Category Archives: Hotel reviews

The Swan at Lavenham: a pub as charming as its location

[Editor’s note: This review of the Swan at Lavenham was first published in 2014. For a more up to date review of this hotel click here or go to https://aladyofleisure.com/the-swan-at-lavenham-review/ ]

The Swan at Lavenham is located in one of those villages where you catch yourself thinking; ‘Is this actually real?’

The chocolate-box gorgeousness of some Cotswold villages for example: Bampton (the real-life Downton Village) and nearby Burford can look exactly as if imagined by an American director making a film about quintessential England, or Clovelly in North Devon which ticks all the boxes of a beautiful fishing village.

The Swan at Lavenham
The Swan at Lavenham – 400 years of charm and a lot of timber beams

Lavenham in Suffolk is much the same. After a perfectly fine if mundane journey along the A1141 or whatever road has taken you there, you suddenly find yourself in a village so packed with crooked cottages and half-timbered buildings that you feel as if you have been suddenly transported back to medieval England.  (Or magical England  – some of the Harry Potter films were shot here).

A short walk down the High Street – in which you expect to see horse-drawn carts and straw everywhere – turns into a succession of picture-taking and marvelling at ‘Why have I never been to this place before?’

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The High Street is full of crooked, timbered buildings
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Lavenham’s own version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Continue reading The Swan at Lavenham: a pub as charming as its location

No skimping on the apres-ski with Mark Warner Tignes

[Note: My review of Mark Warner Tignes was first published in June 2014]

You could never accuse Mark Warner of skimping on the apres-ski hospitality – or, for that matter, the pre-ski and the in-ski. A three-day trip to French Alpine ski resort Tignes to check out its newly refurbished chalet hotel, the improbably-named Aiguille Percee, was notable for epic amounts of drinking, dancing, eating and yet more drinking. In between drinking sessions there was some rather fabulous skiing, which also included a fair amount more drinking.

mark warner skiing tignes
Mark Warner’s newly refurbished chalet hotel, Aiguille Percee
Transfer from Geneva to Tignes

The scene was set from the beginning. Even before the tyres had started turning on the 2.5 hour coach transfer from Geneva airport to Tignes the first bottles of wine and beer were being opened. (The return trip was a rather more sedate affair, with several passengers having partied so hard over the long weekend that frequent stops to ‘take in the air’ had to be made on perilous hair-pin bends and people started to worry we were cutting it fine for the flight. To render hard-drinking members of the press and travel industry in such a state is tribute to the press team’s dedication to the cause).

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Check out the latest prices and info at MarkWarner.co.uk

Check out the Club Mark Warner weeks here: Club Mark Warner
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Continue reading No skimping on the apres-ski with Mark Warner Tignes

Review: Fischers Fritz at the Regent Hotel, Berlin. One martini trolley and two Michelin stars

It was halfway through dinner at my first two-Michelin-starred restaurant experience at the Fischers Fritz in Berlin when I realised I was far more a ‘drinkie’ than a ‘foodie’ (assuming ‘drinkie is even a word.)

I was dining at the Fischers Fritz restaurant in the Regent Berlin, and had already been thoroughly over-excited at the arrival of my pre-dinner drink in the hotel bar. This was a Prince of Wales cocktail, a €23 Champagne cocktail which contained liberal servings of cognac and  Grand Marnier, topped off with Angostura bitters and brown sugar and served rather incongruously in a silver goblet which grew almost freezing to the touch as the ice inside melted.

PoW
My Prince of Wales cocktail, served in a silver goblet which grew steadily colder

I was happily piling into that when I was invited into the dining room with the most wonderful phrase in the English language: ‘And you must really try our martini trolley.’

A martini trolley! This sounded like a great deal of fun and so it proved. The menu for the martinis alone was a fascinating read, full of information about the origin of various drinks and a whole dictionary-worth of delightfully esoteric ingredients. I could happily have spent the entire evening working my way through the cocktail list and forgetting food altogether, aside from whatever olive or pickled onion garnish came my way. Continue reading Review: Fischers Fritz at the Regent Hotel, Berlin. One martini trolley and two Michelin stars

Housetrip Berlin Kreuzberg – a home away from home

It’s amazing how quickly you can feel like  a ‘local’ while staying somewhere completely new to you.

