Coworth, to-day the only UK hotel to feature its' own polo grounds, was first associated with the game in the mid 1980s when Galen Weston, the polo loving owner of Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason, bought the estate and created its' first ground, stables and croquet lawns.
In March 2001, Grade 11 listed Coworth Park was acquired by BruneiInvestment Agency who added a further polo ground and practice field, their goal, to attract an A-list international clientele. But the house needed transformation. So, in 2008 work began on renovating the sprawling Georgian manor house, creating a handsome 70- room and suite country house hotel, polo and equestrian centre with eco-spa and heated pool. There are stables for 30 horses, together with self-contained accomodation for grooms and an interesting programme of polo tournaments and equine training for all.
The design approach is one of comfort and simple beauty, creating a relaxed and informal environment of intimacy and privacy. “I wanted it to be a house full of friends”, explains Martin Hulbert, the talented award winning interior designer. “It's the English Country House that rewrites the rules and we welcome muddy boots”, he adds.
Throughout the house, furniture, art and dramatic contemporary sculpture, often by local artists, are mostly British-made, acknowledge the British tradition of craftsmanship. Floors are of English smoked oak punctuated with beautiful bespoke rugs. Textiles include wool, cashmere, mohair and linen. Natural pigments and dusky colours predominate give character to the hotel that is “so British”; understated and elegant. Rooms and suites are simple and luxurious, two huge copper baths are the showpiece of the Fairway Suite. Beside each bath a copy of The Book of Idle Pleasures encourages sublime relaxation.
Equine influences are everywhere,
From paintings to sculpture, tack and rosette installations in the bar, three restaurants and spa. With unbridled passion Head Chef Olly Rouse leads the kitchen team at “John Campbell at Coworth Park” with Chris Meredith as Executive Chef of “The Barn”, The Bar, Drawing Room, Spatisserie, In-Room Dining and banqueting and Scott Turner as Food and Beverage Manager.
“John Campbell at Coworth Park”, still under the guiding eye of the eponymous John Campbell, specialises in creating product driven seasonal locally sourced 'shire dishes, matched with an international wine list. Everything is lovingly made in-house, and vegetarians have their own menu. Specialities include Rabbit ragu, ricotta gnocchi, fennel. Pollock, choucroute, farfelle, cauliflower. Finish with Gariguette, lime, tarragon. The large, copper oak-leaf and acorn sculpture dominating John Campbell is by Powderhall Bronze, an Edingurgh based specialist foundary. Afternoon tea is served in the Drawing Room. Pre-dinner and lunch aperitifs are mixed in the bar, overlooked by JulianWolkenstein's photograph of the White Horse “Misty” the space illuminated by a light spelling the word “Love” by Mathieu Lustrerie.
Bar and restaurant is informal with wooden tables and a copper-pan ceiling sculpture. The bar, with stone floors and comfy seating has views over the meadows. In fine weather, eat outside on the terrace where ducks and swans (one named, by staff, Graeme Swann after the England cricketer) roam free by the river where the air is heady with the perfume of plants and herbs. Starters include Salad of Windsor Ham Hock, Jersey Royal potatoes, parsley, honey, mustard. Coworth Park beer battered fish and chips, crushed peas and Barn Fishcakes are delicious mains. Treacle Tart, Blackforest Hay chocolate gateaux, milk ice cream. Eccles Cake, organic Mossfield or British Cheese Board complete the meal.
Is the spa eaterie with a difference. Calorie controlled if you require, there's also champagne on ice, which can be served by the pool, fitness or restaurant spaces. Prefer smoothies? Try Beetroot and Orange, perfect after exercise. On the roof a fragrant herb garden of thyme, lavender and camomile, used to enhance spa treatements by Carol Joy, London. Kerstin Florian, Aromatherapy Associates and 100% organic treatments by Doctor Alkaitis.
“A hotel should be inspiring, have a sense of discovery and magic”, insists Martin Hulbert. It should not be a home from home, why would you come if it was?”