Last summer, we stayed at The Birch Community, a relatively new boutique hotel set on a 55-acre estate in the English town of Cheshunt, occupying a heritage-listed brick mansion that dates back to 1763. We opted for their Midweeker deal (currently unavailable) where you pay for three nights and get the fourth night complimentary.
We stayed inside the Mansion House, the main building which is full of historic charm and old-school glamour. I recommend you get a room in this part of the hotel if possible, as it feels like the heart of the place. The rooms around the co-working section of the hotel are fine too but can be noisy so are more suited for corporate bookings and group stays.
The interior of our room was minimalistic and pared back with calming neutral palettes. Rooms in Birch have no TV or work desks on purpose. This is to encourage you to step out of your rooms and explore Birch’s varied spaces. The common areas in the rest of the main house had more of the traditional, opulent and preserved look.
Birch has quite a few different areas dotted around the estate offering tons of curated activities and experiences to completely detach from the stresses of everyday life. They have plenty of stunning rooms for weddings/bespoke events as well as workshops, acres of gardens for strolls and designated areas for BBQs (perfect for families/groups).
If you fancy a swim, they also have a Lido which is heated for cooler months. If you fancy a workout, they have a fully equipped gym or if you wish to simply relax and unwind, they have yoga classes, steam rooms and spa treatments.
Our favourite spaces inside Birch were the Library Bar for morning coffees and sundowners before dinner. Post dinner, we loved retiring to the Screening Room to catch a late night movie.
Birch is a tale of two spaces (think WeWork meets Pig Hotels). They have a membership based co-working space called The Hub where they have plenty of desks and meeting rooms available to book by the hour. With a bar and cafe, it is a perfect spot for freelancers and entrepreneurs.
EAT AND DRINK
Birch has a couple of restaurants depending on your requirements. Their signature restaurant is The Zebra Riding Club by Chef Robin Gill. They do a Tasting menu based on ingredients sourced from their farm, surrounding farms, and a little further afield. The Tasting menu is a good way to explore what’s seasonal, local, homegrown and complements the sustainability ethos of Birch. However, for those looking for the flexibility of an a la carte menu, here it’s mostly a no choice menu (with dietary /allergy considerations of course). Whilst the food wasn’t entirely faultless; service overall was exceptional throughout. As their signature restaurant, it is definitely worth booking for a special evening during your stay.
If you are staying in Birch for a couple of days, chances are you will visit Valeries a lot; this is their all day dining restaurant which is open to members and overnight guests only. They have quite an eclectic rotating menu, again made with fresh, seasonal ingredients either grown in-house or sourced sustainably. In general, the food was good if not mind-blowing and the restaurant staff were really lovely and engaging.
They say Birch is a festival attached to a hotel. Our final evening dinner of the holiday at the Outdoor Tipi epitomised just that. The menu was comprised of small plates, highlighting once again the produce from their farms, kitchen gardens, bakery as well as sourced from trusted suppliers. The Tipi is not bookable and very much weather dependent so here’s hoping it doesn’t rain when you visit. Imagine sitting in a tent, in the midst of glowing fairy lights, roaring fires, a live DJ belting out tunes, whilst sipping on cocktails and nibbling delicious food against the backdrop of the orange skies of twilight hour. It was indeed one of the most memorable and enjoyable moments of our stay.
All the spaces are QR coded so you can order drinks to your table no matter which part of the estate you are – even on the lawns.
Before visiting, we had read lots of mixed reviews so weren’t sure what to expect. But having experienced it for ourselves, we loved it here… mostly.
Sure, there are areas that need improvement. Valeries was pretty much the only all-day every day restaurant. Even the menu in the common areas as such the bars/lawn terrace were a reduced menu version of Valeries. As guests staying Monday-Friday we felt the food options were quite limiting. Over the course of our stay we had two dinners and one lunch at Valeries, plus multiple meals ordered at the bars and we pretty much ate 90% of the menu. They do have the Lido kitchen (Japanese inspired skewers and salads – really good), a takeaway cafe (for pastries, cakes and hot beverages), and Outdoor Tipi but they are either not open all day, every day or are weather- dependent.
As a child-free couple, we soaked in everything that Birch has to offer, from swimming in the Lido to spa treatments to yoga to pottery classes. There is plenty to do in Birch for both kids and adults. Birch Community grows on you; the longer you stay, you will appreciate it more with all the activities and classes they have and it does feel like a retreat. I would recommend to stay for a few days to fully immerse and truly escape.
Birch is an experience, and its understated idea of luxury may not appeal to everyone, but it certainly grew on us.