REVIEW: CROWNE PLAZA – GERRARDS CROSS

Following a £20m complete refurbishment The Bellhouse Hotel officially opened its doors as the Crowne Plaza Gerrards Cross last August. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend the official press launch as I was away on another press trip, but this weekend I was lucky enough to experience the revamped hotel with my boyfriend Simon. Located just 17 minutes from the centre of London, we hoped we would be discovering a fairly nearby break destination for us.

I was actually familiar with the hotel in its former life, as it was a frequent stop for my dad during his stress filled working years. From his description it was always a comfortable and pleasant stay, but most definitely geared to the corporate world. I was interested to see whether this new chapter would see the hotel shift more towards people just looking for a short getaway. 

If you have driven past you will already be familiar with the grandeaur of the hotel, as it stands impressive and gleaming white in clear view from the road. The palm trees rowed in front of the entrance instantly give you that luxury feel and take away any danger of starkness. On a boring but useful sidenote, there is ample parking space surrounding the hotel, which makes it a desirable venue for conferences or events, as well as those visiting for non workie reasons. 

So let’s talk about the decor of the reception area. The carpets are beige with graphic patterns made up of geometric red and black lines. There are expensive looking leather chairs with pops of colour via burnt orange cushions. The designers have artfully designated mirror panels to create the illusion of more space, and have opted for a subtly patterned wallpaper to add an extra texture and interest to the room, without overpowering it. My favourite feature  of the space is the copper light installation, which is extremely Instagram worthy.

They’ve managed to strike a balance to ensure that business guests and those visiting for leisure will both feel comfortable in the environment. The use of black appeals to sleek and masculine tastes, but the soft furnishings and details like the aforementioned lighting, prevent it from feeling too corporate.

 THE ROOM

The hotel has 138 bedrooms all kitted out with LED Smart TV’s, complimentary mini bars, and ESPA Toiletries. Our room was fairly compact but in a way that made you feel cosy rather than cramped.

The walnut furnishings contrast stikingly against the bright pops of the orange cushions. Orange is a bit of a risky choice as I know it’s not for everyone, but it dfeinitely gave the rooms a contemporary feel. The bed was huge and extremely comfortable, and allowed both of us to put our legs in our favourtite sleeping positions, the ones that usually lead to accidental injury and nudges. We actually ended up having the best sleep we’ve had in months. 

We were a little disappointed by the lack of bath as that’s something we’d look for when booking a couples break, however the shower was a lovely one. For business bookings though I guess the addition of a bath is pretty unecessary. The brown marble tiling throughout the bathroom gave it that high -end aesthetic and I loved the shape of the sink. From a girly angle (or people that like grooming) there is very little place around the sink to place your toiletries and make up. I usually like to get all my beautifying bits and bobs out of my washing bag and display them on the bathroom counter. I guess that’s just a sacrifice of space saving design. The ESPA toiletries were generous in their volume and choice, and they’re a brand I’ve always been a fan of. The additon of the illuminated mirror is a welcome one, very helpful for doing your make up in the morning. When you stay in hotels you quite often have to keep curtains closed to maintain privacy, so it’s important that there is a strong light sauce for beautifying/contact lense changing etc somewhere within your temporary home. As you guys know, badly situated plug sockets are one of my biggest hotel peeves. They receieved massive brownie points by having plenty of plug sockets, but more importantly some near a mirror so that we could do our hair with ease.

We will admit to being slightly addicted to social media so Wifi can be a bit of a dealbreaker for us. We were very pleased to discover there was very little faff in terms of connecting. No special logins or passwords were needed and we could get back to our terrible habits straight away.

There was a great selection of in-room refreshments from the tea/hot chocolate/coffee making area, which featured some particularly scrummy biscuits, to the complimentary mini bar. Being able to enjoy the contents of the fridge was a really nice touch, as worrying about the mini bar bill at the end of a stay is something we can all relate to. We’ve all been caught out at some point!

