Making the magic happen

From twinkling lights to holly wreaths, decorations are all part of the Christmas magic. We catch up with The Grove’s Executive Housekeeper, Amelia Lawrence, to talk about this year’s festive style.

When C.S Lewis dreamed up Narnia, his creation went down as one of the greatest winter wonderlands in the history of fiction. Remembered by adults as a place of adventure, The Grove will be recreating its magic for the next generation, bringing the mythical country to life in its Christmas decorations. “Every year we have a décor theme,” explains Amelia. “This year we’ll recreate scenes from Narnia in our lobby, as well as theming the decorations around the rest of the hotel. From a lamppost in the reception, right through to our full-scale woodland installations, we’ll be pulling out all the stops to keep the magic alive.”

The perfect tree

Of course, no Narnia would be complete without trees, and luckily Amelia has been dedicated to the search. Along with the Head Gardener David Roberts and Deputy Head Gardener Natasha Geldenhuys, she’s helped to select 45 Christmas trees from Littlefield Farm near Harpenden, which specialises in the production of beautiful trees for luxury venues. Every single one is unique, and the trees are carefully selected based on size and shape. “Our largest tree is our 20 foot (6m) showstopper in the formal gardens. It has to be a perfect 360 degree tree, as guests will be able to view it from every angle,” she explains. “The farmer we go to has been in business for 30 years. He is absolutely passionate about his trees and believes in energy lines within the forest, which just adds to the magic. He understands what our hotel needs and helps us deliver this every year.”

The process of creating a winter wonderland isn’t without its challenges, but Amelia says it’s one of the most enjoyable jobs of the year. “We head out to choose the trees at the end of October and it takes a long time to find all the trees we need of varying shapes and sizes for different parts of the hotel. For example, some need to be completely round, others can be a bit less symmetric, because they’re going next to a fire.”


Themed style

Festive style doesn’t stop with the trees, and every area of the hotel features Christmas decorations- all tailored to different rooms. “For example, the lobby will feature lots of silver and frosty colours, with fawn decorations to reflect our Narnia theme. In our meetings and event spaces, you’ll come to an area that’s decorated with blues and turquoise to match the interior of the rooms.”

As a family hotel, all the décor schemes are created with children in mind, and Amelia loves to add little touches she knows they’ll love.  Every year more than 5,000 gingerbread hang from the trees, each with little ribbons individually tied on by the hotel’s florist. “We spend a lot of the Christmas season replacing the ones on the lower branches as they can get broken easily. Plus they must be very tempting for children- we often find some gingerbread men with a missing leg where someone has taken a bite,” says Amelia, who appoints herself as ‘gingerbread watchman’ during the festive season.

It takes a full five days for a specialist team to put up all the installations and decorations, but Amelia says it’s worth the wait. “In December people travel to the hotel just to come for lunch and see our incredible decorations. Over the years we’ve become famous for them- they’re a feature that’s unique to the hotel at Christmas time.”

Visit The Grove to see our spectacular decorations from 1 December. Those who want to indulge with a luxury break can also check out our Christmas, Twixmas and New Year packages here.

Celebrate New Year’s Eve with simple great quality food

New Year’s Eve at Colette’s is set to be a showstopper. We catch up with the restaurant’s head chef Russell Bateman to find out more about his menus and inspiration.

If there’s one thing Colette’s head chef Russell Bateman prides himself on, it’s seasonal, high quality ingredients. With every single one of the restaurant’s suppliers carefully vetted, he ensures that only the very best, ethically sourced produce makes its way into his kitchen.

“I’ve built up relationships with my suppliers over many years,” he explains. “I trust their judgement and they’re able to tell me what’s good at every time of year. There’s no point in trying to get ingredients that are out of season, because they’ll be more expensive and won’t taste as good.”

Keen’s Cheddar Tart, Piccalilli Onion, Cheese Pastry

New year

Perfection is particularly important for the restaurant’s New Year’s Eve menu, when people come to indulge and celebrate. “I think simple, great quality food is what people love the most. My goal on New Year’s Eve isn’t to serve the most extravagant or exotic menu, but to give people a meal they will really enjoy. The ultimate luxury experience for people in the UK is to enjoy great food and wine in a great atmosphere without having to worry about anything- and that’s what we want to provide.”

