Archive of ‘Hotel and B&B Reviews’ category

Review: Coffee at the Town Hall Hotel, Bethnal Green

| Hotel and B&B Reviews


I popped into the Town Hall Hotel for a ‘posh coffee’, after being tipped-off about this destination hotel from a number of fashion brands hosting events here. You always know you’re in for a visual treat if the fashion set favour a place.

IMG_5309The boutique hotel is a triumph of restoration design, reviving Bethnal Green’s old council offices. It’s smothered in marble foyers, Art Deco panelled corridors – complete with jelly mould Bakelite light fixtures, imposing stone staircases and modern art that holds your attention and captures your imagination. The original Edwardian and Art Deco interiors of the 1910 building are enhanced further by artfully chosen hip stylised vintage furniture. I had a thoroughly enjoyable nose around.




The original council chamber is still in place, complete with its horseshoe of green leather chairs, fold down wooden desks and two entrances – one for the ayes, and one for the no’s. It would make a perfectly quirky setting for a private event.

Finding somewhere to actually have my coffee at 3.30pm on a Thursday (surely prime afternoon tea time?) proved comically hard. Each member of staff I spoke to was friendly and helpful, and yet it took four attempts and four different people questioned before I located the lounge on the first floor, and ascertained that, yes, a hot drink could be procured. Wandering through the old corridors and pushing through door after door, I did begin to feel like I was stuck in a bureaucratic Kafkaesque nightmare. Albeit a fabulously styled one. For the love of caffeine – I only want a hot chocolate! The hotel feels more geared up for residents, and lunch and dinner guests, but I’d still recommend popping in for tea just to see the building. A cappuccino costs £3,00, which is incredibly competitive when compared to hotels of a similar standing in the West End or North London.


The lounge itself (first photo), which led onto the council chamber, was all dark wood and lead windows, studded leather sofas and reclaimed furniture – like hanging out in a Mad Men Gentleman’s club. When I go back, I’m wearing my best fifties frock.






Ordering a snack again proved tricky. Cake wasn’t an option. Faced with a plate of meat and cheese (more suited to cocktails) I chose the only available alternative: spiced rice crackers. They came with a generous bowl of chicken mayo to dunk in. It all tasted delicious, though eating them was nibbles Russian Roulette: overloading the delicate crackers with dip risked them breaking en route to your mouth and splattering mayo over your legs like ‘cum’. I only managed to do this three times, which is fair testament to how delicious they were. Worth the risk, and the stain reminded me of an excellent afternoon.

IMG_5306 Decor: 5/5. Food & drinks 4/5 (when you could get some).


Further information on the Town Hall Hotel can be found here.

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Review: Retreats For You, Writers’ Retreat, Sheepwash, Devon

| Days Out, Hotel and B&B Reviews


Working in the window, as you do.

Full disclosure: this is the seventh (I think) time I’ve stayed with Deb and Bob in their writers’ retreat in Sheepwash, Devon. This is less of a review and more of a serious gush. The thing is, this is a very special place.


One of the bedrooms in Retreats For You.

I first discovered Retreats For You when I was looking for a retreat that spoiled me. I didn’t want to stay in solitude in a rental cottage, because I knew I’d spend all my time sourcing food options and distracting myself on the internet – kind of like I do at home. I also didn’t want structured classes (though one-on-ones with Deb are available and there are often relaxed readings in the evenings). I wanted to write with no distractions. Deb and Bob provide breakfast, lunch and dinner, which means no meal planning or procrastinating trips to Tesco. They also actively discourage (nay, slap your wrist) if you try and tidy anything away. Deb nips in and makes your bed in the morning. AND she’ll do your washing if you wish. Their motto, oft repeated sternly if you’re approaching the washing up bowl, is ‘you are here to write.’ Sodding marvellous.


Sheepwash village square.

The retreat is in a gorgeous wattle and daub, thatched cottage overlooking a village square in the middle of rural Devon. As I live in a hermetically sealed new build which has a constant tropical clime, I always pack plenty of woolly jumpers and make use of the plug-in radiator in each room. You get your own room, no sharing (though there are double rooms and a twin should you wish to bring a buddy).

Each room is simply furnished, clean, with fresh white bed linen and towels, a desk, a lamp, tea and coffee making facilities (and a hairdryer and slippers and a dressing gown – that’s the kind of detail I like to know!). There are a maximum of 5 rooms, so a maximum of 5 other writers to convene with over mealtimes. There are two shared bathrooms, which are well stocked with beautifying goodies. During all the times I’ve stayed there’s never been more than a 5 minute wait for the bathroom. And even that was a rare occurrence. I guess each person has their own rhythms and they don’t tend to overlap.