There were numerous sweet little touches dotted around our room. Some were just little reminders of the helpful services the hotel offers to guests, but my favourtie was this little set of aromatherapy products that you spray on the pillows. As someone who struggles with sleep, it felt like a nice personal gesture, even if it wasn’t!

1269 RESTAURANT, BAR AND GRILL 

What is the relevence of the the numbers? Well, it was the year the neighbouring town of Beaconsfield was first given a charter for allowing an annual market for trading livestock. This historical event also informs the overall theme of dining at The Crowne Plaza, with it’s menu abundent with stunning meat options. Signature dishes designed by award winnging head chef Dean Crews, previously of the Charing Cross Hotel, include Buccleuch Estate Beef, aged for 28 days in 1269’s in house ageing room and cooked authentically on a charcoal josper grill and 1269’s speciality cured smoked salmon. 

 The restaurant is unfussy and clean in design. It nods to the ever so popular skandi ideals, but there are elements that give it retro appeal too. When I saw Si sitting in the centre of our boothed table I couldn’t help but recall the images of Edward Hopper. It doesn’t try too hard…it’s both understated and cool – once again finding the perfect middle ground to suit the different types of guests. It was rather quiet when we were sat at 7pm, which meant that it lacked atmosphere through no fault of it’s own. It didn’t bother us though because our hosts, the waitresses and waiters were so welcoming, natural and smiley that the atmosphere was warmed immediately. I want to make a point of mentioning them again, because they really did ensure our dining experience was as close to perfection as possible. They were professional without being overly formal or stiff, able to have a joke with us and put you at complete ease in the small moments of company. They also didn’t overegg it and bother us at time when we’d rather have been left to tuck in to the delitghful food. The service formula was exemplory.

Not an important part of our meal by any stretch of the imagination, but as an artistic type I am occasionaly tickled by the superficials of mundane things. I just loved this bottle of water that arriived at our table…I was tempted to take it home with me, but was convinced otherwise by the perrenially embarrassed boyfriend.

Designed by Superfutures, the team resposible for Chotto Matte and Barrafina, the standout features of the restaurant are the freshly hung meat display, whiskey vault and Bourbon based drinks.

For our entry into the night’s eating extravaganza we were reccommended the Confit tomatoes with nocellara olives, Chimichurri and garlic, alongside our initial choice of Roast Chorizo, beet hummus and honey bread.

Even though many olive loving adults like to assure me (tell me) that I’ll grow into Olives, I still can’t abide them. Si was more than happy to devour the whole portion and didn’t hesitate in telling me how much I was missing out.

I was more than happy to avert my gaze and attention to the other starter though. The betroot added a wonderful sweetness to the hummas, as well as that vibrant pink appearance. The roasted Chorizo was cooked to perfection, with the perfect pop as your teeth broke into the skin. So juicy and flavourful too…my mouth is watering at I recall . The soft honey bread, textured with seeds, was the perfect accompaniement. It was a worthwhile portion too, without damaging the enjoyment of the upcoming main dish.

Si felt like indulging and going for something a bit special, choosing the Native Lopster, poached and finished on Josper, with thermidor sauce, samphire and clams. We enquired whether half would be enough, but were assured that most men who order half wish they’d gone

 for whole. It didn’t take much to persuade Si to be honest. 

From the sounds coming from my left it was extremely obvious that it was more than delivering on the taste front…the word ‘wow’ was even uttered at regular intervals. I’m not a fan of seafood, but was persuaded to try some,  and even I started to come out with some similarly pleasurably noises. It was beautifully sweet and complimented wonderfully by the mustard element within the thermidor sauce.

After much deliberation I settled on the Himalayan salt rock Glenarm organic rump steak, which was served with whipped butter, confit garlic, shallots, watercress and skinny fries. I know it makes for an awfully dull review, but there was really nothing I could fault about the dish. I didn’t find much use for the whipped butter, but every element was piping hot, perfectly seasoned element of the dish was devoured with joy. I was extremely pleased with my decision to add the green peppercorn and Armagnac sauce – we both agreed it was tastiest of it’s kind, and we couldn’t help put dip the end of our knife in for a few more drips even after we’d finished the food.