Roasted Stone Bass, Velvet Crab Sauce, Wilted Leeks

Though the New Year’s menu will be seasonal, Russell is keen to steer clear of traditional Christmas flavours, after guests have enjoyed a week of turkey sandwiches. Putting the sage and stuffing to one side, he’ll be serving a range of dishes including scallops and bass, as well as a creative celeriac risotto for vegetarians, a heart cheese course and a bread and butter pudding. With his commitment to ethically sourced food, the hand-dived scallops will be coming from Orkney, while stone bass will be used as an alternative to the endangered sea bass. “I would never use dredged scallops, for example, as it’s hugely damaging to the environment. The process of dredging ruins the seabed and it can take 80 years to recover- causing lasting damage to our oceans,” he explains. For Russell, ethical food shopping is all about knowing your suppliers and keeping up to date on the latest news and updates. “The Marine Stewardship Council offers advice about sustainability in the fishing industry, and how fish should be sourced,” he explains.  Part of sustainability comes back to using seasonal products, as well as finding creative ways to manage waste. “I look for innovative suppliers to work with, who find ways to make the most of their produce. For example, luxury caviar producers massage their sturgeons, which can cause the eggs to break. The company we use won’t waste these broken eggs- instead they’re dried to produce caviar bars, which make fantastic seasoning for fish dishes like our scallops.”

Year-round inspiration

This commitment to sustainability and quality isn’t just for the Christmas season- it’s part of Colette’s culture all year round. “All our lamb and beef comes from farmers in the Lake District. They’re so meticulous in their high standards that restaurants have to be vetted and supported before they’ll consider supplying to you.” Describing the organic, grass-fed lamb as the ‘best he’s ever tasted’, Russell says it’s this quality that keeps people coming back. “It’s not just about meat and fish either- we take as much care in selecting our vegetables and I work closely with suppliers to ensure we’re getting the very best.”

Diver caught Orkney Scallops, Finger Lime, Dehydrated Caviar, Green Peppercorns, Oyster Mayonnaise, Smoked Scallop Roe

With 22 years ‘experience as a chef and eight years working as The Grove, Russell says his aspirations to cook came from his childhood. “My nan inspired me to start cooking, because I would see her baking fresh bread every day. I still like to make bread every day for the restaurant as it was something I saw her doing at such a young age. She always served it with soft, room temperature butter and it’s a rule I’ve stuck to throughout my career.”

After working in many high-end restaurants, including Harrods in London, Russell has developed a flair for the traditional and wants to share this with his diners. “I am not a big fan of concept cooking- I don’t think you need it when you have the right experience and the right ingredients. Traditional dishes with a twist are the ones people enjoy the most and that’s what our guests can expect on New Year’s Eve.”

Colette’s Bread and Butter Pudding

With a range of options for New Year’s Eve at Colette’s, The Stables and The Glasshouse, call our reservations team on 01923 296010 or email to book your place

Fresh start for David Howell as new European Tour season gets underway

With our wrap around season on tour, my 2018 campaign is set to get underway with two tournaments this side of Christmas. It is fair to say that 2017 wasn’t a very enjoyable year for me on Tour, blighted as it was by a back injury that culminated in me having to take two months off in August and September – although every cloud has a silver lining and my time on the side-lines did enable me to spend an enjoyable couple of days at The Grove filming some instructional videos designed to help improve your game. Watch David’s top tips that will help improve your game by clicking here

When you have an injury, particularly with your back, and are unable to perform at the level you know you can – whether you are an amateur or professional golfer – golf becomes a hugely frustrating sport and that is the position I found myself in over the past 18 months or so.

During my time on the side-lines I began working with Rob Goldup, a strength and conditioning coach, who has not only helped me recover from my injury but has helped me establish a fitness regime designed to ensure I am less likely to be affected by the back problems moving forward. I’ve found that this proactive approach to my own well-being has also had an impact on my mindset, which is a real positive ahead of the new season.

Alongside Rob, I have also started working with a new coach, Hugh Marr, and with both of them based locally to me it has really helped create the feeling that I have a team around me and this fresh start has already given me a renewed impetus for the new season.

After my injury layoff, I returned to action in October and was delighted to be able to play three weeks on the bounce, which included the positive finish at the Italian Open. After a period of time where I was waking up and not being able to practice, or even swing a club, it was great to play competitively again and I am now very aware that my enjoyment for the game of golf is still there – even after 22 years on tour – and that I still just love hitting good golf shots.

So, with the injury hopefully now a thing of the past, I am able to fully focus on the 2018 season.

I fly out to Hong Kong next week to start preparations for the UBS Hong Kong Open at the end of November and I will then be teeing it up again at the Joburg Open at the start of December.

I finished second at the Joburg Open in 2015, which not only meant I qualified for that years Open Championship it also helped set me up for a really positive year. If I can come away from these next two tournaments with a couple of decent finishes, maybe even claiming one of the spots for Carnoustie, then it will hopefully be a catalyst for me to get back to playing my best golf and to be challenging for more titles in 2018.

Away from the upcoming tournaments I will be spending some time practicing at The Grove over the next few weeks, so maybe I will see you on the first tee soon.



