Sopwell House, St Albans: hotel and restaurant review
Read our extensive review of Sopwell House, a Georgian country house hotel near St Albans. Expect an out-of-this-world spa, sophisticated dining, countryside views and luxurious rooms
Looking for the best places to eat, drink and stay in St Albans? Read our Sopwell House review, then head here for an extensive foodie guide to St Albans.
Sopwell House in a nutshell
A whitewashed Georgian country house hotel, blanketed by 12 acres of tufty Hertfordshire countryside, Sopwell House is home to an elegant restaurant, afternoon tea lounge, 128 bedrooms and a lavish spa.
Dress up; this is the kind of place that locals book for special occasions. Having said that, there are framed football shirts on the walls (the Arsenal and England football teams train nearby) and the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, not hushed and stuffy. Interiors are contemporary and fresh, but there are whispers of history, too – restored sash windows, aged parquet flooring and wide marble fireplaces in the lounge.
Which room should I book at Sopwell House?
Choose between a Mansion House bedroom and a Mews Suite. The former are in the main 17th-century building (ask for a balcony room to make the most of those leafy views) while the more-modern suites are set to one side of the hotel, huddled around landscaped gardens designed by RHS Chelsea Flower Show winner, Ann-Marie Powell. Here you’ll find spacious bedrooms with four-poster beds, cedar spa baths and private terraces.
The food and drink
We’ve already written about the benefits of afternoon tea at Sopwell House, but it’s the restaurant that really pulls in the crowds. Chandeliers, a gleaming grand piano and round tables draped in white linen create an intimate atmosphere and, because half the room sits in a lofty conservatory, there’s plenty of natural light. Highlights of a frequently changing seasonal menu include malty Guinness bread with whipped, herbed butter; chunky hake fillet with salty-sweet bacon jam; juicy mussels with crispy kale; porcini roast cauliflower with an intense fungi broth, dried mushrooms and homemade cauliflower tahini; and salted caramel tart with speckled banana cream.
There’s also a more casual brasserie (where breakfast is served for overnight guests), as well as a conservatory bar that overlooks Sopwell House’s landscaped gardens. Another cocktail lounge, near the hotel’s reception area, is a long, breezy room that begins with a marble-topped bar and stretches all the way to end with a fireplace and library. It’s where Sopwell House serves afternoon tea, but is also a comfy place to sip a Cottonmill Egret cocktail (fresh lemon sour mix, Chambord and vodka), inspired by the hotel’s Cottonmill Spa.
Breakfast is a very busy affair, if you arrive at the brasserie after 9:30am. Try and get there earlier for your pick of comb honey, dried fruit, warm pastries and all the cooked classics.
What else can foodies do?
St Albans is just over a mile away (you’ll need transport as there isn’t a direct footpath to the city), and is well worth visiting for rhubarb and custard doughnuts at The Pudding Stop, coconut and cardamom ice cream at Darlish or a sustainable dinner at Lussmanns. You can read our foodie guide to St Albans here.
Is it family friendly?
Sort of. Children are welcome, but you have to be 18 or over to use the swimming pool. Children’s menus are available at both the restaurant and the brasserie but the restaurant’s romantic vibe means it’s not best suited to young families. Likewise, while some suites come with sofabeds on which children can be accommodated for an extra charge (cots can be provided for tinies), this isn’t a hotel that really plays to the family market.
If you’re an overnight guest really looking to indulge, and you don't mind paying an extra fee, upgrade your complimentary swimming pool and gym access to include The Club at Cottonmill. Subtly separated from the pool by an inconspicuous door (opened only by wristband), this brand new spin-off spa is a Scandi-style vision of light wood, soft corners, geometric patterns, ultra-modern fireplaces and rose-hued lighting. A swish sliding door leads bathers from one warm, bubbling pool into another and you can lose serious amounts of time wafting between scented salt steam rooms, curvy marble beds that stay at a cosy 45C and showers that saturate you with different aromas, temperatures and water pressures. The spa's zen-like gardens, also designed by Ann-Marie Powell, come with copious cabanas, secluded jacuzzis and al fresco fireplaces.
Written by Charlotte Morgan, January 2020