Stepping out onto the patio of the Birch Selsdon you could be forgiven for thinking you were on a lush and expansive estate in the Great British countryside.
You wouldn’t be completely wrong, as acres of green space (the whole site spans 200 acres) lie before you. But go back the way you came, past reception, and down the long drive, you’ll find the busy streets of Croydon and London beyond that.
All of this is to say that a stay at the Birch’s Selsdon location feels like an escape to the country, while also keeping you close to city life.
At the time of Attitude’s visit in July 2023, the Selsdon branch of the Birch is only 6 weeks old. Birch as a brand emerged out of the pandemic with an emphasis on nature and the outdoors. Birch’s only other location currently is Chestnut on the outskirts of North London.
Based out of Selsdon Park Hall, the building was first converted into a hotel in 1924 and ran as such until it shut during the pandemic. It’s now home to London’s biggest rewilding project, executed under designer, maker, and environmentalist Sebastian Cox.
The aim is to let nature do its thing and establish a diverse range of habitats to grow here in meadows, grasses, and woodland.
The emphasis on the environment and sustainability runs through most of the Birch Selsdon as well. As much food as possible is foraged and farmed from the 200-acre site and all the bedside tables are made from already felled wood in the grounds.
Speaking of the rooms, Birch Selsdon offers 181 of them with an additional family wing offering larger groups a chance to stay together in a fairly self-contained complex.
Rooms are plenty spacious with yellow and sandy coloured walls contrasting nicely with the greys and rich browns of the minimalist and modern fixtures and fittings. Beds are firm yet comfy with pillows that are a delight to sink into.
The ensuite bathrooms feature everything you need in a simple set-up: toilet, sink, and shower/bath. It’s all you need but the design is constrained slightly by the space leaving the sink basically at one end of the bath. Word of warning, the shower screen doesn’t meet the top of the bath meaning you will likely need to mop up some water.
For the rest of the hotel, the interiors are a mash-up of old heritage construction and modern influences, mostly through decor and furniture. Such mashups are not always successful but it feels like it works here and brings new life to a vintage building.
When it comes to eating establishments you’re spoiled for choice at Birch Selsdon. Michelin-starred Lee Westcott leads things from the signature restaurant, Elodie. This restaurant is for guests only and is also adults only, giving it a welcome sense of calm as you dine.
The vibes are chilled. The aesthetic is darker and richer, with more luxurious feeling fabrics and finishes such as the velvety corner seat I choose facing out over the rewilding lawns. Settled with a complimentary glass of fizz the eight-course tasting menu begins taking guests on a journey exploring the best flavours of and produce of the British Isles. From delightfully buttery potato chips and warm IPA sourdough served with Marmite butter (surprisingly tasty given I don’t like Marmite!) to tender lamb courses and comforting strawberry-centred puddings, the menu at Elodie is a carefully constructed and superbly executed experience from beginning to end.
Accompanying all of this is a fabulous wine-pairing menu. Wines go from light, fresh, and fruity notes of pear, and apple to darker, richer tastes of redcurrants and blackberries as well as hints of tobacco and leather.
The staff are friendly and approachable, which at one point leads to a discussion about Elodie’s upcoming range of cocktails, which will feature at least one foraged element in each cocktail. Everything is about bringing fine dining methodologies to Croydon and making them accessible.
My conversations lead to a sneak peak at one cocktail – the Fig highball made using fig leaves from the land which have been distilled into a cordial and techniqued to keep the flavour. Tequila is added but the combination of elements takes away some of the sharpness of the spirit making it dangerously drinkable.
Apart from Elodie, there is all-day dining at Vervain with the adults-only Angelica bar and the Meadow bar providing additional mature social spaces.
The next morning begins with a laid-back start at Vervain for breakfast with similarly mellow vibes to Elodie. Opting for a seat overlooking out over the lawns and woodland I take in the calming sounds of light rain outside as staff see to me quickly. Within minutes of coming down I have a pot of tea, an orange juice before me followed shortly after by eggs benedict. The muffin is clearly homemade and scrumptiously doughy, the salmon mature and poached egg cooked to perfection with just the right amount of runniness to the yolk.
In anticipation of the 11am HIIT workout I have scheduled I wolf everything down feeling as if I’m ready for what’s to come. The class, Superstar Saturday, is 50 minutes of non-stop (as much as possible) action as several of us push, pull, leap, and generally sweat through 4 rounds of 12 exercises. Tiring yes, but an energising start to the weekend. The class takes place in the spacious and clean hotel gym, accessible to local residents, and which also comes with fully equipped spin and yoga studios as well as a soon-to-open spa centre. The outdoor heated pool is also due to open imminently.
The hotel also offers a range of activities beyond exercise. There’s a pottery studio, foraging tours, first bathing, beekeeping, and much, much more.
All in all, Birch Selsdon makes for a fantastic getaway. Located right on the edge of Croydon and with plenty to see and do you’re sure to have an enjoyable and comfortable stay feeling like you’ve fully escaped city life without having to go too far.
Book your stay here.