Davids upcoming schedule

UBS Hong Kong Open (23rd November – 26th November)

Joburg Open (07th December – 10th December)


Follow in David’s footsteps by experiencing golf at The Grove with our Winter Stay & Play package from £160 per person 

Discover more 

The winter skincare survival guide

It might be the season for festive joy and generosity, but winter isn’t always that kind to your skin. While some people suffer break outs or dryness, others find that the contrast between heating and cold weather causes a dull, lacklustre complexion. From vampire facials to those ‘startled bunny’ Botox foreheads, there’s no shortage of treatments promising to turn back the clock and make your skin as soft as a freshly-picked peach all year long. But you don’t have to resort to needles and celebrity fads to keep your skin looking healthy – even in the darkest depths of January.

We catch up with Sequoia Spa’s Therapy Team Trainer Laura McLaughlin for her top tips on maintaining a winter glow…


1.  Watch your diet

Good skin starts from the inside out, so it’s important to make sure you’re eating healthily, with a diet that’s packed with fresh fruit and veg. Omega 3 is great for achieving plumper, healthier skin- something you’ll find in fish oils. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you can opt for the flaxseed alternative, which is sold in pharmacies and health food stores across the UK. Since most of us will be planning to party over the festive season, it’s also a good idea to stock up on multi-vitamins for an extra boost.


2.  Double cleanse

Using a clean flannel or muslin cloth, double cleanse your skin both morning and evening for a better complexion. Whatever your skin type, you’ll need to make sure that you choose a cleanser that’s doing the job properly and getting rid of all your make up. For an extra glow, try selecting an enzyme-enriched cleanser- it’ll help to exfoliate your skin and reduce inflammation.  


3.  Tone up

Toning isn’t just about those bingo wing exercises at the gym, it’s also an essential step in your skincare routine. While the natural PH of your skin is 5.3, water is around 7, so you’ll need to rebalance after you cleanse. Try using a spritz with added Vitamin C to brighten up your skin during the winter months. A spray like Natura Bisse’s C+C Vitamin Splash can be used before applying make-up or during the day if you feel like your complexion needs a little pick-me-up.  


4.  Treat your skin

Christmas is the time to treat yourself, so why not spoil your skin at the same time? As well as combatting common winter problems including dryness and flaky skin, at home treatments can help with year-round issues like fine lines and acne. A good hydration treatment that boosts cell regeneration with help to plump you up, while an overnight hydration product like ESPA’s Tri-Active Advanced Night Booster will give lifeless skin some much-needed sparkle. If you find yourself breaking out, try witch hazel or tea tree products.


5.  Moisturise, moisturise, moisturize

Dehydrated skin will be your nemesis over the winter months, so make sure you remember to moisturise your face, neck and hands both day and night. Vitamin-based products will help to brighten your skin, particularly anything enriched with Vitamin C. While the winter sun isn’t exactly tropical in the UK, it’s still important to wear a moisturiser with an SPF during the day to protect against UVA damage. It’s also the season for chapped lips, so don’t forget to pile on the lip balm before you seek out the mistletoe.


6.  Pamper yourself

If you’re looking to go the extra mile for your skin at home, you can try a Clarisonic cleanse, followed by an exfoliating mask. Alternatively, you can treat yourself to a series of monthly facials, just to keep on top of your skincare needs. When it comes to facials, everyone has different requirements, so make sure you discuss your concerns with your therapist before booking, to get exactly the right treatment for you.  


Take a look at some of the treatments on offer at Sequoia for all your winter skincare needs…

The rise of Ali Miller London

When Ali Miller discovered her china had been featured on the BBC hit show Sherlock, the next year was a whirlwind of activity, and requests for products began to snowball.

“I started getting hundreds of orders, but I didn’t realise that my china had been used on the show for several months,” she explains. “I had to do a bit of detective work of my own to understand where the influx of interest had come from.” While being featured on the programme was a stroke of luck that shot the brand to fame amongst Sherlock fanatics, Ali had been quietly working on her art behind the scenes for many years.

Featured everywhere from hit TV shows to The Grove’s tea room, artist Ali Miller talks to us about the incredible success of her brand.


Growing up

As a child growing up with severe dyslexia and struggling with her school work, she found solace in art- a place where words weren’t necessary. After graduating from art school in 2003, Ali continued to follow her passion, working on her collages in the evenings alongside her day job in window display design. “I used to make collages from old books and magazines- anything that was around the house,” she explains. “I started decorating any objects I could find- covering furniture with my art.” While she admits her mother was less than impressed to see her chairs hijacked for painting, the project sparked an idea for Ali. “I studied screen painting and photography at night school and I realised that my art could be put on objects. I started experimenting with firing my designs on to china- and that’s how my first tea set was born.”

Describing her art as ‘quintessentially British’, Ali is heavily inspired by childhood books like Mary Poppins and Alice in Wonderland, as well as her hometown of London. “All of my inspiration basically comes from real life,” she says. “From my childhood in London reading my favourite books, right through to the events and emotions that have impacted my own life and the lives of friends.”


