Planning a last-minute bank holiday getaway? Check out – and check into – our pick of the best hotels to have opened in the UK recently.
Words: Ben McCormack
Bristol Harbour Hotel & Spa, Bristol
For starters: What’s better than a bank converted into a chic boutique hotel? Two banks converted into a chic boutique hotel – and located in one of the most attractive Georgian remnants of Bristol city centre to boot. The best of the two branches is the Grade II-listed former Lloyd’s HQ, inspired by the 16th-century St Mark’s library in Venice, no less. Restored interiors blend cool neutrals with colour pops on the furniture and quirky finds from local auction houses. Forty-two light-filled bedrooms nod towards Bristol’s trading past with a decanter of sherry in every room.
Mains and more: The on-trend Jetty seafood restaurant has bar stools looking into the kitchen so diners can watch the likes of octopus carpaccio and garlic and herb scallops being prepared. Breakfast is served on jolly blue-and-white Cornishware. Bristol’s restaurant scene is booming: check out local stars Bell’s Diner, Casamia and Wilks.
Sides: The old bank vaults have been converted into a spa, complete with treatment rooms, hydrotherapy and swimming pools, sauna and steam – the former doors to the safe should make you feel securely cocooned. Browse the independent shops in nearby St Nicholas Market, take a self-guided Banksy walking tour, max out your credit cards at high-street shopping paradise Cabot Circus or indulge in the rather more genteel pleasures of honey-stoned Clifton.
Bill, please: B&B from £145
Contact: 55 Corn Street, Bristol, BS1 1HT; 0117 203 4445; bristol-harbour-hotel.co.uk
Lympstone Manor, Devon
For starters: Michael Caines was the executive chef at two Michelin-starred Gidleigh Park for 21 years, as well as co-founding the Abode hotel chain. Now he has renovated this Grade II-listed Georgian mansion set in 28 acres of parkland on the shores of the Exe estuary. Caines has aimed for what he calls “contemporary country-house hospitality”: bird-themed bedrooms (jewel blue in Kingfisher, soft grey in Heron), beige and cream tones in the lounge, and stunning views throughout, whether from your private balcony or floor-to-ceiling French windows.
Mains and more: Take a cocktail from the copper bar ahead of dinner in the golden-hued Powderham dining room, with its intimate banquette tables, or the art-filled Berry Head room. Caines’s menus include a seven-course seafood menu and an eight-course Signature menu touting the likes of braised turbot with cockles, mussels and an alive, alive oh! tomato and basil sauce. Devon producers feature on the wine list alongside global stars: book a bespoke wine tasting at the sommelier’s table.
Sides: Admire the Gothic ceiling (the longest in the world) at Exeter’s medieval cathedral before hitting the beaches at Exmouth and exploring the olde worlde jumble of Sidmouth.
Bill, please: B&B from £305
Contact: Courtlands Lane, Exmouth, EX8 3NZ; 01395 202040; lympstonemanor.co.uk
The Mash Inn, Buckinghamshire
For starters: This rustic-feeling 18th century inn in the leafy village of Radnage was bought last year by restaurateur and host-with-the-most Nick Mash (hence the 21st-century name). Five bedrooms (two suites, three doubles) feature king-size Hypnos beds and free-standing baths. Come the morning, breakfasts of buttermilk yoghurts and foraged fruit jams are delivered to your room.
Mains and more: The 32-seat dining room adjoins a kitchen with wood-fired grill. Dishes are chalked up daily on a blackboard, with ingredients picked from the kitchen garden served alongside hand-churned butter and freshly baked bread: think dry-aged rib of beef with oysters and nettles, washed down with local cloudy cider. Guests are encouraged to step into the kitchen and chat to head chef Jon Parry (ex-Bull & Last and Trinity). The eight-course tasting menu is a bargain at £45.
Sides: The surrounding Chiltern Hills have some of the best walking close to London – grab a picnic satchel, borrow Nick’s binoculars and spend your days striking out along the Ridgeway (mind out for deer) and birdwatching red kites on the wing. Whizz up the M40 for sightseeing in Oxford or down the road to Bray and Marlow for foodie adventures at The Fat Duck and The Hand and Flowers. Don’t have a car? Saunderton station (45 mins to Marylebone) is 4 miles away.
Bill, please: B&B from £100
Contact: Horseshoe Road, Bennett End, Buckinghamshire, HP14 4EB; 01494 482440; themashinn.com
For starters: Named after a blood-soaked play by Cambridge alumnus Christopher Marlowe (Corpus, 1584), Tamburlaine is no tragedy. This being Cambridge, there’s a library as well as 155 guest rooms (entry-level Fresher, posher Scholar rooms and Dean penthouse suites), all fetchingly decked out in Cambridge blue and boasting floor-to-ceiling windows – some with fabulous views. The hotel might not have the prettiest location (it’s up the road from the station) but at least you’ll be there in an hour from King’s Cross, and the city centre is a short walk away.
Mains and more: Choose from three restaurants: the informal Brasserie (pendant lighting, leather banquettes, pork with carrots and cider jus), afternoon tea lounge the Garden Room, daytime deli-cum-evening wine bar Steam, plus cocktails in the bar. Or eat out: clever modern ideas at Alimentum, or two Michelin-starred Midsummer House. A well-equipped fitness studio is on site if you over indulge.
Sides: Stroll the college courts, punt along the Backs gawping at the world-famous view of King’s chapel, cycle past the Palladian Senate House, admire the art at the Fitzwilliam Museum (Picasso, Matisse, Monet), or take an afternoon trip to the spectacular Norman cathedral at nearby Ely.
Bill, please: B&B from £200
Contact: 27-29 Station Road, Cambridge, CB1 2FB; 01223 792888; thetamburlaime.co.uk
Want more getaway inspiration? Take a look at our guide to a food-lovers day trip, within easy reach of the capital
This article was published 26 May 2017