Psst! We've got gossip so hot it should come with a fire extinguisher. Approach with caution, my peeps.
Green means go for The Grotto
It’s finally got the green light! The Grotto Estate near Pangbourne will go from crumbling wreck to a luxury country crash pad and members’ club. SUSD.London – the guys behind London’s super-swanky Devonshire Club and Curtain – have finally been granted planning permission and are about to spank a serious amount of wedge (£32million, no less) on the project.
With these guys it’s all about the detail, so what can you expect? For starters there will be 53 rooms to dive into, a restaurant, bars, six new two-bedroom lodges, tennis courts, the boathouse will be reinstated, a 20th century studio building will be replaced by a two-storey spa and gym with outdoor pool and a ‘coach house’ extension will be built, linking the original building by a glazed walkway, to accommodate 19 of the guest rooms. Form an orderly queue and sharpen you elbows, it’ll be the most sought-after membership card in the county.
We are the Champions
If you need green goddess inspo look no further than Jo Gilder, of Gilded Hair Wokingham (read my interview with her here), she’s just been crowned a Plastic Free Champion by Plastic Free Crowthorne – a community group set up by Georgie Morris, backed by marine conservation charity Surfers Against Sewage. Not any easy ask in the hair industry. If you’re as obsessed as I am with Kevin Murphy products, you can now get refills at Gilded Hair and 15% off, plus they’ve reduced the amount of water they use and have a little eco shop in th salon selling bamboo toothbrushes and other bits and bobs.
It would appear we’re becoming a county of eco warrior princesses, because Crowthorne is also the first Berkshire town to be awarded Plastic Free Community status for its efforts reduce single-use plastics.
But first coffee
Whether you fancy a cuppa, cake (always) or a quick bite to eat that’s substantially healthier than the drive-thru Maccies (hit me up with my 5-a-day), then head into Newbury. Cool cafes have been popping up all over the place. The wonderful Emma Benson has just opened her cool eatery Mrs B’s Kitchen Cafe on Faraday Road. With a rep as a high end caterer, she’s bringing her simple, delicious home cooking to the good peeps off West Berks so we enjoy her food every single day and not just on special occasions.
The foodie fun doesn’t stop there, slap bang in Newbury centre Colline’s Kitchen. You’ll find this perky pitstop at the Living Saucha yoga studio in the Town Hall, Friday-Sunday, serving breakfast, light lunches, cakes and more. Colline is an absolute joy – with a passion for good food. Happy to indulge, Colline. She’s an accountant by trade so at least you know you’ll get the right change.
With V-Day hurtling towards us tomorrow (expectations are low in the Muddy household), get yourself down to Newbury’s spinky spanky concept flower shop, Draco Floristry. It sells everything you might need to make someone happy or relieve your guilt (no judgement here) from beautiful blooms that would make Kimmy K weep, alongside French wines from small vineyards and a gorgeous range of scented candles. Pop in and meet owner Shakirah Whyte, she trained the London Flower School and has several WSET wine qualifications under her belt. Basically she knows her stuff and her shop is like a glam boudoir of happiness – green velvet chaise, House of Hackney wallpaper, surrounded by flowers and wine.
Mollie’s Motel and Diner, Buckland
The American Dream is alive and well and living in Oxfordshire! Soho House has just opened a 1950s inspired motel and diner on the A420 near Faringdon. Along with the 79 bedrooms and diner, there’s a drive-thru and general store, all impeccably designed – and at only £50 a night, this is seriously worth going on a road trip for. The diner serves up US classics – burgers, mac & cheese, rotisserie chicken, all-day breakfast – plus some veggie options for that LA lifestyle vibe.
Maitre Choux, Bicester Village
Maitre Choux prides itself on being the first and only choux pastry specialist patisserie in the world. Its South Ken store has a three Michelin-starred chef at the helm who creates unique modern French patisseries with seasonal twists. Well, lucky old us – it’s first location outside London is opening in Bicester Village soon. They look too pretty to eat, don’t they? Nope, pass them over, I’ll take one for the team.