WHAT’S ON OFFER
A dedicated training and conference venue with over 55 meeting rooms, providing space for between 2 and 275 delegates. Want a touch of class? Check out Northcote House for olde-worlde charm and superb wedding and private dining options
WHY THEY ARE SPECIAL
They understand trainers and meeting organisers, knowing what they want often before they’ve even realised themselves
Think training courses, meetings and events, think De Vere Venues Sunningdale Park. One of those few venues that totally understands the specific and individual needs of trainers and conference organisers. A plethora of well-equipped meeting rooms, you’ll never go short of a flip chart, marker pen or electronic white board. If Wi-Fi connections are critical to the success of your event, Sunningdale boasts one of the most robust systems anywhere in the UK and helpful staff who actually know how it all works! The food served in the Steam Bake and Grill Restaurant is excellent. No more curled up, bland tasting sandwiches and with the added bonus that delegates can explore 65 acres of landscaped gardens, to burn off all those extra calories.
THE BIGGER PICTURE
Superb Service @ Sunny Sunners
“Never judge a book by its cover”. I could hear the wise words of Dougie Pearson my English Teacher ringing in my ears as I drove into the unattractive entrance of Sunningdale Park. All I could see was car parking spaces, one and two story “accommodation blocks” and a reception area that from the outside looked like an entrance to a 1970s local government office. Not selling this am I? BUT first impressions can sometimes be completely deceptive and once through those automatic front doors, what you have is a brilliantly run training and meeting venue which in terms of functionality and service delivery is as good as anything you’ll find anywhere in the UK.
SO NEAR… BY PLANE, TRAIN OR CAR
Just 20 minutes earlier I’d been passing Terminal 5. A short drive along the A30, a right turn in the small town of Sunningdale and I had arrived. Certainly in terms of accessibility you really can’t get better in this part of the south-east with both the M3 and M4 neatly converging on the western sections of the M25. I could have elected to travel the 51 minutes out of London Waterloo by train, but with ample car parking the car won the day. After all, it wasn’t as if I was an international delegate flying into Heathrow Airport for a meeting, when a short and inexpensive taxi journey would have done the trick.
MARKER PENS THAT WORK
An amusing large scale cartoon style map of the campus style grounds, greets all delegates in the venues reception area. And with your own personal copy, it’s really very easy to make your way along the clearly marked paths to the main Conference and Meeting area, called Evelyn Sharpe. Straight away you know you are in a training, rather than hotel environment. Conference helpers are immediately on hand and are more than willing to carry your bags of course materials even before you’ve had time to ask for assistance. The helpfulness and friendliness continues as you’re directed to your meeting room and then taken through the many in-house services included in the Day Delegate or 24 Hour Room Rate. Laptops are quickly hooked up to digital projectors and flip charts are in plentiful supply with no charge for more paper! All marker pens actually work, the air conditioning is controllable and delegate chairs are surprisingly comfortable. Oh yes and did I mention the sweets which are plentiful and guaranteed to get you through the day!
Sunningdale Park has a total of 59 dedicated meeting and training rooms and they were busy! Stream training courses for a multi-national were being held over three days. A large one-day conference for 130 delegates cabaret style, whilst elsewhere an academic institution was hard at work, making great use of the facilities and plastering walls with hundreds of brightly coloured post-it notes. It’s this diversity of client and event type that says a lot about this venue. Indeed it seems what-ever you throw at the Conference Team in terms of last minute technical request, change of course timings or a request to hold a BBQ that night because the sun’s come out, the staff just take it all in their stride. Fair play to seasoned professionals like Peter and his team who just keep on delivering year in, year out.
FOOD GLORIOUS FOOD
But no review of Sunningdale Park could ever be complete without mentioning the highly acclaimed Steam Bake and Grill Restaurant and the very popular energy stations! Indeed, the smell of freshly, ground bean coffee is never far away! Most trainers and conference organisers like the flexibility of breaking when they want and the good news is that with strategically placed coffee areas, groups can break when they want, pop out of their meeting rooms and help themselves to free flowing cappuccinos, a variety of teas and chilled mineral water. For those who have skipped breakfast there’s a great selection of fresh fruit and porridge available and the wafting smell of home-made cakes, biscuits and even popcorn guarantees energy levels will always be kept high. All this and we’ve not even got to lunch time, so leave some room would be my advice before heading over to the Steam Bake and Grill Restaurant. SBG as it’s fondly known is a great concept where not surprisingly food is either steamed, baked or grilled – healthy cooking is a real focus. Everything is freshly prepared and there is real effort displayed by the chef and his team to prepare a range of dishes that will not make delegates fall asleep in the early afternoon. Stodge is not on the menu. What is, is a varied selection of salads, meat and fish dishes, well presented and plenty of it. All dietary requirements are catered for. But if you’re in a hurry and soup and a roll is more your style, just Grab ‘n’ Go – but trust me, you will miss out!
WANDER AND DISCOVER!
If delegates are feeling guilty after their SBG excesses, they can soon burn off a few calories by walking around the 79 acres of Capability Brown styled landscaped gardens. Terrace and Victorian rockeries overlook beautiful water features. Wander round the woodland walk in spring and see the spectacular display of rhododendrons and azaleas. And then just as you start to head back, you see raised above the treeline Northcote House, a beautifully refurbished white Neo-Georgian mansion. Suddenly the “architecturally challenged” buildings that house the 272 bedrooms and much of the meeting space is long since forgotten. A peak inside further reveals a stunning hall, sweeping staircase and a number of function rooms ideal for a private dinner, wedding or a classy backdrop for a senior management team away day. Quality!!
Sunningdale Park clearly has much going for it. Great meeting space, super food, fantastic staff and beautiful grounds. The only real area for improvement are the bedrooms, many of which are small “study” type rooms. The majority of the accommodation is housed in “blocks” around the estate and can be described as clean and functional rather than stylish or romantic. They are perfectly fine for a two or three day overnight training course and in fairness, all the facilities that you would expect are there and the Wi-Fi again is excellent. I guess it’s all about managing expectations and it is true to say that the many positives of this venue far outweigh the shortcomings of the bedroom stock.
Sunningdale Park. Look beyond the outer cover and discover a novel venue where action speaks louder than words. But act quickly, as others reading this review may decide to book before you!