I adore London but sometimes she can be so manically frantic, a sojourn to a country retreat is required. The brilliant thing about London is that escaping the madness can be a mere hop away. With perfect timing, I was invited to afternoon tea at Laura Ashley The Manor Hotel, a new hotel on the outskirts of London – 20 minutes on the train from Kings Cross. Yes that Laura Ashley, better known for its quintessentially English countryside vibe, floral fabrics and chintzy home furnishings.
The company has recently moved in to the hotel business, so if you so choose you can now live and breathe the Laura Ashley lifestyle. The first property, The Manor in Elstree, was bought by Laura Ashley two years ago then refurbished by the in-house design team, opening last year. All the interior design furnishings and fittings are available for sale. Previous hotel guests have included Tom Cruise and David Hasselhoff – I wonder if they took any inspiration home with them.
The main part of the hotel is a Victorian-era manor built in Tudor-style on the site of an old Tudor house dating back to 1540. Many of the original features have been retained. I particularly loved the original wooden carvings and fireplaces found throughout the old property. I was told that some of the beams in the reception area are from ships that were part of the Spanish Armada.
Now chintz does spring to mind as a Laura Ashley signature and I was expecting a floral fiesta in the decor, but the design team have been quite restrained in its use. The bedroom palette in all the rooms I saw was rather elegant, mainly neutral with occasionally floral accents.
One surprise was the Japanese-style toilets in the bedrooms. I’m fascinated by these but in a period property with very English countryside sensibilities it seemed a little incongruous.
Ah glimpsing green makes one feel so serene. The hotel is on 10 acres of woodland and grounds. The gardens are beautifully maintained and you could easily while away the hours here. From the bar and suites there are sweeping views across London. On a clear day you can just make out landmarks such as The Shard all the way near London Bridge.
AFTERNOON TEA AT THE MANOR ELSTREE
Afternoon tea is served in the Cavendish restaurant, which is part of the original building so features wooden beams and plaster friezes. Despite the dark wood, the pale colours and light streaming through the windows makes the room feel very airy – it’s a lovely space. Food-wise a traditional selection is served including sandwiches – the veggie option included egg, sundried tomato and cream cheese and of course cucumber; seriously scrumptious scones; cakes and pastries; and tea/coffee. I always feel so ladylike when I afternoon tea. Though as a sacrilegious coffee drinker, I don’t get to crock my little finger which pains me greatly.
Afternoon tea, £19.95 per person, available daily between 3pm – 6pm (subject to availability so contact The Manor for reservations)
We drove there but if you were coming by public transport the nearest train station is Elstree & Borehamwood. You can read more from Laura Ashley here.
Laura Ashley The Manor, Barnet Lane, Elstree, Hertfordshire WD6 3RE lauraashleyhotels.com/themanorelstree