Turning point

After working for various department stores including Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason and Ikea, Ali’s father became seriously ill and she made the decision to leave her fulltime job. “Ikea was extremely understanding about my situation,” she says. “But in the end I knew I wanted to spend more time with my dad and couldn’t handle a fulltime job at that time. I decided to put all my efforts into art instead, which I could do from home. Sadly he eventually passed away and I channelled even more of my energy into art.”

Though she’d been exhibiting her work for years, it wasn’t until 2010 that framers John Jones invited her to run a major exhibition in their space. “I brought lots of pieces, tea towels, china- everything I had. It all sold out that evening and that was the moment Ali Miller London was born.” Realising that gifts, ornaments and china were a more affordable way for people to buy her art, Ali began to research how to expand her project.

While the original pieces she sold were vintage china, it made sense to work with a production company in Stoke in order to expand the business.

“The vintage pieces fit so well with the theme of my work- which is to tell stories about life that are passed down through generations,” she explains. “To make the business work, I needed to produce on a much bigger scale.”


The TV effect

She began to sell her products through a few stockists, then in 2012 her china was used in an episode of Sherlock and Ali found herself catapulted by overnight success. “I was so grateful for this opportunity- it really helped me to accelerate the brand. While it was a huge challenge to keep up with orders in the first year, I was incredibly lucky as it really put my brand on the map.” She has since visited Sherlock conventions to showcase more of her work, and even sent lead actor Benedict Cumberbatch a baby teapot after the birth of his son. “Fans of the show still love and buy my work- which is fantastic.”

Ali has watched her business grow organically and says her products have now gained an international fan base. While the past few years have been a little quieter after having two children, she is determined to continue developing the brand, with new ideas in the pipeline. “Most of the work I get at the moment is word of mouth- which is fantastic. I am hoping to launch some new products soon through, so it’s a case of ‘watch this space’.”

For Ali, launching the business has been a happy rollercoaster and learning on the job has been a key factor in her success. “I have learnt a huge amount in a short space of time which has been an amazing experience. Working in retail for so long means I understand the importance of keeping the brand fresh, updating my website and attracting new customers. While I am not a traditional designer with new stock every winter and spring, my art will continue to evolve. I want my pieces to tell stories that can be passed down for generations to come.”


You can check out the Ali Miller London collection during afternoon tea at The Grove, available all week from 1.30pm to 4.30pm in the lounges

The best of Hertfordshire

From luxury treatments at our five-star spa, golf on our championship course to our wide range of kids’ activities and acres of space to explore, you won’t be short of entertainment at The Grove. But if you’re staying with us for a few nights, you might fancy going further afield and exploring what Hertfordshire has to offer. Home to Roman ruins, year-round snow and even a few lions from the Serengeti, the county has an ever-growing selection of lively tourist attractions. There’s something for everyone in laidback Hertfordshire, and the region is well-equipped for fabulous family days out. After your day out, head back to relax, dine in one our restaurants and put up your feet to watch a movie in the luxury of your room.


Cassiobury Park | Distance: 2 miles | Journey time: 7 minutes by car or a 40 minute walk

Spanning 190 acres, Watford’s Cassiobury Park is a haven for nature fanatics and walkable from The Grove. More than 46 species of bird and seven species of bat live in the park’s nature reserve, which is managed by Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust. Designated trails run through the area, making it ideal for family walks and exploration. Alternatively, why not borrow some of our bikes and take your wheels for a spin? For those with children, the park has a bungee trampoline, miniature railway, bouncy castle and paddling pool playground, complete with swings, climbing frames and even its very own zip wire. There’s also a range of sport activities on offer, including free fishing on the River Gade. (You can apply for a licence online.)


The Snow Centre | Distance: 7 miles | Journey time: 15 minute drive

Britain’s newest indoor ski centre is based in Hemel Hempstead- just a short drive from The Grove. Whether you’re an experienced skier or a total beginner, the venue attracts sport fans from across the UK and offers a wide range of lessons. If you’re planning a skiing trip this year it’s an ideal place to stop during your stay at The Grove- to get some practice in early. But it’s also a fun family day out even when there’s no glamourous holidays planned. After all, who says you have to go all the way to the Alps to enjoy the slopes?


St Albans | Distance: 7 miles | Journey time: 15 minute drive

In recent years St Albans has gained popularity with former Londoners, and the town has become a hotspot for trendy cafes, real ale pubs and farmers’ markets. Home to numerous restaurants and an annual food and drink festival, the area is a foodie’s paradise- particularly for those who love local and organic produce. As well as indulging in great food, visitors should take a trip to the St Albans Cathedral and the medieval clock tower. Rich in history and heritage, the town is also famed for its Roman ruins, including the Theatre of Verulamium, built in 140AD. Formerly used for religious festivals and animal shows, it’s the only theatre of its kind in the UK.


