Review: The Birch Hotel, Enfield, UK
I headed to The Birch Hotel, just north of Enfield, to find out more about this new opening that pitches itself as ‘an escape for the explorers’. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about and explore the sprawling grounds and venue that includes, wait for it… a members club, two restaurants, co-working spaces, creative and wellness spaces, swimming pool, spa, film screening room, games room, bar, cafe and opportunities to make everything from sourdough to pottery – at a price.
The owner’s vision was for Birch to ‘look like a hotel and feel like a festival’ which gives you a hint as to the type of clientele they’re possibly looking to attract. Step forward social media influencers, anyone in search of wellness, media types who come for the co-working spaces and twenty somethings with money to burn who want to look good on the gram.
The hotel was previously owned by the De Vere group and used as a huge conference hotel and there are still definite hints of conference chic after the refurbishment. Bedrooms are comfy and functional and include odd wooden hanging racks and a small space to put your bag. Bathrooms have been given a lick of garish pink paint over the existing tiles but that’s about it. Don’t expect rainfall showers here.
New meets old
Communal spaces are huge and the rooms and decor downstairs are beautiful. Expect a mash up of Ercol furniture, modern artwork, dark painted walls, open fires, boho-style soft furnishings, polished floors and exposed brickwork. Some of the old features in the Georgian part of the hotel really stand out. My favourite spaces were the two reception rooms downstairs with large, elegant windows looking out onto the gardens, dark furnishings and comfy sofas. Outside in the garden there’s a huge tipi with a bar serving cocktails, fire pits, music and blankets to keep you warm.
I spent the day at the David Hockneyesque outdoor lido, which has an on site bar and food shack serving delicious grilled skewers and fresh tasty salads. Good tunes and good times – plus the sun decided to come out. But it’s the Zebra Riding Club that the foodies come for. Housed in the manor’s beautifully converted old stables, head chef Robin Gill offers diners a seasonal set menu that starts at £48. The menu didn’t work for me on the night we visited – I had to stop myself asking the waitress if everyone gets one piece of house cured meat or if they’d forgotten to put the rest on the plate. However, the restaurant gets rave reviews so I’d definitely give it another try if I visited again. For me, the menu in Valerie’s was much better, the food was tastier and there was a much broader range of dishes on offer.
Breakfast isn’t included in the room rate, but you can eat in Valerie’s and buy excellent coffee, pastries and sandwiches in The Hub. This is the buzzy co-working space that was packed when I visited. There are lots of nooks and crannies where you can work plus, a pool table. Result.
Service throughout my stay was patchy although staff were very friendly. Some told me they were ‘just agency staff’ when I asked for directions to the pool or co-working spaces. Hopefully in time staffing issues will settle down and feel more cohesive.
I paid £140 for two nights midweek, pretty reasonable when you consider you have use of the pool, co-working spaces and access to some classes (but not many). However, everything else is on top of that so factor that in if you’re planning on staying as costs can creep up. The Birch is an interesting place to spend a couple of days with friends and challenge your perceptions of what a hotel can/should be. Do, eat, talk, party, work, drink… it’s all there for the taking. Just remember to relax too.