I’m going to be frank with you. When it comes to carbs I can tend to be a bit (lot) greedy. In fact the amount I can eat it one go has been deemed both gross and impressive. When I saw there was buttermilk mash listed on the Sides I knew I was going to have to order, even though skinny fries were already part of my meal. Of course I didn’t manage to eat it all, as I was attempting to be a sophistacted lady, who eats a sensible portion, in a feminine manner. What I did eat was nothing short of glorious though – smooth, creamy…pure carb indulgence.

It is becoming a menu standard to label vegetarian dishes, but I was impressed to see so many labelled as Gluten free too. It’s hard to ignore the increase in awareness/diagnosis regarding intolerances and diseases like Celiac, so I was pleased to see it had been taken into consideration. Within my circles, Vegan is almost the most prevelent of lifestyles, so I think soon they will have to ensure there are some Vegan options labelled too. 

By the time we had finished our mains we were both feeling like we needed a good lie down. You know that feeling when you almost can’t bare to look at or even think about food. That said, we knew how good the food was at 1269, so we knew it would be foolish to not even look at the dessert options. 

We were actually relieved when none of the choices tickled our fancy enough that we’d take the risky plunge. It had a definite leaning towards fruit based desserts, with only a chocolate mousse waving to my chocoholic tendencies. Si commented that he’d love any of the dishes if he wasn’t already bursting at the seam,s but as someone who looks for chocolate Brownies, fondants or puddings involving treacle it wasn’t really to my taste. Definitely a classy menu though…I’m just a bit old fashioned when it comes to the finale. 

BREAKFAST

We were so impressed with the inredible assortment of offerings at breakfast. Every food urge or desire was catered for. They had fresh fruit, dried fruit, greek yoghurt and Granola pots for those looking to be a sensible on the health front. For those that wanting a warming and hearty start to their day, there were all the ingredients for a traditional full english cooked breakfast. There was also bread and pastry options for those that prefer a continental style.

Even though our plates were piled up with items like Pain Au Chocolat’s, we felt we wouldn’t be doing our job as reviewers if we didn’t pick something from the menu too. With a body still very aware of last night’s steak dinner I felt I needed to go for a sweet option, so picked the pancakes with maple syrup. Simon is on a bit of a health kick right now, so ensurse he gets a hit of protein each morning. His decision to go for Egg Florentine was of no surprise, but having sampled many in his time I was interested to see how it’d measure up.

My american style pancakes arrived decorated with strawberries and laced with a sensible amount of maple syrup. I don’t usually opt for a sensible amount, but it was actually the perfect drizzling to give it just enough sweetness. It was absolutely delicious but you could tell that it’s not quite strawberry season yet.

” The eggs were perfectly poached, the yolk incredibly runny with a decadent and rich hollandaise sauce. A perfect example of eggs Florentine.’

THE SPA

I wasn’t sure about the etiquette of this particular hotel as it wasn’t as obvious as a lot of spa hotels I reviewed in the past. At the majority of them you feel quite normal walking between the different zones in just your dressing gown and slippers. I wasn’t sure whether the lounging set found in our wardrobes was for room use only or for when travelling from room to spa/gym area.  I went for the safe option traveling through the reeption area in my clothes, grabbing one of their gym/spa towels and changing into my bikini in the changing rooms. 

The first day at Crowne Plaza I wanted to try some of the water based facilities. After reassurance that it was warm I dared to lower myself into the impressive 15m pool. It was a beautiful temperature and I felt my aching muscles instantly eased. Alongside the pool is a jacuzzi pool, sauna, steam room, as well as five treatment rooms including a Rasul Mud Therapy room. After pretending to swim for a bit I decided to chill out in the hot tub. It automatically breaks from bubbling every 15 minutes, so you don’t ever get to the point of feeling light headed, and it also helps you keep track of how long you’ve been chilling out for.  Si loves steam rooms and saunas but unfortunately they set me off coughing.

