November/December 2006, pages 187-188
When associate travel editor Amanda Statham's friend Jen got engaged, it was time to organise a hen night to remember.
'I've been friends with Jen since she walked into my room during freshers' week at Newcastle University. Undeterred by the jet-black hair, lashings of eyeliner, nose ring and para-boots, I was drawn to her great sense of humour and ability to drink a lot of alcohol - the fuel for may of our adventures!
Hairdresser, KellyFast-forward 13 years and gone are the piercings and massive boots and Jen is engaged to Dave, her boyfriend of five years, and about to be married. The Hull-based hen emailed me to say she wanted to spend one of her last nights out as a single girl in London, so I immediately got on the case and started to look around for inspiration.
As luck would have it, finding the perfect place didn't take long. Durley House, a beautiful suite-only hotel on Sloane Street in Knightsbridge, had recently started to do hen parties so I made a call and arranged a meeting with hotel manager Stella Amor. After a fun afternoon nibbling on homemade biscuits and sipping tea, together we hatched a plan that would make Jen the happiest hen around. Here's how the weekend unfurled...
Saturday, 13 August
11am Burn a 'Jen's Hen Night' CD full of cheesy tunes that I know she'll love and loathe in equal measure, pack for the night and then head into central London to buy the last few bits and pieces. Make a beeline for Ann Summers on Oxford Street and get momentarily confused in the hen night section. Would Jen really appreciate fluffy handcuffs and willy-shaped straws? Decide against them and plump instead for the more conservative hen night kit, complete with silver wand, veil and forfeits.
1pm Arrive at the hotel and head up to one of our three designated suites. I'm blown away by what the staff have done. There are Girls Night Out and L-plate balloons everywhere, a congratulations banner, fluffy deely-boppers and a hen night kit on the mantelpiece. It all looks fantastic.
2pm The other hens start arriving and there are lots of oohhhs and ahhhs when they look around the rooms. Most of them have travelled a long way - Caroline all the way from Ireland - so the champagne is cracked open and we sit around and catch up while the hair and make up team set up.
2.30pm After changing into the fluffy white robes which have been laid out for us, we take it in turns to have our hair and make-up done. There's also a masseur who gives each of us a 10-minute Thai massage, which leaves us feeling incredibly relaxed. The champagne flows continually, the cheesy tunes are turned up on the stereo and chatter and laughter fills the air. It's all going to plan so far.
5pm All that hard work has left us hungry, so when waitresses appear with a delicious assortment of canaps on silver trays it's very welcome. We sit around and chomp our way through delicious bite-sized tomato and mozzarella on sticks and chilli prawns in filo pastry.
6pm Trying hard not to smudge our new smoky eye make-up and dewy blusher we change into our glad rags. The usual debate about what to wear takes place but over an hour later we're finally ready to hit the town. Jen's pretty outfit is enhanced with the addition of the fluffy deely-boppers and a hen night backpack full of party poppers and glow sticks.
7.30pm Our chauffeur for the night picks us up at the door of Durley House. As there's a slight drizzle we're escorted the short distance to the car by the hotel staff holding umbrellas - we all sigh, wishing that nights out could always be this glam!
8pm Arrive en masse at the Astor Bar & Grill, a swanky restaurant just off Piccadilly Circus. We treat ourselves to some rounds of drinks before sitting down to eat. Ever watchful of our waistlines, we decide against starters and opt instead to get main courses with lots of additional dishes such as mashed corn, chips and green beans. Everyone declares their dish to be delicious. Jen, who's a vegetarian, eats a yummy pumpkin lasagne, a great stomach-liner for the alcohol to come. After our meal we head to Dick's Bar next door where the music is louder and the atmosphere more nightclub than restaurant. The blow sticks come out and everyone enjoys some great gossip and cocktails.
1am Jen wants to head back to our luxurious hotel suite rather than go to Chinatown, a posh members-only nightclub that Durley House had got us entry to. We all pile into cabs (our chauffeur is caught up in a jam) and head home. When we walk in to the hotel it's stunning. Candles line the fireplace; there are huge bowls of Maltesers, popcorn and M&Ms, champagne on ice and Bridget Jone's Diary and Bridget Jones The Edge Of Reason DVDs to watch. We got changed into our comfy pyjamas, take off our make-up and sit around chatting, sipping champagne and tucking to the sweet treats.
3am Our luxurious double beds are calling us. Too tired to climb the stairs we hop into the hotel's tiny lift to take us to our sumptuous suites. Crash out dreaming of chocolates and Hugh Grant.
Sunday, 14 August
10.30am A wake-up call gently reminds us that we've ordered breakfast for 11am. Realise that despite all the empty champagne bottles and insisting I hadn't drunk that much, I clearly had, and have to take painkillers. Power showers help to wake us all up and kick-start the day again.
11am We all sit down to breakfast in our main suite. The cooked breakfast is the perfect cure for our hangovers and the staff don't even raise an eyebrow when we ask for ketchup!
12pm We're allowed a late check-out of 3pm and, as it's raining, we cosy up on the over-stuffed sofas to watch Bridget Jones The Edge of Reason and scoff the rest of the sweets from last night.
3.30pm Check out. As we wander out into Sloane Street, the sun starts to shine - the perfect end to the perfect hen weekend!
Durley House, 115 Sloane Street, London SW1 (020 7235 5537, durleyhouse.com).
Prices from Â£525 for a two-bedroom suite.
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