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When it comes to hotels, luxury means different things to different people. For some, it’s the latest high-tech gadgets that do all manner of clever things; for others it’s stuffy surroundings and fawning staff. For me, it’s much more simple … it’s laid-back boho, it’s perfectly curated interiors and it’s a feeling of complete relaxation. And this is where Birch ticked all my boxes.

Described as “an escape for the curiously minded” and named Hotel of the Year 2020 by The Times, Birch is the brainchild of entrepreneur Chris King and former MD of London’s Ace Hotel Chris Penn. The duo wanted to challenge the very perception of luxury and, together with architecture studio Red Deer, overhauled this centuries-old mansion house, pairing its grandiose nature with a vintage-packed interior. As a fan of this eclectic aesthetic, I’m well aware how hard it is to achieve. But here it has been beautifully executed.

Set in 55 acres of Cheshunt countryside, it was once the country pile of Victorian socialite Lady Meux (who, as legend goes, rode a zebra-drawn carriage through Mayfair), before life as a faceless corporate hotel. But following a two-year renovation, the faded glory of this Grade II-listed building has been uncovered. Original ceilings, wood panelling and tiled floors have been painstakingly restored to create the kind of rooms that just draw you in.

But rather than it being an overly precious museum, the hotel oozes non-conformist, chilled vibes coupled with super friendly service. There’s a kind of informal “festival” feel about the place. It’s somewhere you could happily curl up with a good book, relax with a blanket under the stars, or walk through reception without worrying about the kids wiping their feet first.

Some of the spaces are gloriously dark and moody; others are light, airy and left unpainted. Retro rattan furniture and modern artwork created by local makers sit amongst pops of yellow, teal and orange. It works because it doesn’t work, if you know what I mean.

The 140 bedrooms are simple in their design, no TVs and no tech means they continue the hotel’s laid-back ethos. Decorated in white with colour block walls and pastel linen, each one features a wood and ceramic “valet” stand created by Emma Louise Payne and Jan Hendzel. Guests also have access to the outdoor Lido, endless al fresco seating areas, a games room, an indoor cinema (complete with deckchairs) and the Hub, which offers co-working facilities.

We dined in Valeries, the hotel’s casual all-day restaurant which boasts a terrace area, fresh bread from the bakery and produce supplied by Birch’s on-site farm. The food was top notch, and on a Sunday evening there was a lovely buzz with couples enjoying a romantic evening alongside tables filled with young families. Stars of the show are the sharing platters, which are served alongside small nibbles, mains and very tempting deserts.

Undoubtedly, one of Birch’s biggest selling points is its programme of classes and workshops, from forage walks and gong bath sound healing to arts and crafts and an interactive bakery.

We chose the two-hour pottery session with ceramicist Elizabeth Jackson. Thankfully, no previous experience was needed as we were walked through various techniques to create our very own clay “masterpieces”. These were left behind for glazing and firing, ready to be posted to us (if my rather fragile tea cup survives that process in one piece, it really will be a miracle!).

The Birch Hotel is situated just off the M25 in Cheshunt and you can find out more details or book a room, restaurant table and classes  here. Our stay was gifted.