29 JULY 2019
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The Grove luxury hotel, golf resort and spa sits just off the M25, halfway between Luton Airport and Wembley Stadium. It is surrounded by 300 acres of parkland and is a favourite retreat for those in the know, including sporting teams where it offers all the facilities needed. Its latest claim to fame is a reimagined food offer, led by its popular buffet restaurant, The Glasshouse. BTN editor Richard Cawthorne, who also covers food and drink for Hertfordshire Life magazine, went to check it out. This is his Hertfordshire Life report.
No longer just a restaurant but more an eating experience, The Glasshouse has reopened in grand style after being closed for three months for refurbishment. It has clearly been three months well spent. The eating space has been transformed into a huge triple-height glass conservatory with views of The Grove’s noted gardens and what is now called “food-hall style” dining.
What that means is guests can wander at will among eight food stations, each with its own chef and each with a different choice of what to eat. You help yourself to what you want, return to your table to tuck in, and then go back for more as the fancy takes you. I’ve seen it before, usually in American hotels at breakfast time, but rarely on this scale.
If the race in foodie-land at the moment is to present your audience with something different, The Glasshouse is a major contender. It’s not just the food but the surroundings, the work of the Martin Hulbert Design studio, which has led The Grove’s interior look since the hotel opened 15 years ago.
The idea behind The Glasshouse is to bring the outdoors in to produce what meetings, events, sales and guest relations manager Steve Margo calls “an outstanding, luxurious yet fun experience”.
Executive head chef Stephen Wheeler launched The Glasshouse in its former manifestation when the hotel opened then headed overseas to gain international experience, particularly in Asia.
He has now returned to the new-look restaurant saying: “We are showcasing new, innovative dining and introduced new cooking stations and methods because it was crucial to us that we provide guests with a range of options at a superior quality. It’s an interactive and fun way of eating.”
With eight food stations to explore, normal starter-main-dessert rules do not apply. My party trod the traditional path but there were plenty of other customers mixing and matching. Choices included a salad bar, seafood on the “Crustacean Station”, another for Asian noodle soup, a grill option for meat and fish, a roast selection, a stone oven for pizzas and flatbreads, a tandoor oven and a dessert table. Freshness was a given – all the tables were replenished constantly by their attendant chefs, who also described their dishes and carved and served as required.
Typical fare on the seafood table includes smoked seabass, seafood terrine and a selection of sushi and sashimi. The grill offers include hickory rubbed beef ribeye steak with mustard butter and grilled fillet of Loch Duart salmon marinated in garden herbs, lemon and olive oil, while the roast table on our visit displayed lamb and beef joints.
Salad choices include roast butternut squash, garden green beans and – wait for it – wild rocket, cherry vine tomatoes, asparagus, olives, pomegranates and red chicory and if you’re heading for the tandoor oven, look out for fenugreek and ginger spiced chicken with curry leaves or masala and coriander marinated tiger prawns with lime and roasted chilli.
The live pasta station is a show all to itself, with diners invited to watch as fresh pasta including penne and tagliatelle is rolled out, matched with your choice of sauce and prepared to order. Typical choices include spinach and ricotta ravioli with garden sage butter, or pappardelle pasta with slow cooked beef cheek, lemon and parsley gremolata.
Our choices were a selection of seafood to start, freshly-carved roast lamb as mains and a crème brûlée each plus an extra dessert for my other half of lemongrass and passion fruit mousse with passion fruit meringue. This was, as she explained, purely in the interests of research. Like the rest of our meal, it passed the test.
The Glasshouse charges a fixed price of £49 a person for dinner Monday-Thursday and on Sundays, and £62 a person on Fridays and Saturdays. It is also open for lunch at £42 or £46 depending on the day; lunch on Sundays and bank holidays is £62.
Also worth visiting is The Glasshouse Bar, similarly newly refurbished with a glass extension connecting it to the terraces and garden. The drinks menu features a range of cocktails using locally sourced ingredients, many – like those in the restaurant – from The Grove’s walled garden.
With a noted golf course and spa, the estate to explore and other eating outlets, there is much more to The Grove than just The Glasshouse and various packages that allow visitors to experience the whole deal. It's well worth a trip – there is even an outdoor cinema on show throughout August, another first for the property.
All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum
Andrew Sharp, Surbiton
Also the wartime headquarters of the LMS railway, and then a railway management training centre. I remember it well!