Luxury Hotels

Back to the modern-luxury Pig hotel near Bath

Outside the villa-shed

Well, this was a first. The gal has stayed in tents, on boats but never in a gardener’s shed, but this is what happened at The Pig Near Bath, many modern luxury travellers’ favourite leisure hotel in the English countryside. See the shed, above, which is set in a working vegetable garden, on the left. But sheds are deceptive. Inside, the single-storey construction has been elevated to simple-chic, as the video below shows. As always with The Pig hotels, there is a great bed and a great shower, both elements that the creative boss of the five-hotel brand, Robin Hutson, are essential wherever he personally stays.

Carts for logs

There is a Roberts radio, and lots of books on looking after pigs and other country pursuits. A cupboard opens up to reveal the Nespresso machine, and kettle, two sizes of cups, and a glass-fronted minibar that has fresh milk. Oh this is REAL luxury; the industry in general should take note. There is also a seriously powerful torch, essential for finding the way from, and back to, this hideaway as you have to navigate through the garden to get to the main building, past the glass-walled conservatory that reveals a very attractive, and very full, dining room inside. Yes, it seems necessary to book for lunch and dinner, every day of the week.

Breakfast items are neatly labelled

We met up for pre-dinner drinks in one of the many sitting rooms of the main buildling, a house that goes back to the early 19th century. We sat in genuine old sofas, decades old and much more authentic than the retro designer-seating that imitates age, and over a bottle of bubbly we all nibbled on a tray of Piggy Bits, strips of noisy crackling and apple sauce and things like that. Once in the restaurant, sitting at unvarnished tables with pots of herbs instead of flowers, the menu is nearly all sourced within 25 miles. I started with chargrilled tenderstem broccoli accompanied by a crispy hen’s egg, chilli and tarragon dressing, went on to James Golding’s home-smoked organic salmon, with Gooney’s Midford cider dressing.

GM Sarah Holden on a (sculpture) pig

The back of the simple-print A4 menu sheet is a map showing provenance – breads, for instance, come from Bertinet in Bath, six miles away. At breakfast, another delightful meal, provenance is written in white chalk on small slates. I love breakfast at this new-look-luxury hotel. There is the standard The Pig breakfast table (no ‘buffet’, here) where for a set £10 you get a magnificent choice of yoghurts, fruits, cold cuts, and you can boil your own eggs, which come from the 25-room hotel’s 43 Cotswold Legbar, Speckledy and White Star hens running freely in their area of the 71 acre estate, which is also home to a herd of deer. And pigs. Not surprisingly, when they left my friends said ‘when are we coming back?’ NOW SEE THE VILLA-SHED


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Luxury Hotels

Bath’s Gainsborough hotel offers ultimate luxury experiences

Salmon dish one…

Brian Benson, Hotel Manager of the luxury Gainsborough Bath Spa hotel, in the beautiful English city of that name, is a most unusual hotelier (the gal just loves these one-off guys, and girls). Born in Glasgow, Scotland, he dismissed early plans for architecture or law and studied sociology, and to earn some money he worked in a cocktail bar. He discovered if he did a good job he earned at least 25% more in tips and that sowed the seed of customer service. Next came tour-guiding in the Grand Canyon, and while holidaying in California he met his now-wife, and somehow got into hotels. And, it seems, they are both in love, not only with each other but with Bath – Mrs B’s day-job is teaching English students, and in between she is a docent at Bath Abbey, all done with an American accent.

.. and a smoke-filled cloche…

And Brian Benson is passionately in love, too, with this elegant hotel. No other property in UK has such unique thermal waters, and now that guests of the 99-room hotel – owned, like the adjacent Bath Thermae facility, by the massive YTL conglomerate – can be joined by a few day visitors, The Gainsborough’s spa is doing really well. Day visitors come from as far as London, a couple of hours’ train ride away (conveniently, the station is only seven minutes’ walk from the hotel). The day ticket includes a massage, as much soaking in the different-temperature thermal baths as you want, and your choice of afternoon tea or lunch. I, of course, would definitely choose lunch, partly because of the food.

