The perfect getaway

A luxurious country retreat with sweeping views over manicured gardens down to the Thames, a relaxing spa and fine dining at its very best – Jessica Tooze reviews Danesfield House Hotel

Only 45 minutes from the centre of London, nestled between the fashionable and picturesque towns of Marlow and Henley-on-Thames, lies the elegant grandeur of Danesfield House Hotel and Spa. An imposing Italian Renaissance-style building, faced with locally quarried rock-chalk so that it shines pearly-white in the sun, the building as it is today was completed to great expense in 1901 and first opened as a luxury country house hotel in 1991.

Set amidst 65 acres of immaculately landscaped formal gardens, the current house is the third property to have been built in this glorious setting, with outstanding views over the River Thames to the Chiltern Hills beyond. I was ushered to one of the Executive Suites, which all boast king-sized beds and overlook carefully-crafted topiaries and manicured box hedging towards the river.

Exploring these gardens is a true pleasure, especially if you are coming to Danesfield for a break from the bustle of London. Swathes of daffodils stretch away across the lawns past delicate Magnolia trees and lichen covered stone steps, while over by the tennis courts, a small herd of deer glance nervously around as they graze on the lush grass.

The spa's ozone pool

I chose to forgo the Jacuzzi bath in my suite in favour of the hotel’s spa. The large ozone-cleansed pool is a delight, and has large windows along the wall overlooking the gardens. Many people choose to settle down on one of the loungers with a pile of magazines and give in to the relaxing atmosphere – the spa is connected to the hotel via a glass-walled ‘skywalk’ so guests are able to wander from their room in their gown.

After the informality of the spa though, it’s a pleasure to get a bit dressed up for dinner in the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Adam Simmonds. Placed 12th in the UK in this year’s Good Food Guide, the food is simply sublime. The seven-course tasting menu was filled with clever and inventive creations such as a flavoursome poached fillet of brill with oyster, cucumber relish and nasturtium meringue and a gloriously decadent dark chocolate and peppermint ganache with garish green peppermint granita and chocolate matchsticks.

The tasting menu at Adam Simmonds restaurant features delicate dishes such as this poached fillet of brill

There is a hushed, reverent atmosphere in the intimate restaurant, punctuated only by the occasional muted exclamation as each artfully-plated course arrives. The service is impeccable – solicitous without being overbearing – and the staff are all knowledgeable about both the menu and the wine.

For something less formal, there is also the option to eat in the Orangery, which has a varied menu and long conservatory-like windows overlooking the terrace and gardens. Breakfast is also served here, and includes both a cold buffet and menu of cooked favourites.

Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway, or a base from which to explore the Buckinghamshire countryside and perhaps take in nearby events such as the Henley Regatta, Danesfield House is extremely hard to beat.

Danesfield House Hotel and Spa
Henley Road, Marlow-On-Thames,
Buckinghamshire, SL7 2EY

Written by Jessica Tooze // 3rd April 2012

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