Keen to book a staycation? Meet Birch, the buzzy creative hotspot just forty minutes from London.
If you’re an avid Instagram user, you’ve likely heard of Birch by now. The latest must-try hotel-meets-community space on the block, it’s a countryside haven set up kind of like a high-end Glastonbury – there’s reams to do, from glass-blowing, to gong baths, to terrazzo workshops.
Hop on the train, and you can be there in about forty minutes from London Liverpool Street. On the more active side? It’s only about fifteen miles from central, so you can cycle there, too – they’ve got ample bike storage on site.
Birch is, shall we say, very London; what was once a traditional country house hotel is now decorated in a chaotic-yet-chic fashion, with most of the interior up-cycled by the designers at Red Deer. Imagine glorious spiral staircases juxtaposed with flaking wallpaper, bare wooden floors and a different colour scheme in every room and you’re on the right tracks.
Jumping on the bandwagon of rustic-meets-woke Air BnB style staycations, it’s a far cry from more traditional hotels, but offers ample distraction to make up for it. There’s a lido, wellness space, pottery studio, interactive bakery, art studio, screening room, music room and arcade – so you can see why the founders (a chef, baker, trainer, designer, entrepreneur, and gardener, FYI) call it an adult playground.
It might just be the next go-to weekend destination for busy London-based creatives keen to switch off – so we headed along, in the name of journalism, to see what all the fuss is about.
Birch hotel review: A creative’s paradise with gong baths, terrazzo workshops and more
Forty minutes or so from Liverpool Street, Birch is located in Hertfordshire, just off the M25. Don’t go expecting a traditional country house or a nature-immersed switch-off; instead, expect a buzzy, creative atmosphere in an old Georgian building with large grounds.
With 140 rooms, there’s plenty of space at Birch, and while they are quirky in their design, the main overtone is simplicity. I’m told that up-cycling was the focus for the most part, to keep the refurbishment both sustainable and affordable.
Our double room had a bed, wardrobe, side table and chair, and pastel-pink bathroom, to boot. My only bug-bear was the lack of tea or coffee making facilities in the room – call me old fashioned, but at £150 a night, it’d be nice to enjoy a cup of tea in bed in the morning.
The food by Robin Gill is the star of the show – aptly located in the old stables, each course at The Zebra Riding Club was sublime. It’s namesake is the former owner, who it’s believed kept pet ‘zebras’ (most likely painted horses) to pull her carriage.
Gill is best known for his Clapham-based restaurant, The Dairy, where you could get one of the best and most affordable tasting menus in London before it shut last year. Now, with this new venture, he’s channelling what he does best: simple, organic, local produce that champions a farm-to-table ethos and doesn’t scrimp on the flavour, either.
The rest of the food at Birch is average, in comparison. But do make sure not to miss the walk-in bakery, if you go. Located in the main house, they’ve called it an ‘interactive’ bakery in the hope guests will go in and observe the chefs baking. We do, and walk away with two deliciously melt-in-the-mouth pastries as good as you’d get from London’s much-loved Bread Ahead, Pophams or Flor.
The extensive on-site facilities really do make Birch stand-out from the crowd; they have every room you can imagine for activities, a spacious gym, a newly-built lido, and a large co-working space, too.
The Hub is the perfect space to sit, read or write. Grab a fresh juice or coffee from the bar and while away the hours working on a new concept or project. It’s here that you can see that Birch really has been designed with the London creative in mind.
Don’t miss the wellness space – it’s a huge, pastel-pink space packed with all the latest gym equipment offering Cowshed-stocked shower cubicles, massages and facials, to boot.
Head outside to the back lawn and you start to see the festival vibes the founders cite as their inspiration; tipis, food trucks and wine vans line the field, while ribbons blow in the trees and fairy lights hang from branches. Pack your comfy clothes, switch your phone off for the weekend and revel in the friendly, feel-good community vibes. Just be prepared to spend a little money – one thing Birch isn’t is cheap.
Rooms start at £150 per night – but do note, nothing comes included, so you have to pay for food, drink and activities via the app. Do take advantage of their weekend deal, if interested – at current, if you book Friday and Saturday evening, you get Sunday free. What with it being so close to London, why wouldn’t you?
Birch (Handle.Silk.Comet) in Hertfordshire is now open to guests, with double rooms available from £150. Book now at birchcommunity.com.