Croydon has been awash with excitement since Birch opened in Selsdon.
Known as Selsdon Park Hotel for many generations, this new incarnation promises something very different.
A members’ club lies at its heart but everyone is welcome to work, rest and play.
Member or not, the staff are friendly, welcoming and make you feel as if you’ve joined a club.
A once-glorious golf course that attracted international visitors was left to re-wild, creating a natural environment that’s brilliant for families.
The grounds provide a great opportunity to let little ones run around.
There are giant versions of games, including chess, dotted around, hammocks and play equipment.
The hotel terrace leads on to what is now parkland, where flowers grow and species long forgotten have re-emerged.
Walk for 25 minutes to the extremity of the land and you’ll see livestock used to stock the kitchens of two restaurants – Vervain and fine dining option, Elodi.
Birch (Selsdon) is family-focused – at least that’s how it’s sold – but more of which later.
Birch (Selsdon) ethos is to disconnect with every day city life and re-connect with nature.
Activities include foraging, guided walks at dusk, sound baths, reiki, and plenty of outdoor activities for kids.
Perhaps less relevant in the colder months – there’s an outdoor pool.
Birch (Selsdon) calls it a lido. I’m unsure what separates a swimming pool from a lido but there you go.
Vervain is a family focused restaurant, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. An early dinner booking is advised.
My family arrived at 5pm and watched as families flooded in to feed their starving young.
The menu is approachable and it has the measure of kids’ palates spot on.
Steaming bowls of pasta with home-made pasta sauce made their way from the kitchen and were gratefully received, including at our table.
Little one refuses to eat this at home but declared this the best pasta she’d ever had.
The rooms are desirable and a lot of work has clearly been done to lighten the shade and tone of the place, doing away with the dark wood of its former existence.
The view at Birch (Selsdon) is that bedrooms are for relaxing and sleeping in so there’s no TV.
Upon arrival, I praised this idea. However, when I awoke at 11pm to booming base of the DJ playing from the terrace below our room, I was confused.
Sleep is surely the cornerstone of wellness. I was kept awake until gone midnight, owing to a party.
It would seem that Birch (Selsdon) is perhaps trying to be all things to all things to all people.
To my mind families and the party crowd don’t sit in the same space.
It is a shame because there was so much I liked about Birch (Selsdon) and I hope these are teething problems.
Picture: The lido at Birch (Selsdon) Picture: Birch
Michelin-starred chef Angela Hartnett has created a limited editions Sicillian-inspired pesto with Belazu.
RRP – £3.19. Available from Ocado and Sainsbury.
The pesto’s complex flavour profile is underpinned by Sicily’s North African influence, that came from Arabic rule and now has a strong impact on its cuisine.
Featuring saffron, capers and raisins, which are all staple ingredients in many of Sicily’s hero dishes, the recipe also includes tomatoes, pine kernels and caramelised onions which gives the pesto a well-rounded sweetness followed by a salty finish from the capers.
Belazu is popular for production of chef-grade ingredients and the place to start if you want to cook like the professionals.
Angela’s top tips:
Spreading the Sicilian-inspired pesto over grilled fish. It’s particularly good with Seabass or Monkfish. Use it as a finisher in a Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto.
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