Countryside Luxury with period charm
Now I love a pub with rooms with character. And The Vicarage with its exposed beams, walls adorned with mirrors, clocks, polo mallets and helmets has plenty of that. Despite this 17th century Grade II listed building being given a major overhaul, it's great to see that the old period charm exists in abundance. As I walked through the pub and dining area en route to the reception area to check in for the night, I noticed the dining room with exposed beams, a huge fireplace full of logs, an assortment of furniture, and a welcoming bar.
Situated off the main road on the edge of Holmes Chapel in Cheshire, this boutique hotel is the first property from the family-owned Flat Cap Hotels. This historic building has had a modern extension built to the back, which houses 20 standard fuss-free bedrooms. As nice as those bedrooms are for the professional-on-the-go or families alike, the wow factor has been saved for the suites. Each one is individually designed, some with exposed beams, many with antique furniture, yet featuring mod cons such as the luxuriously thick curtains and indulgent carpet.
I think my guest Nita and I bagged the best of them - suite number 24. The bathroom alone, with its stand alone bath tub overlooking a huge window and a separate rain shower, was almost as big as the room itself. And I could have easily slept on the huge bed with its thick comfy mattress the whole weekend - only getting up to make myself a coffee from the Nespresso machine in the room and indulging in the chocolate chip homemade cookies left for us, which was a nice touch.
But the lure of dinner had me in the restaurant as quick as a flash. But first, a crisp cold glass of Prosseco propped up on a stool at the bar, which I was told by the staff was made from an old French altar. With it being a Friday, the place was abuzz with drinkers and diners alike.
Dinner is served in the same cosy atmospheric room on huge tables and comfy high back chairs. After learning that the grub is cooked under the watchful eye of adept chef, Steven Tuke (who previously worked at Chester Grosvenor), I expected the food to be on point, and it certainly didn't disappoint.
The menu, although not flashy with extraordinary ingredients put together as often can be the case at such places, is modest and safe. Food like the steak and chips, pan seared sea-bass and pork belly is well executed. The lamb rump arrived in good sized meaty chucks complete with vegetables and potatoes and suitably covered in a mint and red current jus. How I managed to demolish it after an equally hearty Cornish crab meat starter, I'm not sure. I did, however, have to by-pass the dessert despite the appealing options on offer.
It's funny how after a hearty meal you vow you swear you couldn't eat a morsel for a week. But as soon as breakfast time arrived, my thoughts turned to food again. Well rested from one of the comfiest beds I have slept in for ages, followed by a very long soak in the aforementioned bath tub, I bounced back downstairs for breakfast.
Served in a light and airy conservatory overlooking lush greenery, the food offerings from the buffet cart (think yogurt, pastries, cereals, bread rolls) are welcoming. Half a dozen cooked options are also available on offer, which include a full English with a vegetarian option as well as porridge.
If you want to explore this part of the world and eat well in a cosy place with historic charm, then The Vicarage is for you. The reception has plenty of leaflets on sightseeing and things to do.
Nita and I went for a stroll around Tatton Park, just a short car ride away, which was recommended highly by the knowledgeable staff. Well all that good food had to be burned off somehow. As we walked I reminisced on what a great couple of days we had - made all the more special thanks to our lovely suite.
Rooms from £165 per night for dinner, bed and breakfast, complimentary WFii and parking.
The Vicarage Freehouse & Rooms
*During my stay I was hosted by The Vicarage Free House & Rooms. All words and opinions are my own.
Sometimes, living in London, you just need to take time to step back and get out of the city for a night. As much as I love my town, sometimes life gets a bit hectic and an escape to the country is needed. With the last heady days of autumn gone and winter stretched ahead of us, there’s no better time to find yourself a countryside bolt-hole for a weekend away.