Warner Bros. Studio Tour- The Making of Harry Potter | Distance: 2 miles | Journey time: 7 minute drive

For anyone who’s ever dreamed of getting a Hogwarts letter and trundling off to the famous school with their very own owl, a trip to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour- The Making of Harry Potter is an absolute must. A hop, skip and a jump from The Grove, it’s one of the most popular day trips for hotel visitors. Anyone who visits before 12 November will also get to experience a new special feature on the dark arts, where you can learn wand skills and take part in a live duel with Death Eaters. Over Halloween, the venue is hosting a series of Hogwarts After Dark events for adults, with cocktails, canapes, dinner, a studio tour and dinner in the Forbidden Forest.


Henry Moore Studios and Gardens | Distance: 37 miles | Journey time: 50 minute drive

A little further afield, the Henry Moore Studios and Gardens makes a unique day out. Accessible via the M25 in under an hour, it’s an excellent option for guests with a bit of time to spare. Originally the home of famed artist Henry Moore, the gardens are now an exhibition space for some of his iconic sculptures. Giving you the chance to go behind the scenes and understand more about how they were created, the venue hosts regular education sessions on his work.


Hatfield House | Distance: 14 miles | Journey time: 28 minute drive

Culture buffs should take the time to visit Hatfield House near Potters Bar, home of the 7th Marquess and Marchioness of Salisbury and their family. Packed with art and traditional Jacobean features, the house has numerous rooms open to the public, where guests can wander around and explore the house’s rich history. If the British weather allows for it, you should also take a walk around the equally stunning gardens. Part of the largest private estate in Hertfordshire, there’s an expansive deer park and selection of woodland walks.


Natural History Museum Tring | Distance: 15.5 miles | Journey time: 22 minute drive

London may house one of the most famous natural history museums in the world, but guests staying at The Grove shouldn’t miss the opportunity to see the Natural History Museum in Tring. A great location for family outings, the museum has several galleries packed with land and marine life from around the world. Until mid-November, the museum is also hosting the Animal Vision exhibition, which allows children to explore how different creatures see the world and discover a range of fascinating animals.


Paradise Wildlife Park | Distance: 22 miles | Journey time: 36 minute drive

Nature enthusiasts will love discovering the Paradise Wildlife Park in Broxbourne for a day of animal activities and family fun. As on of the UK’s leading zoos, the park gives you the chance to see wild animals up close, including lions, cheetahs, zebras and snow leopards. As well as its diverse population of mammals and reptiles, the zoo offers animal experiences where you can meet meerkats, lemurs, sloths and tapirs. Families can also meet some of the zoo keepers and watch them feed the big cats and wolves – just make sure you keep your distance!


This February half term, you can experience what Hertfordshire has to offer for less with our selection of offers. Click here to find out more.

A Guest Blog from Saira Hamilton

Saira is a chef, food presenter and author best remembered as a finalist in MasterChef 2013. She won high praise from judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace as well as Michellin-starred chef Atul Kochhar for her beautifully presented, flavour packed Bengali-inspired food. Saira uses the best of British, seasonal produce combined with the spices and cooking techniques of her Bengali heritage to create fresh-tasting Indian dishes with a modern twist. Leaving behind a 20 year career in law enforcement, Saira now cooks for private clients all over the country, hosts supper-clubs and Chef residencies as well as running cookery masterclasses at several UK based venues. 

Autumnal produce

So now we are into the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. I obviously can’t express myself as beautifully as John Keats but autumn really is a special time of year. October marks the beginning of the autumn food season, and pretty much every chef I’ve ever met says autumn is their favourite time of year. It’s the sheer variety of ingredients that come into season during autumn that is the real boon for chefs. As well as game meats, which aren’t available fresh at any other time of year, there are also dozens more: apples, squash, celeriac, kale, wild mushrooms, chard, parsnips, cabbage, Brussel’s sprouts, Jerusalem artichokes and, of course, the chef’s black gold, truffles.

Halloween inspired dishes

And of course we also have Halloween to contend with in October – you can’t really avoid it. I hear a lot of oldies, and I include myself in that number, bemoaning the rise of Halloween as an event in the British calendar, but you have to say it really has caught the public’s imagination. The shops are full of Halloween paraphernalia and all the young people I know are particularly keen on the whole thing. Last year my daughter was on a school trip in Canada, and was bowled over by how huge Halloween is on the other side of the Atlantic. They were even taken to the pumpkin patch, picking out the best specimens for their carvings. I have been impressed by the massive choice of pumpkins on offer over here too. In fact, the amount of pumpkins I’ve seen over the last few weeks makes me think that every man, woman and child in Hertfordshire must be carving a jack-o-lantern this year.

