Luxury Hotels

England

This episode of Girlahead picks up from a regular weekly article in LATTE, Signature Media’s luxury briefing for travel advisors in Australasia*.  Here, read about Lucknam Park in Wiltshire, England:

I turned into the hotel’s famous mile-long straight drive, flanked by two rows of guards of honour, a total 400 lime and beech trees.  The 500-acre estate, going back, it is said, to 11th century Saxon times, is dotted with life-size metal sculptures, of deer and the like, suitably dotted in the pastures. Dozens of real horses belong to Lucknam Park’s integral equestrian centre.

I followed an ancient white Rolls, with white wedding ribbons, to a somewhat-tight turning circle, near a colourful range of Marin off-road bicycles. In through the hotel’s double glass doors are a croquet set, and a neat array of all-sizes of Wellington boots. This is a place for all-age activity.

We went up 30 carpeted stairs and turned right to Coral, a 54 sq m room with two windows offering superb views of the garden. A working Victorian fireplace, with full tongs etc, kindling and wood supply, complements a walls-hung gallery of wild life prints, architectural drawings and family portraits.

I reach the Brasserie cas-dining across a couple of grass-and-gravel courtyards. An A4 paper menu offers two-courses at £28, three@£35, My vegan starter, heirloom tomatoes, pickled fennel, marinated olives and pine nuts on a runny hummous-like ricotta+mizume, is followed by a superb and significant tranche of wood-roast crispy-skin Cornish cod, with herbed gnocchi, a few sprigs of samphire, a bright green asparagus and delicious crab-butter sauce.   Would I like a coffee to go? Yes please. Bart produced a first-class double espresso in a paper cup, and put the cap on securely.

The spa is also superb and significant – Tania from Toulouse, doing a highly-professional 60-minute personalised ESPA facial, with SkinVision analysis, was impressed I had been chatting with ESPA founder Sue Harmsworth only yesterday. I had planned to go on to the 18-metre indoor pool with its vitality stations but the hours had somehow disappeared.

At 7 precisely I metaphorically coincided with the wedding’s dark-haired bride, in a dreamy lace gown with long and graceful train. She and her nuptial party veered off to a side room and I proceeded to Michelin 1-star Restaurant Hywel Jones, named for the long-time executive chef. Here, the A4 menu sheet is double-folded. It offers three choices of six-course tasting menus, all £110. Apparently roughly 50% choose the Signature Menu, 40% Seasonal and 10%, like me, Vegetarian. I embarked on a pointillist journey, with every dish – no choice, per course – bearing compositions of small bites. Isle of Wight tomato tart on black olive jam led to goat cheese and spiced pear. Bromham carrot with satay pastilla preceded a large morel tortellini on a green sauce. Desserts were a kalamansi and white chocolate ice-cold lollipop, and a vanilla crème brûlée.  I had a glass of Malbec Winemaker’s Reserve Norton Mendoza 2018.

GM Sakis Dinas is a Greece-born German foodie, and so proud that a young sous-chef, Jamaar Semper, has reached the semi-finals of Masterchef.  Dinas is rather special. No other hotel boss has ever lit my fire. A self-professed pyromaniac, he later used matches, kindling and well-dried wood to get a blaze, in Coral’s fireplace. After discovering I had a pale pink sleep mask, I high-dived up on to the bed and slept like a log.

In the morning, since the Technogym, next to the indoor pool, does not open until 7.30 a.m. I treked that amazing front drive. At breakfast, back in Restaurant Hywel Jones, I admired the light opera background music and chose Greek yoghurt topped with poppy seeds and berries, followed by tasty toasted-sourdough topped with smashed avo, two runny-centre nasturtium-yolk poached eggs and greenery. As I left I vowed, next visit, to use that indoor pool, and sign up for an outdoor horse-whispering session  – if the weather allows.’

(*see another LATTE article, by Mary Gostelow, next Monday)