The next day I crept out of bed to take another look at our beautiful terrace, part of the Lady Astor Suite at Cliveden House.
And our view of a beautiful hazy morning in the English countryside. Having grown up in the home counties, I have a strong sense of nostalgia for this part of the world and it was amazing to wake up and see the place I called home rolling in the distance.
And the perfect spot for a morning coffee. Sadly we didn’t have much time to linger together as Mr S had to get away for work so we headed down the beautiful wooden staircase and back to the André Garrett restaurant for breakfast.
Dating back to 1666, Cliveden House is actually owned by the National Trust and leased as a hotel. For the past few years a restoration project has been underway that will continue until the end of the spring and the task of bringing this staircase back to its former glory has just been completed.
It was fantastic to see the main restaurant in the light of day, with the stunning chandeliers, mirrored panels and gold leaf columns. Fresh flowers were placed all around the room and our breakfast table had a perfect view of the grounds beyond.
A beautiful buffet selection awaited us including mini smoked salmon bagels…
Yes, my favourite thing ever! I told you this place was a dream come true.
There were also some fantastic à la carte options and Mr S was excited to devour a full English before having to head off to work. With Mr S gone it was time for my history lesson and I turned back to the Great Hall which serves as a lounge and reception for the hotel.
There is history everywhere you look around this grand entrance with original portraits, suits of armour and large hanging tapestries. To go right back to the beginning the house was built on the estate in 1666 by George Villiers, the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, as a hunting lodge where he hosted his mistresses and friends. Since then Cliveden suffered through several rises and falls, having been destroyed by fire twice and providing the home for three Dukes, an Earl and the Prince of Wales.
Queen Victoria loved to stay and pretty much every British Monarch since George I had paid a visit but it was the purchase of the house in 1893 by William Astor, America’s richest citizen, that changed the course of history for the house. When he gifted the house to his son Waldorf Astor on his marriage Nancy Langhorne (Lady Astor) in 1906 in soon became a hub for the elite of society.
In this room a fireplace takes centre stage, originally a 16th Century piece from Burgundy, Lord Astor installed it to add grandeur to his entrance hall. To the left of the fireplace is a portrait of the beautiful lady of the house, Nancy Astor.
One of my favourite rooms was the elegant French dining room, I loved the timeless duck egg blue walls and the beautiful gold leaf etching. Actually William Astor bought in the panelling from Paris and used the room as his main dining room, and today the stunning space is used for private events at the house.
The former library is now the resident’s bar where Mr S and I enjoyed some fab cocktails the night before, I admire the cedarwood panelling which led Lady Astor to nickname the room ‘The Cigar Box.’ Another frequent visitor to the house was Winston Churchill and I can just imagine the great former Prime Minister lighting up a cigar and enjoying a glass of his favourite champagne here.
With my history lesson over and still a while until my mum would be meeting me for lunch, I had time to explore the grounds of the hotel. With the destruction by fire, the facade that you see today was actually created by Charles Barry in 1851 for the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland. Barry, the designer of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, created a three storey house in the style of an Italian villa and it was considered a masterpiece.
Actually Cliveden’s history as a hotel is really quite recent, it was only in 1985 that it was transformed with 48 rooms available to guests.
Another interesting architectural element is the 100 foot tall clock tower which also functions as a water tower. The beautiful feature was added to the house in 1861 and is still fully functioning today.
And now to explore that beautiful garden that I’d admired from our terrace in the Lady Astor Suite…
Heading down a woodland path, the glorious garden lay right in front of me. It’s quite possibly the most perfectly manicured landscape that I’ve ever seen…not a leaf or a flower out of place. Cliveden actually sits on 376 acres of land with both the formal gardens and woodland to explore and enhancing that beautiful view are visions of the chalk hills and the Berkshire countryside.
Just look at the perfect geometry of the garden…
Known as The Parterre, this beautifully formed garden made up of maze-like hedges and perfectly planted flowers was actually installed by head garden John Fleming in 1849 and has become an icon of the house.
When exploring the garden, be sure to take a moment to admire the grandeur of the other side of the house. As you can see there is work going on here at the moment but the refurbishments didn’t effect our stay at all, the only thing we weren’t able to enjoy was the spa and the famous pool that sparked the Profumo affair, but I’m looking forward to seeing it after the current restorations are finished.
After walking all around the garden, I was quite ready for lunch! Fortunately, my parents live in neighbouring county, Buckinghamshire, and my mum could easily drive down to meet me and take the place of Mr S as my companion.
Our lunch was at the Astor Grill, the hotel’s more casual restaurant. The restaurant is located the original stable yard and looks new and fresh as the refurbishment has recently been completed. Comfortable booths and decorations harking back to the building’s equestrian origins give a comfortable and chic environment without the formality of the main restaurant.
Despite the grey skies in my photos, it was actually a nice day and we could still feel the lingering warmth of summer, so we chose to eat outside on the terrace.
With a fresh peach bellini kicking off our lunch nicely.
A good hunk of country bread was placed on the table as I persuaded my mum not to choose her favourite roast vine tomato soup as it didn’t make a good picture for Instagram. Instead she opted for a more ‘gram-worthy baked gnocchi romesco with grilled cauliflower, smothered in cheese it was a dish of hearty comfort food.
My sea bass ceviche was light and refreshing with summery addition of melon and another slight added sweetness from the fennel.
Because I made my mum forgo her favourite, to her delight, the restaurant manager kindly bought out a tea cup of tomato soup for her to try. Now that’s service for you!
As we’re both fish lovers, it was a perfectly cooked piece of cod for me, beautifully presented in an iron skillet with juicy mussels, crisp samphire and a goody whack of chilli in a light sauce. My mum enjoyed the lemon sole with remoulade sauce but found the accompanying courgetti too salty.
We both really enjoyed a colourful mix of assorted grilled vegetable and broccoli with almonds.
By mum loved the idea of fruit macerated in sherry and the chef provided her with a delicious plate of strawberries, minus the watermelon that she’s not a fan of. Served with black pepper and a big dollop of mascarpone, she pronounced it her favourite dessert of all time.
Now I promise you I don’t usually eat a soufflé two days in row, I wouldn’t fit into my clothes if I did, but I couldn’t resist ordering it. Made out of raspberry jam, our waiter poured lemon thyme custard over the perfectly risen pudding and we couldn’t wait to stick our own forks in. I would have preferred it slightly warmer but it tasted absolutely delicious with a perfectly light and fluffy texture.
As much as it pained me to say goodbye to the Lady Astor Suite, there was no chance of me moving in and my mum was waiting patiently to give me a lift to Taplow station.
So we headed back down that gravel drive with my beautiful stay at Cliveden House already just a perfect memory…
PIN FOR LATER:
A huge thank you to Cliveden House for hosting me and providing my stay, breakfast, lunch and dinner on a complimentary basis.