And so if your jack-o’lantern is young enough to yield some edible flesh when you scoop out its innards (mmm, nice!) I thought I would give you a pumpkin curry recipe which is very easy to make and will help keep out the chill as the nights draw in. This recipe includes prawns which is quite a traditional combination in Bangladesh, but if you want to keep it vegan just leave them out. This works equally well with butternut squash if you just want to buy ingredients for cooking with rather than cutting into scary shapes. Happy Halloween everyone!


Inspired by the ‘mishti kumra’, or sweet gourd that is popular in Bangladesh, this is a delicious autumn recipe, perfect for using the abundence of pumpkin and butternut squash. Still delicious, this can be an entirely vegetarian dish by simply leaving out the prawns.
This recipe was first published in Saira’s cookbook ‘Kitchen Favourites with Saira: Garlic’


2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped in small dice
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp chilli powder
1 tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
500-600g pumpkin or butternut squash cut into in 3cm chunks
240g large raw prawns (frozen is fine but defrost before using)
1 green chilli, sliced in half lengthways
Chopped fresh coriander to garnish


// In a medium-sized saucepan, fry the onions and garlic over a medium heat for 5-6 minutes. Cook until the onion is softened and an even golden-brown colour.

// While the onions are cooking, measure to all the spices out and mix together in a small bowl or jar. Once the onions are cooked, sprinkle in the spice blend and allow to cook gently for 30 seconds or so. Then add in the pumpkin pieces and chilli and stir well to coat the vegetables in the spiced oil.

// When the pan is back up to heat, add a splash of water (no more than 100ml) and put the lid on the pan. Cook on a medium heat for 12-15 minutes. Try not to stir too often as the pumpkin can break apart quite easily.

// Add in the defrosted prawns. Stir carefully to mix. Cover the pan again and cook for another 5 minutes until the pumpkin is cooked to your liking and the prawns are pink and cooked through.

// Garnish with some freshly chopped coriander and serve with plain rice or chapattis.

Saira Hamilton’s Pumpkin and Prawn Recipe (PDF 572kb)

Join us at The Grove to sample some of Saira’s best loved dishes in The Glasshouse from Monday 6 November – Friday 11 November.

Click here to discover more



The Grove meets The 3 Brewers of St Albans

Co-founder of The 3 Brewers of St Albans, Mark Fanner, talks about turning real ale into real business, ahead of the Meet The Brewer event at The Grove on 22 October, which coincides with the launch of their craft beer on draught at The Stables next month.

As a lifelong real ale enthusiast, former marketer and St Albans’ boy Mark Fanner is no stranger to good beer. So, when the chance came to turn that passion into a local business opportunity with one of his closest friends, he was ready and willing to jump in with both feet.


“The idea to start a micro-brewery came to us back in 2012, when I was drinking with my friend Petar (Zivkovic),” he explains. “We were talking about what we wanted to do with our lives and we both knew we wanted to do something different and exciting- we just weren’t sure exactly what.” As it turned out, they were sipping the answer as they spoke. “After a while we floated the idea of making our own ale and started to do some research. Pete had a friend who had started his own brewery on a farm near Peterborough. Once we visited we knew exactly what we wanted to do and The 3 Brewers of St Albans was born.”

In his previous roles in marketing, Mark worked with several major food and beverage companies and knew exactly how the brand should look. “We wanted to launch a sustainable micro-brewery to provide excellent beer to locals in the area we’re from-St Albans,” he says.

While Mark had extensive knowledge of food and beverage compliance laws and good marketing practice, Pete had strong business skills- with experience setting up his own building company. “Pete is great at all the practical stuff and I have the F&B knowledge from my former roles,” says Mark. “Our skills really complement each other in that sense.”

Research and hard work

After extensive research, they chose to launch the brewery in a former potato store on a farm on the St Albans/Hatfield border, with their recently purchased second-hand brewing kit. Describing the process as a ‘steep learning curve’, Mark says that the early days of the business were especially challenging. “We needed to work out what we were doing from sorting out the drainage and pipes to the electricity. We also had to make major amendments to our kit to produce the products we wanted.” After all that hard work, the team spent four months experimenting with beers to ensure the product was exactly right before it went on sale. “We held taste tests with local publicans. They were the people we wanted to sell our beer to and we wanted their feedback,” he explains.  Before long the demand was up, and the boys hired Matt Sutton to join the team as head brewer.

Sustainability is a key USP for The 3 Brewers and both Mark and Pete wanted to create a high-quality product that could be enjoyed locally. “Part of the beauty of our set up is that everything we use to make the beer comes from nearby, even the water is from the farm’s borehole, just 100 feet underneath the brewery.” Thanks to their commitment to recycling all materials, they have developed excellent relationships with local farmers, who they provide with free fertiliser and cattle feed, made from waste materials and grains.

Working with the best

The 3 Brewers ensures that it works with local partners, choosing the best pubs and hotels in the region to sell their beer. “There’s two aspects to reputation; one is to have a great drinking experience and the other is the actual beer itself,” says Mark. “We choose places that we know can store and serve our products properly and will provide customers with a great experience.”

