Nestled in the leafy Hertfordshire countryside resides the history-steeped Brocket Hall – known for its extravagant lodgings, rambling green grounds, exquisite fine dining and slightly scandalous past…
In the 1830’s, this grade 1 listed building was home to William Lamb, also known as Lord Melbourne, our Prime Minister from 1835–41 – and much adored by Queen Victoria who was a regular visitor to the estate.
At the advice of his meddling mother, Mr Lamb married Lady Caroline Ponsonby, who later rather naughtily partook in a scandalous affair with the amorous poet Lord Byron – news which shocked the nation and left Lord Melbourne an embarrassed wreck.
Discretion was not one of Lady Caroline’s strong points. She regularly flaunted her obsession with her famous poet to the prying eyes of high society and was quite the flamboyant exhibitionist. It is believed that on one of Byron’s birthdays she hosted a state banquet where she served herself naked from a massive soup tureen. She was also known to dress up in a page boy’s outfit for sneaky late night visits to Byron’s room. When the lusty poet eventually dumped her, Caroline built a bonfire in the grounds to burn all his gifts, topped with an effigy of him. Classy.
Lady Caroline’s final days were a hazy mess of alcohol and opium abuse and some believe her mishevious spirit still haunts the elegant corridors of the hall to this very day.
Today, oodles of spooky shenanigan-loving folk flock to Brocket Hall for a cozy weekend break hoping to spot a cheeky ghost or two. I, on the other hand visited for the fabulous interiors and the food at Auberge du Lac.
Residing in Brocket Hall’s former hunting lodge, this five star restaurant boasts idyllic views over the lake and the breathtaking 543 acre country estate. The food is also bordering on otherworldly. The recollection of my eight course tasting menu is somewhat hazy due to the copious amounts of wine exquisitely paired with each course, yet I do recall a mini party in my mouth with every dish. My favourites had to be the heritage beetroot with goats curd, pan fried John Dory with black garlic and sea fennel, the venison with truffled potatoes and turnip and the silky smooth miso caramel mousse, served with kinako shortbread, passionfruit jam and granita.
Later, as I flopped onto the antique bed in my regally decorated bedroom, any thoughts of the scandalous spirit of Lady Caroline visiting me throughout the night left my mind as my food coma lulled me into a deep sleep.
The ghost spotting can wait…