Hello and welcome to the very first of our Leopard hotel reviews, it’s very nice to have you here! As the world continues (fingers crossed) to open back up again, we’ll be expanding our travel section to include more reviews of cool places to stay – both in the UK and further afield. We want these reviews to answer the big questions: how much does it cost? How extensive is their cocktail menu? Can you take a cute Instagram photo? And can I bring my kids with me if I want?
We’ll only be covering places that have a cool feel to them and ideally don’t cost the world (although if one of us wins the lottery and stays at a £10,000 a night Maldives love nest, we’re sorry in advance).
So, without further ado, welcome to that very first travel review… A complimentary press stay at Birch.
What is it?
Say hello to Birch Hotel – we say hotel, but it’s actually a community. Set-up for by the former managing director of Ace Hotel in London (RIP), Birch is a place where you can hire a room overnight, but where locals can also pay a monthly membership to have access to a gym, exercise classes, gorgeously cool co-working spaces, and hire rooms for private events, whether that’s meetings or Friday night gatherings with mates. I spied a snazzy vasectomy party going on during my stay…
Where is it?
It’s set in an eighteenth century mansion in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire. It’s about two-minutes off the M25 and designed to be the perfect weekend retreat for burnt-out Londoners.
How much does it cost?
Rooms cost from £150 a night, whilst monthly membership (including co-working space and gym, as well as exercise classes) starts at £120 a month for a minimum of six months, with a joining fee of £200.
Who should I stay with?
The hotel is absolutely set up for kids, and we saw plenty about on the Saturday morning, especially in the restaurant when headed for breakfast. It’s also easy to request things like cots in the rooms. And there’s plenty of kids film showings in the screening room. But honestly? This is a place you’d probably want to grab a mate and switch off with – take a yoga class, have a massage, drink an Aperol and just, well… escape.
What is there to do?
Plenty! Whilst there isn’t much to do in the surrounding area, the hotel has ensured that you can have as jam-packed a stay as you wish. Aside from all the complimentary included activities: the screening room (which has a back-to-back schedule of films all day long), the gym and classes, the lido (a pool and deck chairs which are probably best visited in the summer, although the pool is heated all year long), 10-minute sourdough baking classes, and large grounds for exploring, there’s also lots of add-ons. There is, of course, the ability to book a treatment in the Wellness Space, or to book any of the brilliant classes on offer which range from wreath making (£60) to wine tasting (£25). You’ll also find additional free activities you can book onto which include things like meditation and guided nature walks.
What are the rooms like?
Before becoming Birch, the mansion was used as a basic business hotel, and the rooms have since been given a minimal overhaul. There’s splashes of dark green and terracotta pink mixed with draping fabrics and rattan – it’s comfy and aesthetically pleasing without being overly grand. Rooms come with a hairdryer and radio, but here’s the punchline: there’s no TV. Guests are encouraged to submerge themselves in the community aspect of the hotel. I can confirm that although I had to forcefully stop my jaw dropping at this news (I love an awful TV-binge during a hotel stay), I actually didn’t notice the lack of it and filled the space with lots of chatting and radio-singing instead.
What is the food and drink like?
You’ve got a fair few options! The most decadent of all is the Zebra Riding Club who offer a set tasting menu – it is OUTRAGEOUSLY delicious. For £54 a head you’ll find things like scallops, risotto, ceviche, pickled vegetables and house cured meats. There’s also additional cheese and extra courses you can add in if you’re feeling like a whopper of a culinary feast. Inside the hotel there’s also coffee and snack stops (they even stock Tony’s Chocolonely), as well as Valeries which is a slightly more laid-back restaurant. It’s perfect for eggs and a flat white in the morning, or a burger and chips (seriously – one of the best I’ve EVER had) for lunch. Worth also noting that the cocktail menu is vast and the Aperol Spritzes and Negronis are aplenty.
What makes it great?
One of my fave things about our stay (I visited with my oldest school mate) was the casualness but friendliness of the staff. It was like hanging with a group of mates who also happened to be kind, attentive and funny, and it made us switch-off and properly relax more than we would have otherwise. The food was of course brilliant and the interiors bloody gorgeous – there’s lots of rooms within the mansion just set aside for you to hang out in, and they’re absolutely worth an explore. Also worth noting an excellent use of fairy lights both within the building and outside.
What should I pack?
Something snazzy for dinner, obvs. Sensible walking shoes or gym kit if you’re feeling active. Bubble bath to make use of a decadent soak, and a tablet or laptop if you’re desperately craving some TV in bed! There’s a Tesco not even five minutes away if you do need any emergency supplies…
Anything else worth noting?
We visited in December which was lovely, but discussed that we thought it would absolutely come alive in the summer months (there’s excellent outdoor seating options with the fore mentioned fairy light situation, as well as the lido). And, whilst there isn’t actual room service, there is a Whatsapp set-up so you can text through any reservations you want to make or any drinks you want delivering to your room. Because turns out us millennials love avoiding as many phone calls as we possibly can…
Birch (Handle.Silk.Comet) in Hertfordshire is open to guests and members, with double rooms available from £150. Book now at birchcommunity.com