Of course, setting up your own brewery comes with its challenges. For Mark and Pete, consistency has been one of the most difficult things to get right. Due to the use of natural products, every harvest can yield different results- meaning recipes have to be carefully adapted to get the same flavour. “Things like temperature can also make a huge difference and getting a consistent quality product that tastes the same every time is an exact science.” From power cuts to frosts, Mark believes they’re over the hardest hump now and know how to face the problems they come up against.

As an avid fan of hiking, cycling and watching live bands, Mark’s lifestyle fits in perfectly with his new career- and he’s happy to end a long walk up a mountain with a pint of real ale. “We always wanted our core market to be local and produce beers that people in the St Albans area would really enjoy drinking. When I go to a pub I’ve always really admired and see someone drinking our brand, it feels fantastic. It’s been a long journey but 100% worth it.”

Join us at The Grove’s for our Meet The Brewer event hosted in the Players Lounge at The Stables on Sunday 22  October, 5 – 9pm.  This complimentary event celebrates the launch of craft beer on draught at The Stables, inviting guests to sample Mark and Pete’s best ales!

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Six ways to reconnect with your family at The Grove

The holidays are over, the leaves are falling and back to school fever has swept the UK. With your sun-soaked French villa now a distant memory, it’s time to swap those cocktails for a 6am alarm and spend your evenings organising PE kits and packed lunches. Getting back to the grind is great for routine (and paying the bills) but in all the hustle and bustle of the new term, it’s easy to forget to take time out with your family. If you’re ready for a break to catch up and reconnect, check out our six ideas for family time at The Grove.

Nature trails


There’s nothing like getting lost in the wilderness to create real bonding time. If your family is looking for an engaging way to enjoy the countryside, The Grove has a great selection of nature trails and cycling tours to explore. You can even add a new dimension to your walk by trying out geocaching – the high-tech treasure hunt that allows you to seek hidden containers through a global positioning system. The app can be downloaded onto a smart phone and used to make your outdoor adventures more exciting.  Alternatively, The Grove has also planned a more traditional treasure hunt during the half term break, where families can work together to solve clues as they wander around the hotel’s extensive grounds.

Knebworth House

Just 50 minutes from The Grove, is the original home of Victorian novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Knebworth House is now one of Hertfordshire’s top attractions for family days out. Set in acres of stunning grounds, the house is packed with stories and heirlooms to discover. The venue plays host to numerous concerts and events, including the upcoming ‘Pumpkin Trail & Treats’ over Halloween. Children (and adventurous adults) are invited to arrive in fancy dress before being given a ‘pumpkin passport’. Walking through the house’s beautiful grounds, they can collect stamps from spooky staff, which can be exchanged for a goody bag at the end of the tour. Families are encouraged to bring along readymade decorated pumpkins, with prizes available for the best ones. The Garden Terrace Tea Room is also open during the event for guests to warm up with some toasty drinks and snacks.

Afternoon tea

With the autumn nights closing in, it’s time to make the most of the days. For a fun family treat with a modern twist, try booking in for an afternoon tea at The Grove. Boasting spectacular views of the grounds, you and your family can indulge in fresh savoury sandwiches, along with all the traditional sweet treats- topped with Devonshire clotted cream. It might not be friendly for the waist line, but we can guarantee it’ll be a great afternoon for the whole family. Served in the lounge and library, the hotel can also provide a selection of board games to keep families entertained long past dinner time.

London day trip

It might be a peaceful country retreat, but The Grove is only half an hour from central London. Ideal for culture vultures, adventure junkies and foodies, the capital is home to hundreds of incredible restaurants, theatres, music venues, museums and shops – as well as quirky activities like cable cars and escape rooms. If you wanted to extend your stay in the city, you could also spend the night at our luxury sister property The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences in the heart of Mayfair. Centrally located, all of London’s hotspots will be on your doorstep. Whether you’d prefer to dose up on culture by wandering around some of the world’s most famous art galleries, check out a west end musical, or try out some of London’s street food venues, you won’t be short of things to do.

Warner Bros. Studio Tour London- The making of Harry Potter

It’s been 20 years since JK Rowling released her first novel about a boy wizard, and since then ‘Harry Potter mania’ has swept the globe. For every child who’s ever fantasised about whizzing round the countryside on a flying broomstick, a visit to the nearby The Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The making of Harry Potter is a must. The home of filming for all eight Harry Potter movies, the tour offers you the chance to immerse yourself in the wizarding world, wandering down the famous Diagon Alley and sipping butterbeer. As well as discovering the movie sets, original costumes and props, young Hogwarts hopefuls can even snag themselves their very own magic wand.

