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.
A beachy, buzzy oasis is probably the most apt description for Urban Beach, a quirky boutique hotel near Boscombe Beach in Bournemouth, which is the ideal place to hole up for a weekend beach escape.
Urban Beach is proof that good things come in small packages. With only 12 rooms, it feels more like you’re staying at a stylish mate’s house, rather than a hotel, and you get the feeling that this is precisely the vibe they want you to feel when you stay with them as everyone who works at the hotel is exceptionally laidback and on hand to ensure that you feel welcome during your stay.
The rooms at Urban Beach
Each room at the hotel has a different design, and some rooms are larger than others, however, they all offer luxury en-suite bath or shower rooms, crisp white Egyptian cotton linen, down bedding, fluffy white towels, arran aromatic toiletries, fair trade tea & coffee making facilities, complimentary Wi-Fi, plasma TVs and DVD players.
Our room (Room 1) was tastefully decorated and had a gothic-inspired black glass chandelier, which lent a touch of rock star opulence to the room. Our en-suite shower room was small, but the natural tiles made it feel luxe.
Food and drink at Urban Beach
The hotel features a modern bistro with inside and outside seating, depending on your preference. Food and drink is served in the bistro from 8am – 10pm, and the menu boasts a wealth of tasty entrees, with the majority of the ingredients sourced from local suppliers, something that we love. The ala carte menu features a wide variety of options including mains such as the ‘fish of the day’ (£16.00); wild mushroom risotto with tomato pearl barley (£13.00); and Beef Wellington (£22), to name a few, so if you leave hungry, it’s your own fault! They also offer a sensational breakfast, which is in my estimation, the best way to start your day right.
Those who are exceptionally lazy can also spring for room service, which we did the following morning, when we couldn’t bear to pry ourselves out of bed!
Urban Reef restaurant
If you like your breakfast, lunch or dinner, with a seaside twist, then you can’t miss their sister restaurant, Urban Reef – an easy, breezy seaside restaurant with cracking sea views that will make you want to savour your meal all day just to watch the waves rolling in.
The fare here is also casual dining (think fish and chips, burgers, mussels, etc), however, they also have a variety of small plates to choose from, which we had during our visit. We loved the Dorset crab paté, grilled sourdough, taramasalata, pickles; the Lamb kofta, coriander pearl couscous, smoked paprika yoghurt; the Salt baked candied beetroot, rosary goat’s cheese, honey and mustard dressing and the Isle of Wight heirloom tomatoes, Laverstoke mozzarella, figs, pesto dressing. The small plates are great value as well, either £5.50 each, 2 for £10.50 or 3 for £14.00.
We found all of the small plates to be seriously flavourful and nicely presented and you could tell that the ingredients were really fresh. All of this was enjoyed with an ice-cold glass of Riesling, which we sipped while gazing out at the mesmerising view.
All in all, the Urban Beach hotel and Urban Reef restaurant combined are the perfect elixir for easing into a lazy weekend. Just be warned, you might become so relaxed that you may never want to leave.
Prices from £55 per night (staying in a single room).
Our experience overall
Food and drink ****
Staff attentiveness/friendliness ****
Book your stay at Urban Beach Hotel here:
*During this trip I was hosted by the Urban Beach Hotel and the Urban Reef Restaurant. All words and opinions are my own.
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