Hotel review: The Inspector calls at Denbies Vineyard Hotel in Surrey


The Inspector calls at the UK’s biggest winery as it opens a 17-room hotel – but he says as a place to stay ‘it still needs some fermentation’

  • Denbies is the biggest winery in the UK, with 260 acres of vines, and one of the first to open a hotel
  • There are 17 rooms in a new annexe next to the original farmhouse, but the Inspector wasn’t impressed
  • He found his room ‘clinical’ – the headboard was made ‘from a form of plastic’ and the bath was plastic too
  • Remember… The Inspector pays his way – and tells it like it is… 

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This is not quite Stellenbosch in the Western Cape. Even so, the late evening sun picks out row upon row of vines that slope up the hill towards a ridge of tall, mature trees.

Couples are sitting outside with an assortment of wines produced on the estate — sparkling, red, white and rose. Walkers are out with their dogs; joggers huff and puff. Just outside Dorking.

Denbies is the biggest winery in the country, with 260 acres of vines. It’s also one of the first to open a hotel, with 17 rooms in a new and unsympathetic annexe next to the original farmhouse.

Denbies Vineyard Hotel in Surrey features 17 rooms in a new annexe next to the original farmhouse

One of the rooms at Denbies. The Inspector wasn't keen on the interiors and said his room felt 'stark' and 'clinical'

One of the rooms at Denbies. The Inspector wasn’t keen on the interiors and said his room felt ‘stark’ and ‘clinical’

This soulless modern block is in sharp contrast to the surrounding lush, rambling countryside. 

It’s like something you expect to find at a golf club after the committee has decided that rooms might make for a good additional revenue stream.

I’d hoped for earthy, but got tinny. My room is stark, clinical. The headboard is made from a form of plastic; the bath is plastic. There’s nothing on the walls except a print of a street in Dorking. There’s a picture light with no picture.

Al-fesco option: The Inspector describes the hotel's vine-side patio as 'attractive'

Al-fesco option: The Inspector describes the hotel’s vine-side patio as ‘attractive’

Denbies is the biggest winery in the UK, with 260 acres of vines

Denbies is the biggest winery in the UK, with 260 acres of vines

Dinner is served in the conservatory of the farmhouse, and the Inspector described the food as 'fresh and wholesome'

Dinner is served in the conservatory of the farmhouse, and the Inspector described the food as ‘fresh and wholesome’

TRAVEL FACTS

Denbies Vineyard Hotel is located at London Road, Dorking, Surrey, RH5 6AA. B&B Doubles start from £165. For more information call 01306 876777 or visit denbies.co.uk. 

Rating:

Dinner and breakfast is served in the conservatory of the farmhouse, a light and airy space which spills out on to an attractive patio.

Along with the menu, I’m handed some tasting notes about the wines and go for the Bacchus 2018, described as ‘fresh and full, with flavours of melon and lime and a crisp dry finish’.

‘But could I also try a little of the Flint Valley?’ I ask.

‘Of course you can,’ says the restaurant manager.

Turns out that the Bacchus is heavy-going and I can’t find its ‘crisp dry finish’. But the Flint Valley is excellent.

‘Could I change the Bacchus for the Flint Valley?’

‘Of course you can.’

The menu is simple; the food fresh and wholesome, although some people might wish for red meat rather than just chicken or fish.

In the morning, there’s time to check out some other Denbies diversions: a yoga and Pilates room, farm shop, plant centre, brewery, take-away cafe, and the ‘vineyard train’ is stationed ready for its first tour of the day.

There’s a lot going on at Denbies and the reputation of its wines is growing. But as a place to stay, it still needs some fermentation.

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