..reveals salmon dish two

Dan Moon at The Gainsborough is a delight. It seats 100, in several areas partly divided off, and tables are simply set, with no linen cloths. Bread presentation is unusual, and noteworthy. Tiny two-bite loaves come in a wood top-less box, three loaves per person – my favourite is the one with seeds on top, and I also adore the hotel-infused butters. There is a multi-choice two-course lunch menu, for £26.50, and I decided to go salmon-and-quinoa. I started with smoked cured salmon on fennel quinoa, which came with caviar, and crab bisque to be poured around it, as much, or as little, as you like. I went on to what was described as a smoked ballotine, which came in a smoke-filled glass cloche. Taken off, the dish was revealed to be two small towers of salmon on beetroot quinoa, with horseradish.

Dan Moon

It seems Dan Moon’s local following, plus his talent, is really working. Within three months of repositioning the restaurant it was praised by UK assessors AA, and listed in Tatler‘s top 100 UK restaurants. I bet many also love the bar’s gin menu, which is introduced with Winston Churchill’s words “the gin & tonic has saved more Englishmen’s lives, and minds, than all the doctors in the Empire”. The really appealing G&T selection offers ‘Sipsmith VJOP’ made with Sipsmith’s juniper gin, Fever-Tree tonic, and garnished with lemon peel and juniper. As I went out I realised bottles of mineral water and tangerines had been put in my car. This is a really thoughtful luxury hotel.

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Luxury Hotels

Nice’s iconic luxury hotel is better than ever

Pierre Bord

The gal has always loved The Negresco, Nice, because it is a one-off. It breaks every rule of the big brands and it works. Brands would not put bellmen into long white socks (show the dirt) and coats with shoulder capes (get in the way). They would NOT have incredibly valuable art work everywhere (invitation to naughty people), or gold-encrusted bathroom furniture, or bedroom walls that are so rough they feel like coarse emery boards and scratch your back when you lean against them. But this luxury hotel does not need ‘other brands’, it is a brand all by itself. Just like the forthcoming Fauchon hotel in Paris, says the gal, The Negresco is bigger than any brand, or consortium, it might sign up with.

An antique hip bath now holds fresh orchids

The Negresco is pure whimsy. There are cherubs here and there – see the ones above, on one wall of suite 516, below the hotel’s signature roof cupola and looking south, and east, over Promenade des Anglais and the Mediterranean. Suite 516 is up 132 carpeted steps from the lobby and the way up, and down, becomes an art walk, past paintings, and love-seats, and even a historic copper hip-bath (this, only two years ago, was shabby and unappealing; now, thanks to passionate hotel GM Pierre Bord, it is regularly polished and it holds not bath-water but gorgeous white orchids). There are numerous early paintings of Mme Jeanne Augier, widow of the hotel’s long-tenure owner: she still lives at the top of the six floor hotel.

The Rotonde, at breakfast

There are stylish names everywhere here. I had a choice of Fragonard and Lalique toiletries, and welcome Alain Milliat pressed juices as part of my welcome. At breakfast, in the unique Rotonde restaurant, Curtelin provides the jams, Isigny the butter and Savoie the yoghurt. The Negresco is getting better with every visit – years ago, Rotonde servers were females dressed in silly circus gear, and the Rotonde’s funfair horses went up and down (next visit, the whole Rotonde theme should have disappeared – and by next visit, too, the hotel will see Nice’s forthcoming tram line, a block away, offering service direct to the airport). Pierre Bord has done a great job, IS doing a great job, in giving customers what they really want, with a French touch, which has helped raise his overall 2017 occupancy to 80%.

The main Christmas tree has six ‘babies’, out of view here

I realise, staying here, that perhaps only the French can make boring-old turkey sound appealing. This particular luxury hotel’s Christmas lunch, at €65, is a five-course affair centred around roast turkey with Jerusalem artichoke pudding, iced sweet chestnuts and Perigord sauce (similarly, the €95 New Year’s Eve dinner, which already has 105 reservations, has beef fillet with foie gras, with truffle-flavoured potato gratin and glazed carrots, and five other courses, finishing with a black creamy chocolate parfait with crunchy biscuit and candied Mandarin sorbet). For those who like such rich foods, this is a great menu, and I admire the fact that simplicity is also catered for. The hotel’s bar, which is now full many evenings, especially at weekends when there is live music, offers a Sunday brunch on a tray. Clever. NOW SEE MY SUITE, BELOW


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