For me it was when I came back from a trip to the supermarket with some eggs and milk and let myself in at my own front door with my own key.

It was only an hour since my plane had landed in Germany but I was already – in my own mind at least – a regular part of the neighbourhood.

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Even if that neighbourhood was in Berlin, a place I haven’t visited for 27 years. (It has changed quite a bit since then – see next post.) Continue reading Housetrip Berlin Kreuzberg – a home away from home

Holborn Dining Room review: adds class to commuterville

The traffic-and-commuter-saturated High Holborn usually has little to recommend it, being full of gridlocked buses and office workers doing the twice-daily rat run to and from the tube.

But an grand oasis of opulent charm and fine dining has just arrived and is well worth putting off the journey home for.

Holborn Dining Room, which opened just a few weeks ago, is located the old Pearl Assurance building, so it has all the high-ceiling’d formal grandeur of a former financial institution complete with marbled pillars.

Holborn Dining Room
An improvement on an insurer’s offices, the building on High Holborn is 100 years old this year

In the far corner is the Holborn Delicatessen, open during the day for coffee, pastries and high-end deliciousnesses, while in the restaurant itself is a deli-style counter complete with hanging salamis and people busily slicing away at hunks of cured meat. Continue reading Holborn Dining Room review: adds class to commuterville

Cannizaro House Wimbledon: a country retreat in the city

Cannizaro House Wimbledon
Cannizaro House in Wimbledon. Sadly that isn’t my car.

Note: This review is from Feb 2014. Cannizaro House is now owned by Hotel Du Vin so will have changed since my visit. If you’re interested in a recent Hotel Du Vin review then check out https://aladyofleisure.com/hotel-du-vin-bristol-review/

There is something rather delightful about packing to spend the weekend in a hotel just four miles from your home. It yields all the excitement and anticipation of a trip away without any of the angst and despair caused by realising you have to drive across London in the rush hour and then get snarled up on the Hammersmith flyover.

And the journey home! Many a relaxing weekend away has been ruined by roadworks on the M1, a lane closure on the A3, the sheer awfulness of driving through Wandsworth on a Sunday evening.

So to do away with all that unnecessary travelling seems to me to be utterly sensible.

Some would not agree. I recently had lunch with a tour operator who maintained that half the fun of a holiday is the fact you have to travel to get there, thus giving you a sense of achievement and new territories gained when you arrived at your destination.

To which I merely said ‘the journey home’ and ‘the South Circular’ and he paled and said I might have a point. Continue reading Cannizaro House Wimbledon: a country retreat in the city

New hotel for The Arts Club

It was off to the rather fabulous private members’ club The Arts Club  on Wednesday evening and the launch party for its new hotel. Sadly the hotel itself, with its 16 rooms and suites, will not be open for guests until 2015, but pictures and an explanatory talk by its designers, Sagrada, certainly whetted the appetite.

The opulently-appointed rooms, which will be on the second, third and fourth floors of the Georgian building, will be designed in a early 1900s-Europe style, with lashings of marble, stretched fabrics, hand-tufted rugs and ‘eglomise’ mirror panels (where the glass is gilded on the back with gold or metal leaf).

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However the main draw is likely to be the superb location just off Piccadilly within a cocktail olive’s throw of the Ritz, Langans and the Wolseley, not to mention a free run of all that The Arts Club has to offer, including three restaurants of its own, a garden and a stunning bar and nightclub.

While launch party guests might have to wait a while for their chance to stay in what The Arts Club’s Alice Chadwyck-Healey  described as ‘high-quality, glamorous and discreet’ suites, the goodie bags of champagne, chocolates and a scented candle at least gave them the chance to enjoy a little bit of luxury at home. Possibly without the eglomise mirrors.

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The Arts Club, 40 Dover Street, Mayfair, London W1S 4NP
020 7499 8581
www.theartsclub.co.uk