The first thing you notice is the stained-glass. As you step inside the characterful building, the jewel colours – sapphire, ruby and amber – hit the sunlight and create a dazzling dance on the tiled floor. Pots of towering plants and oversized blooms give the notion that you’ve entered a chic and colourful greenhouse. This is The Coach House Spa, at the storied Beaverbrook Hotel in Surrey. As a former stable block, it may once have been a place of work, but it’s now the ultimate destination for those seeking rest and recuperation.
It feels like quite a welcome but, admittedly, that could be down to a lockdown lack of sensory experiences. Let’s face it, a visit to a spa, any spa, these days is a big plus. But Beaverbrook’s Coach House is in a class of its own, with just the right balance of holistic energy and vibrancy – exactly what we need right now.
From Brian Clarke’s glorious stained-glass designs (inspired by wild flowers) to the Art Deco-style outdoor pool, with its fabulous checkerboard bottom, this is a tactile, sensuous place. Balance is key. Crucially, The Coach House is glamorous enough for the hotel’s well-heeled guests and private members, yet touchy-feely enough for spa aficionados looking for some TLC.
Spa director Rene van Eyssen is at the helm. Once the former regional spa director for Asian hospitality brand, AMAN, Rene knows her stuff when it comes to wellness. While there are similarities* with her former employer’s top-notch approach – wellness ‘journeys’ are given a particular focus, for instance, and curated, hands-on experiences are an important factor (*both are big with AMAN) – Rene has also made her own mark at Beaverbrook.
A nice touch is that the spa is stocked with artisan, natural British wellness brands, rather than instantly-recognisable labels (think: Lola’s Apothecary, Therapi and small batch distillery AS Apothecary), so you feel like you’ve discovered a beauty insider’s secret stash. There are no insipid pastel colours (usually de rigueur for hotel spas), no off-the-shelf whale music and no cookie-cutter treatments – instead, every detail has been pored over and well considered.
“It’s all about the little details and bringing thoughtfulness to the fore,” says Rene. “I’ve searched out small labels, which are rooted in nature and have a provenance about them. Therapi’s products, for instance, use organic honey at their heart, while our own range of Coach House Oils use herbs and flowers grown on the estate.”
At the heart of Rene’s approach is nature and nurture. The Victorian mansion, once the home of former press baron Lord Beaverbrook, is found in a manicured, 470-acre estate, with the Surrey Hills beyond, and it is these surroundings which have largely inspired the spa. “The Coach House focuses on healing and tapping into natural rhythms,” Rene explains. “Inspired by the British countryside, we change our offering according to the seasons, and we channel our affinity to nature’s cycles.” As a consequence – and also, no doubt, due to the past year we’ve all endured – the latest wellness experiences on offer are particularly all-embracing.
The Celtic Druid Retreat (26-27 July 2021 and 19-20 January 2022) has been created in harmony with the Celtic Druid Calendar and features a combination of druidic ritual, sacred singing, craftwork, traditional folk stories, open heart sharing and meditations. Meanwhile, the Nurture in Nature experience (taking place on the first Saturday of every month, from 1 May 2021 onwards) immerses you in the great outdoors, with a biodynamic woodland walk, a healing ritual and nutritional ceremony.
The spa also tweaks its treatments according to the calendar, ‘Spring Awakening’ (March-May) is a highlight. You enter your treatment room via a visually-impressive corridor, emblazoned with bold green and red tiles, shafts of light from the rooflights adding a dazzling dimension. Once settled inside, the cream-on-cream room feels more cocooning. The experiences starts with a foot cleanse and then a ‘purifying smudging’ ritual, in which you visualise ‘ridding yourself’ of any negative thoughts or emotions (simple, yet remarkably effective). An invigorating body exfoliation gets the blood flowing and feels wonderfully uplifting, while a full body massage, using oils infused with herbs, is deeply comforting. By the end, you feel ready to face the world again – which, in these post-Covid times, has so much more resonance than before.
As the seasons unfold, there will be new offerings: ‘Summer Expansion’, available from June to August, has sound bathing, stretching and massage; ‘Autumn Nourishment’, from September to October, has mindful breathing, body polish and nourishing massage, and ‘Winter Warmer’ from November to January offers eucalyptus breathing and hot stones massage.
It’s easy to lose all sense of time at the spa – the cheery, meadow-print chairs, comfy sunbeds and light-drenched indoor pool are seemingly infused with good vibes. The spa’s deli is also a delight, with juices, inventive salads and flatbread pizzas offering a healthy but satisfying meal.
If you can, it’s worth extending your visit with a stay at The House. Making it stand out from other country house hotels, Beaverbrook has sourced many experts in their field to come together under one roof, which is why every individual element – from the design to the cuisine – shines in its own light.
The quirky-cool interiors are by Susie Atkinson (the designer behind many Soho House projects). Her expertise lies in blending the best of a building’s heritage with modern comfort. From original antiques to the curated library – she has captured a strong sense of history throughout the hotel. To see this styling at its best, book The Dowager Suite. This room has widespread views over the grounds and many exquisite details – such as a gorgeous shell-encrusted cabinet, to hide the mini-bar, and vintage, stitched artwork by Louise Bourgeois.
Downstairs, the original Art Deco cinema, complete with plush crimson seats and lacquered wood panelling, is another knock-out. Guests can now watch a selection of movies curated by Alan Parker (the director of Fame and Bugsy Malone), but if its walls could talk, they would, no doubt, reveal so much more. This is where Beaverbrook and his close friend Winston Churchill used to watch the ‘rushes’, sent back from action during the Second World War, before deciding on what would go into the papers that week.
The signature restaurant The Japanese Grill is headed up by ex-Noma chef, Wojciech Popow, while sommelier Giovanni Tallu honed his craft during a 22-year-tenure at Annabelle’s in Mayfair. Sir Frank’s Bar, meanwhile, is possibly one of the most glamorous hotel bars on the scene. It is named after Beaverbrook’s creative director Sir Frank Lowe, who, alongside Susie Atkinson, was responsible for curating the unique interiors, sourcing many of the historic treasures, collectables and rare artwork collections. At it’s heart Sir Frank’s – with its coral walls, adorned with botanical oil paintings – has a curved brass bar and topaz-blue velvet bar stools. It screams ‘flapper-fabulousness’ – and, in time, will no doubt be just the place for us all to celebrate our own version of the Roaring Twenties.
Children are not forgotten, either, with hip kids-club experts, Sharky & George, having devised an inventive offering, with high-octane, immersive woodland activities organised from a gigantic treehouse, hidden away in the estate’s forest.
Finally, there’s The Garden House, a standalone restaurant found in its own kitchen garden, with a cookery school and a handful of whimsical rooms (designed by Nicola Harding). Championing seasonal and local ingredients, head chef Barret Jones has put together a line-up of dishes that translates to a rustic, Mediterranean feast. Put simply, it’s a menu from which you’ll want to order everything – although, be warned, a decision must be eventually made!
Start with paper-thin, crispy Sardinian Flatbreads and mouthwatering Zucchini Flowers drizzled in honey and oozing goat’s cheese. Move on to a main of Josper-Grilled Hake with White Asparagus, or maybe you’ll opt for the Spaghetti Vongole? Above all, though, you must leave room for dessert, specifically the Elderflower and White Chocolate Honey Pot, with English Strawberries and Fresh Mint – it sounds simple, but just like Beaverbrook itself, it’s so much more.