As we approach the festive season, there are lots of conversations guaranteed to take place. “I can’t wait for break”, “Isn’t work over yet?”, “Have you finished your Christmas shopping?” and “Do you think it will snow?”.
It’s this last question that really poses the most interest. A white Christmas – that rarely seen entity which makes us all feel just that little bit more festive and cozy. The last widespread white Christmas in the UK took place in 2010 and currently the odds of an icy blanket in London stand at 6/1 .
So imagine our luck, surprise and sheer festive delight when, on a recent weekend break away at Brocket Hall, we not only got a dusting of the white stuff, we got completely covered and almost nearly stuck.
Brocket Hall, standing at 250 years old is one of Britain’s premier stately homes and country estates in Welwyn Garden City. The Hall now operates as a successful venue for private parties and weddings and a meeting place for world leaders and captains of industry. The jewel in Brocket’s crown is the historic achievement of sensitively restoring the ancestral home to its former glory, and working to preserve with it important British traditions as well as the guardianship of our culture and national heritage.
We made our way out of London to Brocket Hall a couple weeks ago, figuring as we still have what seems like an eternity until the Christmas break, it was as good a time as any to escape city life, if only for a couple days. A train from Finsbury Park takes a mere half an hour and then we found ourselves in a bustling Welwyn Garden City train station, complete with Christmas carollers. Suddenly, life felt slightly more celebratory.
A ten minutes taxi ride later and we had arrived at Brocket Hall. The estate is beautiful, made up of rolling green hills, a varied selection of buildings from days gone past and a certain charm that only twinkling Christmas lights in century old trees can evoke. Our greeting onto the estate was charming – the entire Brocket Hall team are as friendly as a Disney movie ensemble.
When we arrived at our room in Melbourne Lodge, it’s hard not to be impressed by the beauty of the past. The rooms are housed in an elegant Georgian coach house conversion. Previously the stable block, it sheltered the tireless steeds that not only took the Hall’s residents hunting, but also provided the main point of interest on race days proudly held on the private race course that circled the Estate during the 18th Century. Our room, covered in soft hues of pink was a corner room and therefore meant our views over the grounds were both sweeping and stunning.
Just in time for the hunger pangs to start chiming in our bellies, we were collected by Pedro from our door and driven to Auberge du Lac, the Hall’s five star restaurant. Housed in a former hunting lodge, the restaurant enjoys an idyllic lakeside setting overlooking the beautiful country estate and the Hall itself. I can’t say for how nice it would be in the summer (I’m sure very), but in winter, this may just be the most perfect place to enjoy a seasonal eight course feast – warming by the fire, overlooking the dusky lake and contemplating what on earth is so great about city life anyway.
The menu, inspired by the season, was punctuated with some sheer delights. Wild Mushroom Rolled Monkfish was served with artichoke, dark chocolate, reindeer moss and rye twig and is a dish designed to be enjoyed over a rolling fire while writing your list to Santa. The Wild Lakeland Venison with salsify, beetroot and blackberries was dark, mysterious and memorable for its earthy tones and fruity bursts.
Driving back to our room (after a meal like this, walking seemed almost impossible), Pedro gave us more information about the Hall and its history. We loved chatting to Pedro and his team. It is very clear that working at Brocket Hall is much more than a job, but a way of life and one each and every one of Brocket Hall’s employees are ever so slightly in love with.
After a night of dark and comfortable sleep, we awoke to an opaque sight for sleepy eyes – everything was covered in snow. Not just a dusting, but a real, hardy snow that made Brocket Hall look both festive and beautiful but also solitary and silent.
Solitary being the key word. As we headed down for breakfast (thank goodness we brought boots), we realised that the entire estate had closed down due to the weather. We were greeted in the dining room by the few team members who braved the roads or lived on the grounds, thankful for us giving them some work to do in preparing our huge and delicious breakfast.
After filling our boots (almost literally), we took in the stunning snow-covered sights of the grounds, feeling Christmassy, festive and ready to take on the frosty world. The rest of December felt somehow more manageable in the knowledge that our own little Narnia lay just on the London borders, ready to enchant us, whatever season we plan our next visit.
To book your visit to Brocket Hall, visit: http://www.brocket-hall.co.uk