Movie night

Sometimes there’s nothing better than snuggling up with your family on the sofa for an old-fashioned movie night. With a wide range of films on offer at The Grove, there’ll be something to please everyone from the comfort of your bedroom. Whether you’d rather stock up on popcorn or order some treats from rooms service, staying in and getting away from it all can be the ultimate luxury. It’s time to swap your work suit for a dressing gown and get ready for some serious relaxation time.

Discover our October Half Term offers here…

The Grove and Skinny Champagne

Champagne: The next generation


Amanda Thomson, Thomson & Scott

Amanda Thomson, the brainchild behind Skinny Champagne, talks to The Grove about the success of her sugar-free wine brand.

Seduced by the romance of Champagne, Amanda Thomson can pinpoint the exact moment she decided to leave her high-flying job as a BBC broadcaster to launch a selection of sugar-free wines. “I fell in love with the glamour of Champagne at events early on in my career and I even met my husband at the Cannes Film Festival,” she explains. “But in 2009 I had this real lightbulb moment where I realised that alcohol is one of the only things we consume without really knowing exactly what’s in it.”

As someone who grew up on a vegetarian diet and had sugar as ‘a rare treat’, Amanda understood the value of natural products long before clean eating made its way on to the UK’s foodie map. From the global avocado fetish to our passion for spiralised courgettes, there’s no doubt that people are more aware of their food choices than ever before. But while everyone knows how much salt is packed into a processed lasagne, they often have no idea how much sugar goes into the average bottle of wine. “I wanted to start my company Thomson & Scott to create a selection of wine and bubbly that tasted absolutely amazing, but was free from chemicals and added sugar,” says Amanda. “It’s not a health food product, because it still contains alcohol, but I do believe cutting out the additional sugar and chemicals is much better for you and it’s more transparent- people know what they’re drinking. It’s also vegan and that’s really important as more people become aware of veganism and want to support the movement.”


Thomson & Scott officially launched its range of Skinny Prosecco, Skinny Champagne and Skinny Wine in April 2016 and is now a top seller in major UK department stores- but it didn’t come without a slog.

After the lightbulb moment, Amanda decided to throw herself into the entrepreneurial journey feet first. On a quest to expand her knowledge, she and her family moved to Paris for three years in 2010, where she enrolled on a specialist wine course at the Cordon Bleu Cookery school. The first diploma of its kind, Amanda was able to learn about wine in a holistic sense, not just tasting but getting a wider understanding of the business through marketing, sales and vineyard visits. She describes the move as ‘a huge gamble’ as she had no back up plan if it failed. Thanks to several years of hard graft, endless phone calls and steely determination, the rewards are finally starting to show and the drinks brand is gaining a loyal following.

“Our consumers are around 70% female, but we do have a lot of male fans too,” she explains. “The age range varies hugely but our most visible clients are millennials. They are the ones who share pictures of products on Twitter and Instagram and they often attend our events at fashion launches and department store pop-ups.”


In terms of choosing partnerships, Amanda is very selective. “When I choose a partner to work with, I look at the customer and their journey and I work with a really wide range of companies and venues. The way I select people to work with is quite instinctive- I just get a feeling that it would be a good fit. Our customers might visit a five-star hotel one week, and then go to a trendy street food bar the next. Versatility and authenticity is really important.” This diversity is also represented in the brand’s events, which range from high-end dinners to product launches at vegan food festivals.

Inspiration and passion have been two of the driving forces behind the creation of the brand, something Amanda keeps in mind every day. From listening to Ted talks to gaining insight from motivational speakers like Simon Sinek, she is constantly searching for new ways to make the brand even more successful. “One of the things that Simon Sinek teaches about entrepreneurialism is to always think about ‘the why’. Why do you need to launch this product or start this brand? Having a very clear objective has been crucial to my company’s success- every brand needs a reason to exist.”

As a former arts correspondent and a fashion and food fanatic, Amanda also takes inspiration from London’s dynamic cultural scene. “There’s some hugely exciting things happening in London on the food scene right now,” she explains. “From street food to the amazing new chefs, it’s one of the best cities in the world right now.”


Owning a hot brand in a rapidly evolving food and beverage market isn’t easy, and Amanda has no qualms talking about the challenges. From the early starts to the endless sales pitches and constant admin, it’s the hardest thing she’s ever done. “Starting a business is not for the faint-hearted and I spend pretty much every waking moment thinking about and working on the brand. If you go into this game just to make money, that’s a really bad idea. You need a strong product that you’re incredibly passionate about that people will really want.”

While she’s the first to admit there’s no such thing as an easy ride in the world of business, Amanda wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s amazing to have come so far and have this incredible brand of delicious products that people want to buy. I think every entrepreneur needs to really enjoy the moments of success that make all the hard work worthwhile.”


Amanda will be hosting a Skinny Champagne and Prosecco dinner at Colette’s on Thursday 26 October. Join us and experience fine-dining together with the taste of delicious, organic Italian Champagne and Prosecco.
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