Lights, camera and edible action. Sophie Ritchie visits The Grove hotel in Hertfordshire for a must-try evening of al fresco cinematic entertainment
Set in 300 acres of verdant Hertfordshire countryside, The Grove is the textbook definition of a luxury five-star retreat. An elongated drive (complete with one-way bridge) brings you to its impressive doorstep, where row upon row of parking bays lead you to The Grove’s ample amenities.
Far more than just a luxe place to rest one’s weary head for the night, this enormous estate offers a little something for everyone – whether that be outstanding golf, pampering Sequoia spa days, enough restaurants to keep you fed for a week or its latest summer pop-up experience – the Everyman Secret Garden at The Grove.
Having been running a schedule of must-book outdoor film screenings throughout summer, I visit (fork and friend in tow) to try it out for myself, with both the weather and the M25 traffic seemingly on my side for once. Taking place in the estate’s mesmerisingly pretty Walled Garden, film highlights have included The Greatest Showman, Romeo & Juliet and Moulin Rouge so far – but for my own visit, it’s the iconic Mamma Mia and its singing Meryl Streep on the menu.
The Food & Drink
Of course, first things first – every film needs its sustenance. The evening first begins with a visit to Madhu’s at The Grove, a pop-up eatery perched next to the hotel lobby serving up authentic Punjabi cuisine with a Kenyan twist. Stepping into the space reveals an elongated restaurant divided into small rooms, where buttery yellow walls feature occasional red and orange rectangles to add further colour to the space (and also pay a nod to Madhu’s logo colours).
Fine dining foodies can opt for a tasting menu, whilst a wide and varied a la carte selection is also on offer – with everything from curries, tandoor, robota, rice, meat dishes and naan galore to choose from. I opt for the former, starting the feast with Vegetable Samosa (£7.00) – two gorgeously-presented parcels of crisp flaky pastry filled to the brim with spiced potatoes and peas, served with a flavoursome tamarind chutney. ‘Honey, honey’ – there’s a little fiery kick in every bite, but not enough to burn one’s tongue – and my plate is vacant before I know it.
For mains, I move onto the classic Channa Masala (£10.00) – golden chickpeas gently simmered in masala spices, served in an iron skillet and topped with fresh chopped coriander. It’s mild and delicious, paired perfectly with a few spoonfuls of Jeera Aloo (£6.50) – a mound of slow-cooked diced potatoes tossed with roasted cumin seeds. Having lost track of time chatting, I gobble them both down with vigour as time suddenly ticks down to the screening.
Stepping through the Walled Garden’s somewhat enchanting gate reveals a space that feels more fairytale than film – think twinkling lights, beautiful potted plants, row upon row of brightly-coloured beanbags and a botanical-themed screen that all conjure an idyllic setting.
Designed by painter and designer Josephine Hicks, we search through the space and soon find a duo of beanbags to slouch upon and get settled for the Mamma Mia action. Everyman is already a household name for its posh cinematic theatres – but this truly puts the pop in the popcorn. Differing from the normal screening experience, everyone listens in via headphones – which allows guests to chat quietly without disturbing anyone and vice versa for nearby hotel guests not looking to hear Pierce Brosnan attempting to hit high notes when they crack a window.
The sunset slowly dips behind the large screen and when night falls, the outdoor space becomes even more mesmerising. With everyone glued to the action, the clear sky soon becomes showered with stars as Meryl and the cast leap about the screen, reminding me of what an excellent date night this would make.
The Wordrobe Verdict
The Winner Takes It All – especially when it comes to this ambient meets enchanting outdoor cinema experience. Book your tickets and pick a flick – The Grove certainly knows how to put on a show this summer.
Make it happen
Where: The Grove, Chandler’s Cross, Watford WD3 4TG
When: 2022 screenings are available until 4 September 2022.
Wallet: Inclusive overnight hotel packages invite guests to experience the cinema at their leisure, with packages also available for guests dining at The Glasshouse, The Stables or Verde Kitchen. Cinema and dining packages start from £59 per adult and £35 per child. Nightly rates at The Grove start from £480 for a Classic Room, on a room plus two cinema tickets basis.
How: For more information or to book please visit thegrove.co.uk or call 01923 296010
Words by Sophie Ritchie, editor