De Vere Wotton
We came, we ate, we slept - and we loved the romantic nooks, the roomy spaces and the stunning garden at De Vere Wotton House near Dorking.
THE LOWDOWN / LOCATION
Some days are just joyous. You get in the car and you favourite song comes onto the radio. The sun is shining. And you’re off for a cheeky midweek overnighter with the hubster and no kids to a stunning mansion house that’s not going to take you the best part of the day to get to. Bliss.
De Vere Wotton is an exquisite 17th century mansion house just a few miles out of Dorking on the Guildford Road at Wotton. It’s a very pretty part of the the world.
As it was I arrived to a carpet of bluebells clustered along the sweeping driveway that leads to the manor house. It’s an impressive entry – to an impressive property, set on 13 acres of landscaped gardens.
This sprawling country estate was once the seat of the Evelyn family, whose son John, a famous botanist, designed England’s first Italian gardens in the estate’s grounds. And yes, Mr Evelyn was also the inspiration for the name of the botanical beauty brand Crabtree and Evelyn. Mr Evelyn also designed England’s first Italian gardens here, with two Roman temples and quirky grottos, and they’re now Grade II listed.
This is understated country manor elegance at its best – and that vibe hits you from the moment you nose your car along the driveway. Inside the main entrance there’s a wire cupboard that houses a collection of Hunter welly boots – so you needn’t worry about getting your stilettos muddy. Beyond the entrance, the interiors are just as swanky as that snaking driveway – lofty domed ceilings, opulent chandeliers, panelled walls and big French doors leading out to the terrace and the gardens. There are eccentric little touches that will make you smile: a gilt-framed mirror at the base of the staircase with a hologram bearing the words ‘There’s a ghost in the…”; huge antlers adorned with hats; and quirky vases and ceramics.
In addition to the dining room and bar, there’s a relaxing Morning Room to chill out in, as well as comfy armchairs dotted around the place. The hotel is a popular for business conferences, and at weekends it’s often busy with weddings. Be sure to pop into the Gothic Old Library – it’s stunning.
SCOFF & QUAFF
You might expect a place of this grandeur to be a bit uptight and starchy, but on the midweek evening Mr Muds and I trooped along, there was nothing of the sort. The restaurant 1877 was busy enough – although not packed to the rafters.
We started with a drink in the bar overlooking the beautiful gardens, then moved to the restaurant 1877 for dinner. First thing to know about the restaurant is that service is excellent; attentive without being obsequious, friendly but not over-familiar. It’s the kind of place where plates of food come out looking pretty as a picture, but where if you’re feeling a bit hungry, you might want to order an extra bowl of chunky chips – which we ended up doing.
To start, I ordered the cured and smoked mackerel and the Mister went for the confit celeriac – and just look at them.
For mains, I stuck with fish and ordered the fillet of sea trout which came with a jerusalem artichoke puree, roasted wedges and a coriander and horesradish gremolata. Mr Muds went for the pan roasted saddle of lamb with English asparagus, roasted shallot and black garlic mash. For puds, I chose a honeycomb panna cotta and Mr Muds chose the chocolate hazelnut pavlova. Everything was gorgeously presented, and delicious.
The whole place has recently undergone a £6m refurbishment with the addition of another 17 suites to the accommodation, taking the number of rooms to 125. I stayed in the Primula suite – a gorgeous space with armchairs and chesterfield sofa with stunning views out over the gardens. The rooms are all tastefully decked out muted shades of greys, greens and blues with plaid soft furnishings.
The bed in the Primula suite, as well as being enormous, was super-comfy, and the bathroom, with its his-and-hers basins, freestanding claw-foot bath and walk-in shower was a sight to behold. I could have moved right in. There are also the usual luxuries you’d expect to find in a place like this piles of fluffy white towels, bathrobes and swanky toiletries.
I’d say so. The staff were lovely and, though the styling in the hotel is quite grown up. There’s no playground or anything like that, so you’d want to either go for a walk, take a dip in the pool or get out and about with little ones. The restaurant, has quite a grown-up vibe, but there were families eating when we visited. And the morning buffet is supreme so they’ll be able to fill their boots, no problem.
OUT & ABOUT
Plenty to keep you in this part of Surrey. Aside from the 13 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, Leith Hill and Box Hill are not far if you want to take in a more strenuous walk before lunch. Denbies Wine Estate, the National Trust’s Polesden Lacey and the charming market town of Dorking, with its eclectic vintage and antique shops, arts and craft stores and boutiques are also only a few miles away.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Overnight escapees, larger parties, Sunday lunch walkers/diners, wedding planners.
Not for: Spa devotees. There’s a gym and a swimming pool, but that’s about it. It’s an area that could have a bit more thrown at it to really nail the girly break brigade.
De Vere Wotton House, Guildford Road, Dorking RH5 6HS. Tel: 01306 855 483.