By Louisa Walters
Fans of Bridgerton will be well-versed in the beauty of Bath as shown on screen, but there is plenty else to admire. There has been a profusion of new openings in the city to tempt even the most jaded of foodies and one of them happens to be in the same building as an exciting new hotel. Obviously I packed my bags faster than you could say Lady Whistledown.
Hotel Indigo Bath is housed in one of those beautiful, honey-coloured Georgian terraces, which glow even if the sun isn’t shining. It’s an 18th century Grade 1 listed building that once played host to the likes of Sir Walter Scott and William Wilberforce. The essence of this hotel, as with all Indigos, is modern design with quirky touches and intimate service; it scores highly on all.
Ours was a Garden Room, which is, as the name implies, based at the back of the hotel and decorated in a bright, fresh colour scheme. A comfy Hypnos bed with luxury Egyptian cotton linen, a gleaming and very well-lit bathroom, a Nespresso coffee machine, high-speed Wi-Fi and a huge TV mean that I’d have been very happy to stay put. But Bath awaited and a visit to the Canaletto exhibition at The Holburne Museum (whose fascia was used as Lady Danbury’s home in Bridgerton) is a must, followed by a walk around the beautiful Sydney Pleasure Gardens.
When in Bath… one must bathe, so I made time to do that in the fabulous freestanding bath before getting dressed up to walk through the hotel into The Elder; like walking through that famous literary wardrobe, it was like entering another world. We left behind the quirky décor and jewel tones of the hotel for a truly British establishment. Sage green walls, dark wooden floor and tables, paintings of hunting scenes, and deer heads complete with antlers combine to make a smart, stylish restaurant. It’s also very intimate, as it is configured as a series of rooms leading off from the spectacular bar where we had drinks.
The restaurant is not owned by the hotel – restaurateur Mike Robinson, who co-owns Michelin-starred pub the Harwood Arms in Fulham, and opened The Woodsman restaurant in Stratford upon Avon last year, is behind this new venture.
The menu is small, but I could have happily chosen anything on it. (There are vegetarian and vegan menus available too.) After a pre-appetiser of a very special beef and rosemary broth, we feasted on deer tartare on a crumpet, chalk stream trout with tomatoes, then black bream with peas and lettuce, jersey royals and tartare velouté, and a superb aged sirloin with hash brown and caramel ceps. Desserts were a highlight – cherry jubilee soufflé and a chocolate bar with peanut butter and popcorn. Every dish was carefully explained by our server – I love this touch because very often I’ve forgotten what I ordered by the time it come
I’ve seriously missed going on a city break over the past 18 months. So when theatres reopened and I booked tickets to see a West End show, I had a lightbulb moment – why not combine that with an overnight stay? After all – what better city is there than London?
The Dilly in Piccadilly was formerly Le Meridien and before that The Marriott. It first opened as a hotel in 1908, so you could say it is a grand old dame of London hotels. It has undergone a partial renovation (ask for a renovated room) and is looking absolutely gorgeous. The rooms are spacious and very comfortable and ours overlooked Piccadilly itself – it’s such a thrill to look out of the window and see London coming back to life. Bathrooms are large and well-lit with lux toiletries from local perfumier Floris in Jermyn Street.
The Dilly has one of the largest indoor swimming pools in any London hotel, two squash courts and an enormous gym. It also has its own in-house dance studio, where guests can learn Smooth, Latin and Ballroom from world champions in private or group classes.
There’s a lovely ritual at 6pm every day in the lobby, where a member of staff bangs a ceremonial Edwardian gong to signal the change from day to night. Guests are offered a complimentary locally-sourced beverage to start their evening – mine was a glass of Chapel Down English sparkling wine.
There are dog-friendly rooms, family rooms and lots on offer for kids, including games, books, daily treats, popcorn and milkshakes available in-room. We sampled the Peter Rabbit Afternoon Tea, which is served every afternoon in The Terrace, a light-filled conservatory-style restaurant with a small outdoor seating area that overlooks Piccadilly. Cute smoked salmon pinwheel sandwiches and vegetable garden baguettini are followed by dinky scones and creative pastries – a chocolate flowerpot filed with mousse, a strawberry ganache ‘mushroom’ and a carrot cake with chocolate carrots – all served on beautiful Beatrix Potter china.
After the theatre we took a long walk around Soho, Chinatown and Leicester Square. The streets were alive, and London had its party shoes on! There was something truly magical about walking back to the hotel to bed and waking up there the next morning. The hotel does a perfectly serviceable buffet breakfast, but my advice is to stay room-only and head to The Wolseley up the road for one of the best brunches in town.
Right on top of theatreland, round the corner to London’s best shopping street and walkable to a huge range of restaurants, I cannot think of a better location than The Dilly for a city break.
Rooms at The Dilly start at £233
Blown away in Norfolk
I’ve long wanted to experience the big skies and beautiful beaches of Norfolk, but never found anywhere appealing to stay. And then I heard about The Harper. ‘Here, where land meets sea, so shall quality meet informality,’ said the press release, and I knew I’d finally found the right place.