I’m not sure about the longevity of the style of the spa, but it’s definitely fun for present times. In the ceiling are sparkling pink lights which you can gaze up at when floating in the pool or leaning back in the jacuzzi. The pool space as a whole is highlighted by lights of various colours too. I’m used to spa’s opting for whiet, or at a push blue lighting, so it felt quite unusual for it to be so kalediasopic. I also liked being able to look up and see the mad people working out in the gym while I was chilling out. It was extremely clean everywhere and there was man ensuring it stayed that way, beavering away throughout our visit to the spa.

The next day I had a treatment booked in for 10am. There wasn’t anyone in the reception area of the spa when I headed down a bit early. A guy at the main gym/spa reception kitted me out with sliders and a dressing gown though and handed me the pre treatment form to fill out. I could see a nice selection of ESPA and Jessica nail varnishes on display for those looking for more pampering options.

My masseuse greeted me a few minutes before 10 and talked me through the treatment, to make sure I put at complete ease. The room was geared perfectly towards serenity with it’s purple details, dim  lighting, dark wood, and artisian style lattice designs on the wall. Instead of the usual world music, pan pipes, or nature sounds, the soundtrack of this massage was gentle piano jazz…and it actually worked a treat!

I opted for an Aromatherapy Full Body massage, as my body is currently struggling with the wrath of CFS. After filling in the normal forms the extremely professional masseause put a scent on each hand. I was asked to breath in both. The one that felt like the stronger smell, was the one my body was calling out for. It turned out it was restorititive. 

Once I was face down with the my head in the hole, a bowl was put under my noise with a bath oil version of the scent that I’d picked out. I had asked her to concentrate on my limbs as they are particularly buzzy and lethargic at the moment, and she did so while also giving my back some lovely attention too. I had made it very clear that relaxation was order the day, so there was none of that ‘good pain’ type of massage going on. It was 100% soothing, gentle and blissful. 

Of course, like all good things, it went to fast, but I was feeling extremely floppy and dreamy by the end. She gave me some aftercare advice and lead me to the relaxation lounge where I could enjoy a heated lounge seat while reading magazines or zoning out for a few more mintutes. There was water or juices you could enjoy to replace the naughty toxins that had just been drained out too.

Located near the gym and spa, the Wave Juice Bar offers an array of methods to cleanse and re energise from the inside. Finest hand crafted organic juices, freshly made immune boosting shots and energy rich food are all available. Sadly I had filled up with a generous portion of freshly squeezed orange juice at breakfast and felt all fruited out, but it’s a fab addition to the wellness area of the resort. 

CONCLUSION

  

There’s no point spending that amount of money on the aesthetics and facilities if the service and staff doesn’t match. They needs to be consistent with, if not exceed the merits of the building and it’s function. I’m so happy to report that it was the staff that made our weekend the much needed getaway it was. As soon as we arrived in reception we felt looked after and welcomed, but not in that ‘I have to because I’m getting paid to’ kind of way. The staff seemed to genuinely be enjoying the work and wanting to maintain this high quality of service and care. They clearly had pride in their work, and it was pleasure to be around their smiling selves. There wasn’t one person that let the side down, which is sadly so often the case. 

Of course there is still more of a hint of that business/corporate feel to the building, it’s content, and it’s general style, but only in a way that means it is sympathetic to its previous customer base. Their approach to the revamp will likely mean they hold on to the l clients of old, while managing to encourage a different clientele thanks to the marvellous restaurant/bar, the contemporary rooms, and the spa/gym facilities. Okay so the rooms weren’t romantic or overly luxurious but they were cool, generally well thought out…and the bed…wow!

Thanks so much to all the staff at Crowne Plaza Gerrards Cross for having us. We are already planning an excuse for another night away and an evening of great food in our booth at 1269.

Rooms start from £140 per night
My Aromatherapy Masage was £90 for 55 mins (full body)

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