Great Fosters Hotel, Surrey
How far is one supposed to travel for a minibreak? If a hot date were to whisk you away on the red-eye to New York there’s a high chance that instead of being overjoyed you’d think it a little much. Conversely, were they to check you into a London hotel for the night that might be misconstrued as a bit sleazy. Great Fosters Hotel, a grand Grade I listed building in Surrey, is close enough to London to avoid inducing early days paranoia, but conceptually far enough to facilitate a dreamy escape weekend.
Thanks to its bucolic setting of sprawling lawns, maze-filled gardens, a bridge over a brook, myriad sculptures – currently running the Sculpture Al Fresco III exhibition till September – and even a pool accompanied by old-school individual changing cubicles, a love-spiked couple can quickly shake off the city with a languid stroll around the gardens. If you bump into a marriage party taking snaps, so be it, you can either poke fun or drop hints.
The main building is as traditional as it comes – think countryside lodging house, albeit one with a rather heavy demeanor, supersized antique chests, gilt furnishings, massive bouquets of flowers and giant Persian rugs. The bedrooms are what you would expect, pretty plush and pretty big, as is the dining experience, formal, drawn out, and exquisite.
Listen, you’ve gone to the effort of taking said lover to this grand old place, let’s not hold back at dinner. Book the Tudor Room rather than the Grill for a Michelin-style experience – hushed tones, white table clothes, paired wines. There’s the option of a three course meal or a eight course taster menu. I advise you go big.
Hesitant to list the litany of pleasures (you can see all them here), the highlight was a divine tortellini of spiced been shin and lobster with Madeira emulsion, oh so rich and a reward after an amuse bouche consommé and a foie gras mousse. The bread comes with some sort of incredibly rich and salty spreading fat, which keeps you satiated through the first 3 smaller bites of the menu, and the cheese flute is total heaven. Great wines paired with the meal, standard. A friendly and wholly unpretentious sommelier, not so standard, and very appreciated on a date night.
I need not spell this out, it’s instinctive. Respond to your surroundings and use the full 40 acres for some rather grandiose foreplay. Smutty weekend this is not. Once you arrive – aiming for 3pm to make the most of the place – dump your bags and head out immediately to wander the grounds. For the bold, hold hands as you cross over the bridge, and resist the urge to take pictures. Talk will unavoidably lead to weddings at a place like this, and it’s one of the few moments where this will seem the most natural thing in the world, rather than cause for panic. Play around in the mazes, take silly pictures with the sculptures, sit together on the hidden bench and steal a kiss. Then head to the pool area for an early evening Negroni and tripled cooked chips to abate your hunger. Think about taking a dip, decide against it, finish your drinks and head back to change for dinner.
Up until this point you have been whimsical romantics but you can now afford to notch up the sex appeal for dinner.
It’s a formal place so dress smartly – a spicy cologne or shoulder revealing dress will steer things in the right direction, although I suspect you both knew what you had signed up for. There’s no way the eight course meal won’t fill you to the brim but keep up with the drinking side of the bargain and you’ll stay energized enough for later. Resist the draw of a nightcap in the bar – you’ve had enough. Shift yourselves upstairs and suggest firing up the Four Weddings and A Funeral DVD they have in their collection. Settle into your robes and cuddle while you watch. Get bored the moment Hugh meets Andie, start macking and take it from there.
A wedding party staying at the same time will either be off putting or game changing.
5. It’s not a sleazy weekend, but you can make it into one.