Best Staycations: Pennyhill Park, A Spa Hotel With A Michelin-Starred Restaurant

Pennyhill Park Hotel and Spa, a luxury hotel with an expansive spa and a destination restaurant, is set in 123 acres of scenic Surrey countryside, about an hour from London. As one of the UK’s first boutique hotels, Pennyhill was the launch property of the Exclusive Collection, founded in 1981 by ex-Forte executive Giuseppe Pecorelli. Today the independent, family-owned group includes country house properties, spas, a golf club, cookery school and classic English pub. Other hotels in the group include Lainston House (Winchester), South Lodge (Sussex), The Manor House (Cotswolds) and the Castle Inn (Wiltshire).

Pennyhill Park was built in 1851 as a private manor house for James Hodges, a successful railway engineer. It remained a private home until 1973 when it opened as a hotel. Exclusive Collection purchased Pennyhill Park in 1982 and expanded it from a seventeen-bedroom country house to 124 rooms (including 39 suites) spread over a number of buildings. The decor is modern and elegant, with opulent flourishes like ornate mirrors and the generous bathrooms have deep baths, with one suite featuring a large hot tub.

Pennyhill is a popular staycation destination with daytime visitors travelling there for the Michelin-starred Latymer restaurant and for the impressive 45,000 square foot spa. Other facilities include the more casual Brasserie, bars and lounges, tennis courts, nature trails and the England Rugby Training Facility and rugby pitch.

Food is a focus of all the properties in the Exclusive Collection and Pennyhill Park’s restaurants are no exception. Fresh, seasonal ingredients are often supplied directly from their own kitchen gardens with chicken, duck or quail eggs, honey and meat cuts from their own livestock. Pennyhill Park’s superb Latymer restaurant is under the helm of Chef Steve Smith, renowned for his Modern British cooking. Chef Smith began his career in the kitchen of legendary Chef Jean Christophe Novelli, before going on to work with Shaun Hill, Paul Heathcote and Simon Gueller. He joined The Latymer at Pennyhill Park in 2020 and it’s no surprise that he has retained the restaurant’s Michelin star for 2021. His creative signature dishes include roast scallop with truffle and smoked eel, perfectly cooked venison and for dessert, decadent Itakuja chocolate délice with mango sorbet.

The bars and restaurants at Pennyhill will reopen 17 May as per UK government guidelines, with a new restaurant concept, Hillfield Brasserie & Bar scheduled to launch in May or early June 2021. The brasserie will showcase the best of Surrey’s produce with a particular focus on working with farmers who preserve and enhance the landscape with a commitment to high welfare and sustainability. Overseeing the kitchen’s “Farm to Fork – Nose to Tail” philosophy will be Lewis Russell, offering menu items like local beef short rib arancini and venison Wellington. Also new to Pennyhill this summer will be a glorious outdoor dining spot, Lily Pond, tucked away behind the hotel’s pond with views across the estate. Open from midday to 8pm daily, the terrace will have a focus on wood-fired cooking, including flatbreads, hot soups and warm meat sandwiches.

The Spa at Pennyhill is certainly worth travelling for, even if you’re not staying at the hotel. It is one of the largest and most impressive in the country, with eight heated indoor and outdoor pools – one with underwater music and fibre optic lighting – hot tubs, herbal steam rooms, laconiums and an ice cave. Even on a chilly night, a dip in the heated outdoor pool, with steam rising from the surface, is pure bliss. The spa will reopen 12 April, in accordance with government guidelines.

With a growing demand from consumers for eco-friendly accommodation and with vital issues like climate change dominating the news, sustainability is a focus for Pennyhill Park. The hotel was awarded AA Eco Friendly Hotel Group of the Year 2015 thanks to measures like using low voltage LED light bulbs throughout the property, purchasing their main electricity from 100% renewal sources and installing electric car charging stations. An ongoing objective is to reduce the impact on the environment and to be a ‘zero direct to landfill’ business.

If you can bear to leave the property, two notable attractions near Pennyhill include The Savill Garden in Windsor Great Park and Windsor Castle, the world’s oldest occupied castle.