We went for the weekend two weeks ago (when Storm St Jude was gearing up) and sadly, due to the appalling weather there are no elegant outfit posts or pictures of me frolicking in the grounds. This is a real shame as the grounds themselves are beautiful; a terraced garden leading down to the river. The garden has works of art in it, and on the river there is a steam barge for parties and some small boats to hire. You can walk to Windsor through some lovely countryside or play pitch-and-putt golf if the weather is good. At night, they place candles around the entrances to add to the Gothic glamour. Sadly, whatever I snapped turned out grey and windswept, so you'll have to make do with ONE rather spooky shot the husband took after dinner. The weather did, however, give us a good chance to sample the food, drink and comfortable bar area.
We went for a deluxe double. These are housed in a modern extension to the original building and are decorated in quite a traditional style (albeit with a large flatscreen TV, WiFi etc') - ours was spacious, with a good sized bathroom. When we booked we were told there was a minibar in the room, so my only gripe would be that there wasn't one! The rooms are well heated and there is also air conditioning - all in all I would say it's a comfortable room but not quite as characterful as the main building. There are some suites in the original house and if you want that feeling of romance and history, you could book one of those.
The bar consists of several rooms on the ground floor; they are all decorated wonderfully and - apart from the main bar which feels like a warm, panelled upmarket hotel bar - give the impression of visiting a fine English home like Downton Abbey! The largest room is the conservatory area, very popular for afternoon tea it seemed, and all pastels, fine china and champagne. The library has real books and board games for rainy day (thankfully) and the sitting room is filled with comfortable armchairs and smaller tables around a grand fireplace. Quiet mood music is piped through and fresh, natural decorations (gourd and pumpkin themed when we went - for halloween) are used to give a sense of season. All the rooms have fantastic views over the grounds.
As well as afternoon tea, they do serve a range of beers, wines, fine spirits and cocktails. We tried some of their cocktails; my Winter Pimms was excellent, his Martini was OK but not the most amazing ever. If you are a wine buff and want a longer wine list than is available at the bar (it specialises in champagne and has limited reds) they are more than happy to bring you the restaurant wine list, which is a nice touch.
On the night we went, the restaurant was fully booked so do call ahead if you want to dine in the restaurant. It serves classic fine dining. We had actually decided to go for their relaxed dining option (i.e. very posh bar food!) because the menu seemed more varied and there was a great selection of seafood dishes. A word of warning though: unlike some upmarket 'snacking' menus, their portions are hearty and it's easy to over order! I went for a pint of prawns (yum!) and the pressed ham hock (really nice, superb pickle ... enormous portion which I could have had as a main on its own). Himself enjoyed half a dozen oysters and super-posh Welsh Rarebit with chips. And what was left of my ham! I would heartily recommend their relaxed dining, it is special-occasion-suitable and the ambiance of the bar makes it unique.
We were in the restaurant itself for the breakfast (a hot buffet with full English, toast, fruit, yoghurt and hams/cheeses for a continental choice) - not as attractive as the bar area, but classic and classy. The breakfast was hot and well prepared, especially considering it was a buffet.
Throughout our stay, staff were polite and actively friendly. There were nice touches in the decor and I could see the hotel catered to all visitors, businesses, couples and families.
Overall, for a weekend away in Windsor with a touch of luxury, I wouldn't hesitate to book the Oakley Court again; not so much for an 'out and about' trip (a lot of the value of the relatively expensive stay lies in using the grounds and facilities to their full potential) but for a really relaxing break.
Click here for the Oakley Court's website.
I booked and paid for this hotel myself as an anniversary gift and only decided to review it afterwards... all opinions are my own!