James Bond`s famous golf course epitomises luxuryLondon Evening Standard
explores the famous Stoke Park, featured in two 007 adventures:
As we crunched down the long gravel drive towards Stoke Park Club, I was glad we had hired a car (and that it was a Chevrolet): it seems a car is not a car here unless it is top-of-the-range (our modest, broken-down Peugeot 306 would have stood out for all the wrong reasons).
In some form or other the estate has been around for 1,000 years. The distinctive white Palladian mansion house, designed by James Wyatt, architect to George III, sits in 350 acres of Capability Brown and Humphrey Repton-designed parkland. At the turn of the century it was turned into a country club for golfers and now boasts 27 holes.
It was golf that started Stoke Park's film career when James Bond defeated Goldfinger on the 18th green in 1964. The club has since appeared in another Bond â Tomorrow Never Dies â Bridget Jones (there's a themed package complete with chardonnay and a Bridget Jones DVD), Layer Cake and, most recently, RocknRolla.
The hotel recently launched 28 new Pavilion bedrooms â the Pavilion being the newer part of the estate which mirrors the Palladian architecture of the mansion and houses the sleek spa. The interior design is incredibly luxurious with plushly soft carpet, cream walls, comfy brown leather sofas mixed up with antique furniture from the Far East. Walls have bright, acid-coloured modern art such as large Andy Warhol lithographs.
We had a more subtle, sombre black and white portrait of Marlene Dietrich looking down on us from above the bed. Marble bathrooms have heated floors and stocks of Molton Brown. The mini-bar treats include specialities from Fortnum & Mason and there are iPod docks and HD televisions. Views are across the lovely 200-year-old tree-filled gardens to the tennis courts.
These new rooms are a huge contrast to the 21 more traditional ones in the mansion house, which have more of a traditional gentleman's club feel, kitted out with wood panelling, desks, fringed rugs and free-standing bathtubs. They are more expensive than the newer ones and ooze old-style Britishness â not surprisingly, these are the rooms that American tourists love.
We ate dinner in the Dining Room, one of the hotel's four restaurants, which has views across the golf course and the lakes. And although service was a little slow at first, the food proved to be worth the wait. The modern British menu is designed by chef Chris Wheeler, ex-right-hand man to Jean-Christophe Novelli. We ordered pretty, summery starters: tian of crab and lobster with a delicate pink grapefruit dressing and scallops with bacon and caviar, the scallops firm and plump, as they should be.
We both had poached sea bass with spinach and champagne cream sauce â again, a pretty, light dish with perfectly cooked fish. Meanwhile, our four-year-old Maya was kept happy with a bowl of spaghetti bolognese and some colouring pencils.
The next morning, after a breakfast of kippers, I booked into the award-winning Spa SPC, which shimmers with glass and mirrors. I had a hopeful-sounding Luxury Age Defying Facial using the hotel's own products which included a foot cleanse, a thorough skin examination followed by a long facial and massage. This relaxing session was followed by a scrub and a head and scalp massage. The whole experience was blissful.
As we left it was raining â a signal for us to get back to reality and leave the luxury behind.
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