A traditional country inn with charm in spades
Pack a bag, hit the road and head south west to the green of Hampshire, where you’ll find the gem that is The Anchor Inn. A proper, traditional country inn (complete with Tudor beams a-plenty - mind your head), this is a cosy weekend getaway personified. Part of The Epicurean Collection, it’s just one of a selection of fine British pubs and inns handpicked by luxury lifestyle magazine, The Epicurean, as representing the best of British food, style and service. Suffice to say if they’re all as good as this one, I think I may be paying the rest of the collection a visit at some point!
With a fully stocked bar of great local ales and a menu resplendent with fresh British ingredients, The Anchor Inn is worth leaving London for. Situated on a country road in the village of Lower Froyle, it’s a 15-minute taxi from Farnham station, for those without wheels. The five bedrooms - all named after literary greats of the past - are filled with antique furnishings, walls covered in fascinating paintings, photographs and bookshelves begging to be delved through.
We arrived on a sunny Friday evening and instantly fell in love with the beautiful Rupert Brooke suite, with its French windows and private balcony overlooking a garden full of very happy looking diners.
The Anchor Inn has won a host of awards, including four stars for accommodation and one Rosette for the restaurant from the AA Guide. It’s easy to see why; the rooms were beautifully cosy and welcoming (the mattress giving me one of the best night’s sleep I’ve had in a long time), and little extras like the Bramley toiletries and coffee making machine make it feel more welcoming that your average room.
Activities to enjoy near the Anchor Inn - if you can pry yourself away…
The staff were all wonderfully friendly and accommodating, giving us tips on the best walks in the area and the food spectacular (more on that in a moment…). With regular offers such as ‘Spoil Yourself Sundays’, whereby spending £60 or more on your Sunday dinner equals a room for £40, it’s one to get on your weekend radar, especially as it’s less than an hour and a half from London. The Inn can even help to arrange fishing, shooting and hunting trips for discerning guests that want to really embrace the country way of life, or you can just embrace the fields surrounding the Inn and take off on a long country walk, safe in the knowledge you’ll be working up an appetite for what’s about to be an amazing meal.
The restaurant at The Anchor Inn
Dinner at The Anchor Inn was certainly something special and undoubtedly on a par with many a fine London restaurant I’ve dined in. From the number of guests enjoying a Friday night supper, it was clear to see it’s a popular spot.
The cuisine at The Anchor Inn
The octopus carpaccio with crispy pigs ears, pickled grapes and spiced tomato, an intriguingly delicious combination and a chicken and ham hock terrine was the perfect accompaniment to a freshly-baked bread basket. The lemon and thyme chicken breast and confit leg with chorizo, butterbean and peanut puree and red pepper was, quite simply, melt in the mouth fantastic, while the pork belly opposite me was apparently some of the best my guest had ever tasted. Pudding was something else; who could say no to a flapjack with honeycomb ice cream and salted caramel or a chocolate tart with brown sugar creme fraiche and raspberry sorbet?!
Unwind with a tipple or two
A sofa situated next to the bar was the perfect stop for a post prandial bottle of wine. The inn’s homely vibe just beckons you to settle in for the evening, nestled in a corner under a beam with a bottle of red, listening to the gentle hum of conversation - a far cry from the shouty bustle of a London pub on a Friday night!
Wake up to a hearty spread
Breakfast was a treat to wake up to; a table laid out with ‘help-yourself’ juices, cereal, fruit, yoghurt and pastries and a hearty cooked offering. What better way to start a Saturday that eating on a sun-soaked terrace with the weekend papers, a fresh pot of coffee and a breakfast fit for kings?
Alas, while I could have happily lounged in the garden all day, we had a train to catch. Deciding to forgo the taxi back to Farnham, we instead decided to walk off our indulgent feast by heading to Bentley, the next village, to catch our train back to London, which was around an hour’s walk but on a glorious sunny morning, an entirely pleasant one. This charming corner of England is certainly a beautiful one and The Anchor Inn is a gem of a getaway; once the seasons change and the fires are lit, you won’t be able to tear yourself away.
Doubles from £99 per night.
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