Strolling by the local river.

Meals can be taken in your room if you’re gripped by the muse, or don’t fancy chatting. I always eat downstairs with the others, as I enjoy the supportive and stimulating environment a group of writers creates. I also find the return to the rooms after meals, and the air of productivity that indicates, propels me in a vaguely boarding school fashion to my desk. Everyone else is working, so I should be working too. It’s fantastically effective. My word count is always ridiculous at the end of each stay.

When the weather’s nice meals are taken in the garden. If you’re lucky a trip to nearby Cornwall and a barbecue on the beach may be in order one evening. Included in the cost of your stay (bed, full board, and all that tidying up) is  wine (really, you got to love this place!). Each evening I adore savouring a glass or two of plonk in front of the roaring fire, which is lit every night in the lounge. Make sure you try Deb’s famous flapjacks, which are available for snacking on throughout the day. Trust me, they’re not to be missed. A separate TV room is available for those who want it, and Deb always has an interesting selection of films from Love Film to peruse.


Bed linen drying in the garden.

It’s worth noting most mobile phones don’t work in Sheepwash. To be honest this is a blessed relief (there’s a landline should you need to make or receive calls). There is Wi-Fi throughout the house, but I stick my out of office on and focus on the task at hand. It’s funny given how dependent I am on all my techy gadgets how I never miss them here.


Barbecue at Northcott Mouth beach, Cornwall.


Isabelle, a local therapist can be booked for beauty treatments at the house. I always have a massage or two to keep my shoulders and back in good working order, before lolling in my pjs in front of the fire. I love that fire!



At the retreat I keep the kind of schedule I’d love to maintain at home. I rise early, I bash out plenty of words, I eat healthily, I enjoy a daily stroll through the surrounding fields or along the river, I have interesting and inspiring conversations round the fire at night and I retire early. I come away with masses of words under my belt, AND I feel rested. I told you it was a special place.


Further details and booking information about Retreats For You can be found here.

With thanks to @geowriter and Retreats For You for images 1, and 2, 3, 5 and 6, respectively (my camera corrupted and I lost half my photos).



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Review: Cowley Manor, Cowley, The Cotswolds

| Hotel and B&B Reviews


Breakfasting on the terrace, darling

 Cowley Manor, a grade 2 listed Italianate manor in Gloucestershire, was built in 1855 and belonged to the Horlicks family. It is now a contemporary luxury hotel with 30 bedrooms, set within 55 acres of glorious gardens. It is here that Charles Dodgson met a little girl called Alice. Inspired by her and the fantastical grounds he wrote, under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.


Hubby and I arrived at 2pm on a sunny Sunday. We were too early to check into our room, so we walked through the modern and quirkily designed reception, bar and lounge (oak panelling, cowhide seats, paper mache ‘stuffed’ animal heads on the wall) to have lunch on the terrace. We sat overlooking the tiered luscious lawn, which was sprinkled with daisies and laughing children playing croquet, and looked out at the twinkling lakes and the great sweeps of majestic trees. In the distance I could see couples enjoying picnics on sun loungers. Waiters delivered cocktails to those reclining on Fat Boy beanbags. As I don’t have friends in the aristocracy, or hang around with oil bazillionaires, I’ve never been able to sit as a guest and enjoy sumptuous surroundings like these. It was like staying in a National Trust property that had been given a Living Etc makeover. An array of brightly coloured Hunter wellies are provided for guests to go exploring.

We ordered lunch. A fish finger sandwich and triple cooked chips for me, and a crayfish sandwich for Hubby. A crayfish salad arrived, which Hubby, ever the diplomat, decided he’d keep. My fish finger sandwich showed up too, but no chips. A couple of minutes passed so I enquired after my potato snacks and asked for some ketchup. A further 10 minutes passed, during which my sauce-less sandwich grew cold, and the only chip I had was the one growing on my shoulder. Was this turning into Angela’s adventures in blunderland?

Flustered, friendly apologies, ketchup and some incredible tasting chips arrived from the kitchen and my hunger grumps were satiated. Cowley Manor threw off this shaky start and went from strength to strength for our two night stay.

We stayed in room 22, which is classified by Cowley Manor’s own rating system as “great”. It was huge. We had a small island for a bed, more designer armchairs, a desk, and enough electronic toys – flatscreen, iPod dock, CD/DVD player – to keep Hubby entertained. The minibar was stocked with a range of high-end treats, including popcorn and candyfloss in case you wanted a movie night. The bathroom housed two sinks, a cavernous bath surrounded by plentiful products, and a walk-in shower that was bigger than my entire en suite at home.