Located in north Norfolk near Holt and Blakeney, and a short drive from Felbrigg Hall (a must-visit family home with an exquisite and unmissable walled garden), the hotel building was once a glassblowing factory. In homage to that, the design is all about workshop chic with lots of glass, creating light, airy interiors with interesting furniture and art. There are 32 bed rooms and no two are the same. Boutique hotels are famed for offering cosy and comfy rooms but The Harper does things differently; room categories are Big, Bigger and Biggest. All have a superking bed, opulent linens, bespoke Norfolk-made toiletries, super-fast Wi-Fi, a desk (I could happily work from there), an enormous TV and a complimentary mini bar. The staff are young, attractive and incredibly friendly.
My stay started at the spa with a Forte Facial with shoulder and foot massage. This was an hour of pure relaxation, where I felt as though the stresses of the past 18 months were quite literally washed out of my face and body. This set me up nicely for a chillout session in The Den – a cool hideout with deep squishy leather sofas, a pool table, board games and a projector for movie nights. There’s also an Enomatic wine fridge, which offers up samplers of different varieties to try.
The Harper has a ‘drink and dine anywhere’ policy. We had drinks in The Bar, where The Harper cocktail was a delectable fusion of elderflower, Norfolk gin and champagne. We opted to eat dinner in Stanley’s (named after the founder’s grandfather – whose middle name happened to be Harper). This restaurant is delightfully informal with bare brick walls, a vaulted ceiling and a huge central table for larger groups. The compact menu offers up some great dishes, among them smoked mackerel with russet apple relish, gazpacho with saffron croutons, wood-fired sea bass with baby marrow and smoked almonds, and ribeye on the bone for two to share, which came with baby veg, spring greens and the fattest, crispiest, tastiest duck fat chips I have ever had. There is plenty for veggies.
We chose to eat dessert – caramelised crunchy apple tart and cranoffee bumble (banoffee pie meets banana crumble) – in Ivy’s Lounge, named after the owner’s late grandmother. This wonderful room sits at the heart of The Harper within the old foundry. It is an airy, double-height space with a huge wood-burning stove and a beautiful stained-glass window. The room is filled with various seating types and the owner’s collection of Taschen books, which kept me occupied for hours.
Breakfast is also served in Stanley’s and here we tucked into creamy yogurt with berries and granola, and Eggs Harper – hot smoked salmon with poached eggs and hollandaise.
For active people there’s a beautiful indoor pool with hot tub, sauna and steam room, a fleet of bikes to borrow and lots of walking routes (Harper Hikes) to follow. Maybe next time… this time I was happy leafing through another of those Taschen books in The Yard – a sun-drenched outside space under those big Norfolk skies, with a firepit for cooler days.
Rooms at The Harper start at £175
And yet further…
Brigit Grant has divine destinations for those prepared to go
Setting a travel trend rather than following it can be very rewarding, especially if you are first through the door of a new hotel.
Best speed up your visit then to the Asterion Suites & Spa in Pyrgos Psilonerouon the west coast of Crete. Named after the son of the Gods who was born on the island and it’s first King, this is a hotel which spreads the royal vibes to its guests. Nestled on a beach overlooking the Aegean Sea and Saint Theodore Island’s nature reserve, this hotel has the sort of suites families long for as they sleep up to four and, in the case of the Ocean Suite, enjoys all the comforts and there is a swim-up pool, so there is no reason to leave your room for a dip and the Kingdom Suite is 52 square-metres of laid-back comfort and big enough to host five. You may not want to take everyone with you, but there is a spa for escape and among other eateries the Cretan à la carte restaurant 35°, where the chefs prepare dishes which tell the story of the island. Think Greek Jackanory with delicious food and wine.
Built and designed in the Sixties by Greece’s favourite architect, Aris Constantinides, the Mykonos Theoxenia has always offered five-star hospitality on the seafront of the island’s Little Venice neighbourhood close to the iconic Kato Mili windmills. Preserving the historic character of the property has always been a priority and a refurbishment is scheduled for next year, so it makes sense to see it now, then revisit for the changes. Who wouldn’t want to go back to Mykonos?
Get a little heimishe in the hills of Bouliqueme at Casa De Mondo in the Algarve. Just 25 minutes from Faro airport, the House of the World is a rustic property for travellers with a taste for the eclectic, as that is how the house and three cottages are decorated – each with its own bathroom and small kitchen. Available for events and celebrations, while we are all stupid dubious about which destination to head for, it helps to know that Casa de Mondo is vigilant about sanitising and to be able to relax in beautiful surroundings with caring Jewish hosts makes it a win-win.
The Santikos Collection sounds like an art assemblage that might have belonged to the late shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. It isn’t, but it is still precious, sparkling and available to you, as this is a superior collection of hotel properties on mainland Greece and the islands of Skiathos and Alonissos. The Princess Resort occupies the best beach on Skiathos and offers three à la carte restaurants serving around the clock, fabulous bedrooms, the Juliette Armand spa and complimentary children’s’ club services. Just look at the pictures and will yourself there, or to the unspoiled island of Alonissos, where you can stay at the Marpunta Resort, which is an exclusive paradise with three private beaches and rooms on a hill overlooking the Aegean.
Built in the style of a traditional fishermen’s village, there are tennis courts, wellness facilities, swimming pools and a taverna. Watch this space for a future first-person experience. That’s assuming I come back.
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