The Compleat Angler, Marlow, is proof that some hotels don’t need to have swimming pools, hot tubs and the very latest in beauty treatments – they just need to be in a great spot.
And The Compleat Angler, based right on the banks of the River Thames (so close that its gardens, but thankfully not the actual buildings, flooded last year), makes the very most of its superb location. It’s just a stone’s throw from the impressive suspension bridge designed in the 1830s by William Tiernay Clarke (who also built the Szechenyai bridge spanning the Danube in Budapest) and right across the river from the beautiful All Saints’ Church, so that couples getting married in the church can travel in style across the river to their wedding reception while guests follow on foot over the bridge.
In case you managed to miss the Thames on your way into the hotel, both its Riverside restaurant and its new restaurant Sindhu overlook the river, with mesmorising views both during the day and in the evening, when the church is lit up against the night sky. Our room, in the newer wing, even had its own balcony overlooking the weir.
(Incidentally the Compleat Angler, named after the famous fishing book written by Marlow resident Izaak Walton, is officially called Macdonald Compleat Angler, but thankfully while the corporate name is much in evidence inside the hotel, the building you see as you drive across Marlow bridge is resolutely just the Compleat Angler.)
While the hotel has eschewed spa facilities it certainly hasn’t neglected the fine dining option: just a few months ago it opened its new restaurant Sindhu created by Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar and it was there I had lunch.
The ten-course tasting menu for £48 looked good value and so it proved: the food, billed as traditional Indian, was excellent, from the chickpea and yoghurt ‘wheat bubble’ amuse-bouche to the tandoor-grilled rack of lamb, by way of small but tasty dishes of sweet potato, hand-dived scallop, grilled chicken marinated with herbs and saffron cream (that really was delicous).
The meal finished with a flourish and a chocolate mousse ball which opened up dramatically when chocolate sauce was poured over it and the portions were so well-judged that we left feeling replete but not over-full.
Dinner at the Riverside restaurant couldn’t be faulted either: excellent service and good food: starting with smoked salmon mousse (£11), then breast of pheasant (£28) and the only duff point of the meal, a rather tasteless salmon fillet cooked sous vide, (£27) – we shared the mirror-glazed chocolate delice and resolved to stop eating for a while. (Obviously this didn’t last – the breakfasts were too good to resist).
Overall the Compleat Angler – sorry, Macdonald Compleat Angler – was a lovely place to stay and eat: it was charming and relaxed, with several smart lounges where you could sit and watch the world go by (while enjoying rather pricey espressos at £4.20 a shot).
Our room was immaculate and very quiet, with the only complaint being the lack of conditioner in the bathroom (you’re given shampoo, shower wash and moisturiser, but no conditioner). The reason from reception was that conditioner was only available ‘on request’. Now I tend to be halfway through a shower before I request conditioner and that’s probably too late. Thankfully they don’t apply that criteria to the loo roll…
Minor gripe aside, it’s a lovely hotel in a lovely setting and worth making tracks for – it was charming enough on a cold February day so I can imagine that sitting outside on the lawn by the river on a summer’s day watching the world go by will really be something.
To book a stay at Macdonald Compleat Angler call 0844 879 9128 or visit www.MacdonaldHotels.co.uk/CompleatAngler. A double room for two sharing including full English breakfast is priced from £153 per room per night and river view suites from £350.
On February 13th and 14th Macdonald Compleat Angler is offering a special Valentine’s Tasting Menu priced at £69 per person; double rooms start from £199 B&B for two sharing.