Arriving at The Foaling Box at Bethnal&Bec luxury self-catering studios, my partner’s first reaction was: ‘Wow? Can we stay here for a week?’
Sadly we were there just for the night, but we instantly felt at home in this fun, quirky and welcoming hideaway, tucked away down a short drive in the village of Cottered near Stevenage in Hertfordshire.
Arriving at Bethnal&Bec
We’d been sent the code to the key box so were able to let ourselves in when we arrived, making it feel even more like our own secret place for the night, and were instantly intrigued by the colourful design of this converted stable, where the mares used to give birth (hence the name, The Foaling Box). There was an open-plan kitchen area, with a bright red Smeg fridge which I instantly wanted in my own home, and a reclaimed wooden breakfast island, on which was the Breakfast Box and a selection of drinks, some of which were complimentary.
The kitchen itself was well-stocked with a microwave, toaster, cooker, induction hob, hot water tap and coffee maker, while the high ceilings, arty tile backdrop and plants dotted around meant it was the opposite of an anonymous hotel stay.
Everything you might want to eat or drink has been thought of by the owners Chris and Vicky: the breakfast box contained muffins, granola, tea, jam, eggs and a tin of beans while the fridge contained bacon, fresh milk and orange juice as well as a loads of frozen ready meals, soft drinks and alcohol at extra cost. There’s also a well-stocked honesty dresser, which had every thing from posh popcorn, fudge, bath bombs, face masks, gin and even dog treats.
An adults-only getaway
This isn’t just a practical place to stay for the night though, but one which is set up to be fun as well – the perfect chance for adults to get away from the stresses of work and family life and spend time hanging out together. So there’s a record player with a large selection of vinyl ranging from classics to modern, tonnes of books and board games including Connect 4, Monopoly and Scrabble and, one of the highlights of the stay for me, a classic 80s retro games table with more than 1,000 games – hello Pac Man, Super Mario and Track and Field Olympics!
While I indulged in the games of my youth, Stephen had been rather more practical, lighting the ingenious fire, which you could either tuck away in the wall or swing out into the room for more heat and smokiness and best of all, running the outdoor hot tub.
It takes a while to fill up as it’s pretty large, but as you’re not overlooked by anyone or anything except for wildflower meadows, it’s the perfect chance to have a super-romantic night under the stars while remaining toasty and warm, whatever the weather.
The bedroom and bathroom at Bethnal&Bec
The bedroom is another nod to its adult-only guest policy; the sliding doors opened to reveal a superking bed with Egyptian cotton sheets, and a couple of jaunty hats proclaiming ‘Horse’ and ‘Play’. If you’re stuck for something to do in bed then there’s a massive projector and screen which comes down from the door frame for the perfect cinema night, and the Smart TV is set up with Netflix, iPlayer and Amazon Prime (the remote controls are in the bedside table).
Just off the bedroom is a lovely tiled bathroom with roll-top bath (saved from a skip!), a large walk-in shower and separate loo. Vicky, who designed the whole look and feel of The Foaling Box, certainly has a great eye for interior design, with colourful tiles and house plants everything giving it a unique, stylish feel without ever being too cluttered. There are lots of fluffy towels, robes and slippers so once you’ve locked the door behind you for the night, it feels like your own private play den.
A night at Bethnal&Bec luxury lodge
Having come straight from work, we nipped to the local Sainsbury’s just a few minute’s drive away to stock up on dinner, but if you don’t want to have the bother, then Bethnal&Bec will happily provide you will all sorts of food options to be selected during the booking process (the breakfast pack is included in your booking). There’s a BBQ pack combo, pizza, steak, gourmet cheese and charcuterie boxes and even ingenious add-ons such as in-house Rioja wine tasting, complete with wine and a tasting video and handbook.
Rather impressively, 95 per cent of all fixtures, fittings and furniture are second-hand, recycled or repurposed and come from local businesses and/or sustainable suppliers – there’s lots of information about how Chris and Vicky sourced everything, including rescuing items out of skips or house clearances. The roll-top bath, for example, was saved from a skip, the kitchen island was from a school clearance and the lovely mattress was from John Lewis Seconds and destined for landfill if not sold.
There’s a clear effort to reduce waste, with instructions about what to recycle, compost and where to put everything. In fact, there’s a lot of information everywhere about how everything works, from the induction hob to the TV, and Chris had kindly sent some videos showing how various taps and buttons on the hot tub worked.
Had it not been for the need to eat, we might never have left the hot tub, and that certainly gave the stay a lift above a standard hotel room for the night. There’s also a barbecue for those summer nights – we were treated to a perfect Autumn sunset – and if the weather turned rainy, it would only have made the stay even more romantic, tucked up in our bolthole for the night.
Breakfast at Bethnal&Bec
We both slept soundly on the vast superking bed with its lovely posh sheets and pillows, and eschewed the indoor bath for the outdoor whirlpool bath for a morning dip. Breakfast was delicious – the muffins and bacon were particularly good – and as we didn’t have to head off immediately we could take advantage of the fast free wifi and get a morning’s work done in thoroughly pleasant surroundings. We finally, reluctantly checked out… but not before a final game or two on the retro games machine.
Information and to book Bethnal&Bec
There are three luxury self-catering studios at Bethnal&Bec: Bethnal, Bec and The Foaling Box. Stay from £200 per night. Bethnal and Bec are dog-friendly. There are discounts for NHS, Bluelight card holders and those with a cancer diagnosis.
If you like reviews of places to stay in the Home Counties, then check out: Hartwell House nr Aylesbury, Bucks, a stay with the Downton factor; A VIP spa stay at Sopwell House, St Albans; A surprise Shepherd’s Hut stay at The Merry Harriers, Surrey; A stay fit for the England rugby team at Pennyhill Park, Surrey;
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