Danesfield House and Spa evoked 50's movies as we cruised up the steep winding hill through the gardens in the Aston Martin Vantage, before stopping at a tree lined drive dominated by an imposing gothic clock tower. This vast sprawling and imposing Neo-Tudor mansion was completed in 1991 by architect W.H. Romaine-Walker for a soap magnate's son, Robert Hudson. Later during the war it was requisitioned by the Air Ministry as a reconnaissance and photography unit and was known as RAF Medmenham.
It's been a hotel since 1991 and has kept a wonderful collection of historical photographs, such as Sarah Churchill in the Oak room during World War II. Danesfield house possesses a rich and varied history that appears to reflect every period it has lived through. Its incarnation now as a hotel and spa is one that seems to suit it best, with its courtyard suites, ornate gardens (that extend over 65 acres) and the marvellous views over the river Thames. It also retains that feeling of history as it has changed little over the years, maintaining almost a bubble in time of an English country house.
Reception is courteous and warm, we were immediately offered a soothing lemon drink on arrival and swiftly booked in.
We had the large courtyard Windsor suite with entrance room and lounge, bathroom with shower and double basin and large screen TV that rises from the foot of the double bed. The decor is a warming blend of browns, beiges, shimmering green scaled wallpaper and dark mahogany furniture that is pleasant and comfortable.
The Spa is located behind the courtyard and can be accessed by a second floor covered walkway from the main house or a 20 yard walk for the suites. The Spa pool is 20 metres of delight (large enough for proper laps), surrounded by ornate columns with one side looking out onto the gardens and the other beset with a large circular jacuzzi. There is a steam room and sauna with eight single treatment rooms and a VIP double treatment suite for those that like to share their relaxing bliss.
The signature treatment here is the Spa Illuminata Danesfield House Trilogy and it lasts even longer than it takes to say, at 80 minutes, which means you get to truly relax and unwind. Joanna came to get me just before the appointed time and immediately made me feel comfortable.
The massage started with a Decleor back exfoliant slim body balm and exfoliating fruit seeds that softened and prepared the skin, imparting an exceptional smoothness, before progressing to a slim body balm as Joanna focused on relaxing muscle tension. Then she moved onto my face, applying a Decleor Aroma Cleanse Milk, Aroma Cleanse Toner, a Deep Cleanse, a Phytopeel (bear with me, it's worth the journey), an Aromessence Rose D'Orient Serum, a Rose D'Orient Balm, followed by an intense nutrition mask, Rose D'Orient Eye Cream and a Prolagene Lift Eye Cream. By this time you could have ice skated across my face it was so smooth and yes, creamy.
I was now so relaxed that whilst totally awake, I drifted into a dreamlike state as Joanna moved onto my arms and hands, applying more unguents and creams. As she finished she brought me a glass of water and left me to recover. As I rose the effect of the massage was instantly obvious, my back was completely free of all tension and felt poised and balanced, as well as smooth and ten years younger, much like my face. I have reviewed many massages all over the world and whilst this was subtle rather than forceful, it was one of the most effective for relaxing the muscles long term and smoothing the skin. My face was literally rejuvenated as years of sun damage were expertly kneaded and creamed away.
Feeling revitalised I then went for a swim in the pool, barbarically undoing some of the terrific skin softening effects imparted. Not advised, but my back felt so strong and the lengths went by with consummate ease.
We then took the Aston Martin Vantage for a spin around the grounds and local area, before returning to freshen up for dinner. First stop the bar where we tucked straight into the Louis Pommery Hampshire (Louis Pommery cannily invested in vineyards here a few years back), which was lovely, but be warned, the wine is expensive here. In fact the mark up on the wines is unusually high and should be revised. The waiters brought us menus so we could peruse the choices at leisure as we admired the classical old English bar with oak panelling and traditional countryside sporting tableaus.
Dining at Danesfield offers a choice of The Orangery with a fine view of the River Thames and Chilterns, The Terrace in summer and The Oak Room, designed by Anouska Hempel who was something of an "It" girl before the term was invented and owner of Blakes, a marvellously louche boutique hotel in Chelsea. Danesfield’s head chef is Billy Reid, who previously worked at Searcy's, Northcote, L'Escargot and The Belvedere. Reid is well known for his love of modern British cuisine using simple locally sourced ingredients.
The sardines on toast were marvellous, a reminder of the Mediterranean in this English Country House, whilst my partner enjoyed the tagliatelle, prosciutto, chorizo, tomato, peas and parmesan regianno which was startlingly delicious, though large for a starter, but just too good to leave any. The filet of lemon sole with lemon sole mousse, crushed new potatoes and asparagus in buerre blanc was sumptuous, rich and soft and my woodland mushroom risotto with pea shoots and truffle oil provided a range of subtle flavours and textures. The creme brûlée was creamy with a perfect glaze on top and my slightly sharp Bramley apple crumble was perfectly matched with a sweet velvety vanilla ice cream.
It was very busy when we were there, despite it being a Tuesday, so if you want to be in the main Oak dining room, book in advance.
Danesfield House is an eclectic mix of the old and new; quintessentially English decor in a grand architectural folly with eccentric and exuberant character. Formed by its erratic passage through the centuries with different owners and purpose. It is a Grand Dame of English country houses with a peculiar but fascinating history and distinctive temperament that is definitely worth a visit.
Spa Illuminata Danesfield House Trilogy
Treatment Duration: 80 minutes