm about it. I like the fact that there is a history to it and they haven’t modernised the hotel, it’s charming and well worth a visit.
Like This? Try These: Check out our guide to the best hotels outside of London
Stoke Place: Stoke Green, Slough, SL2 4HT