The bathroom. Credit: Cowley Manor

We walked to the local, The Green Dragon, for supper the first night (more traditional pub grub than gastro,  it’s a beautiful building with roaring fires, lovely staff and good value food). And we ate in Cowley Manor’s main restaurant, next to the window, overlooking the twilight gardens, on our second night. Locally sourced, fresh produce was cooked and served by knowledgeable staff. Tasty, without being mind blowing the food should easily satisfy most foodies. The cocktail and wine list also went down well.


Oh I do like to be beside the C-Side

During the day we hung out at the beautiful and modern C-Side Spa. A little bit of Ibiza in the Cotswolds. There’s an inside and an outside pool, and you can order drinks and food. I indulged further with a massage and a facial, both of which were exceptional. The skilled therapists dealt with what can be a tricky customer (me) with confidence and calm. I’d recently suffered the double blow of a neck dislocation and a rash caused by the hormone fight back my body had launched, but the therapists managed to sooth and repair me to my former self. Well worth the money.


It’s the little touches that make the biggest difference

As we sipped our wine, and played board games in the lounge that overlooked the lantern lit lawns I knew we’d be back. Hell, I’d move in if I could.

Cowley Manor: magnificently modern manor living. More please. 5/5

View Cowley Manor’s site here.

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Reviewed: Bindon Bottom B&B, Lulworth Cove, Dorset

| Hotel and B&B Reviews


Lulworth Cove, a mere 5min stroll away

On the road down to Lulworth Cove, with a tricky car park to pull in and out of, is the semi-detached 19th Century Victorian house that is Bindon Bottom B&B. It’s efficiently and cheerfully run by Clive and Lisa, who were a font of useful information in the face of the numerous emails and special requests I made of them (I was travelling at strange times, in a split group party, with a walking stick).

The interiors of this grand proportioned house are a calming blend of neutral tones, vaporised aromatherapy oils and antique French furniture that is sourced from a local dealer. The dining room, with name painted pebbles to denote your room’s rotating allocation for the day, has a huge bay window that overlooks the cows grazing on The Purbeck hills. Lisa and Clive source the majority of their yummy organic breakfast ingredients locally. You select your cooked choice the evening before, and are also free to help yourself to a fine spread of cereal, fruit and juices. Don’t miss the Dorset chipolatas – perfect with a squeeze of organic ketchup.


View from bed in the Barrie Room

I stayed in the Barrie room, named after the Peter Pan author. Two large twin beds and organic bedding provided a beautiful nights sleep for my friend and I. Lisa and Clive have worked hard to ensure this B&B is among the best in the country (it was awarded a certificate of excellence by Tripadvisor 2013), providing little extras that make your stay truly special: full-size Neal’s Yard products in the bathroom, shortbread, flapjacks, and crisps on the tea and coffee tray, extra bottles of distilled water to hand, chocolate truffles next to your pillow at night, and a discrete box of every possible ‘essential’ you may have forgotten. The Barrie room’s ensuite didn’t have a bath, but the fluffy towels and powerful hot shower made up for that.


The Barrie Room. Credit: Bindon Bottom B&B Website

A helpful and interesting guide in the room not only told me about the local amenities, but also about the presumed links between Lulworth Cove and Barrie’s Neverland. There are striking similarities between the two. Inside the antique wardrobe I found the framed signature of the French madam who had originally commissioned the piece. This area, and this house, drips with history and Lisa and Clive have done their best to tease it out in a tasteful manner.

I only experienced two small moments of concern during my three night stay. The first was when Lisa and Clive were visibly reluctant to let my friend, and the two children she had with her (who’d been stuck in traffic for 5 hours in 36 degree Celsius heat), pop in to use the toilet. And the second was when our final breakfast was subtly interrupted to ask if we needed a taxi booking for us to leave. But, as this luxurious bolthole has cultivated a quiet, almost retreat atmosphere (and I was in my pyjamas, and hungover on the final day) I can forgive them for being protective of their balanced paradise. I hope to return with my partner for a blissful, relaxed break truly away from it.

Bindon Bottom B&B was recommended to my by the lovely team at Camp Bestival, as somewhere to stay local to Lulworth Castle. Garrison Car’s whizzed me too and from the castle in about 5 minutes. It’s a five minute stroll from the B&B to the pebble beach of Lulworth Cove, longer if you linger at the gift shops and cafes on route. Feeling energetic? Climb up the cliffs to view the natural rock formations of Durdle Door, a World Heritage Site and part of the Jurassic Coastline. It’s a stunning location for all ages.

Bindon Bottom B&B: Relaxed organic retreat in stunning surroundings. 4.9/5

View Bindon Bottom B&B’s site here.

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