All things considered, this weekend really was the perfect sort of weekend for a mini-break. After a hot-and-bothered sort of week in London, R and I escaped off the M40 to blue skies and beating sun, only without the sweaty tube journeys and over-heated offices. Instead, as we turned off a little winding lane to take us to the teeny, tiny village of Hambleden, our home for the night, we were greeted with the stillness of a summer night and a sweetness in the air that only comes when you leave the stinky city.
We were in Hambleden courtesy of Hillbrooke Hotels
which had kindly invited us to stay as the first guests at its newest hotel, The Stag and Huntsman
which officially opens for business today. To call it a hotel is a little misleading though – I’d call it a traditional pub-inn-meets-country-house instead. Jolly good place, chaps! I’ll say!
The Stag and Huntsman (above) is full of beams and fireplaces, maze-like corridors with wondrous bedrooms hidden off at different turns. The whole place has been entirely renovated and redecorated – the look is very vintage, very shabby chic and slightly eccentric old-English-gentleman (I’m not entirely sure, but I can bet you every single wall is a shade of Farrow & Ball). You can tell that a lot of thought (and money) has gone into this, from the William Morris wallpaper in the dining room to the vintage silver candleholders and the wildflowers scattered here and there.
Oh, but it’s lovely. Our room was immense, painted in shades of mossy-grey green with a bathroom almost as big as the bedroom itself and a pedestal bath to swoon in.
What I liked most was the finishing touches that made it feel like you were staying in a particularly stylish, land-owning relative’s house and not a hotel. Although every room worked on the same premise, filled with antique furniture of the shabby-chic rather than stuffy kind, feature walls and muted colours plus a retro Roberts radio and a *proper* big kettle for mugs of tea in bed, no two rooms were the same. This is homely luxury where it’s not ostentation that counts, but comfort. With doubles starting at around £110, it isn’t too overpriced for a quick city-getaway either – for the size of the rooms, the luxury and the food, I’d say it’s worth it even if you can only stretch to stay one night.
Starving by the time we arrived, the kitchen quickly served up bowls of pink risotto (made with beetroot and goat’s cheese) followed by a plate of mini meringues and chocolate cups – even though they technically didn’t have to because they aren’t *officially* open yet; in the morning, a huge platter of pastries and croissants appeared as we sat out in the garden, followed by eggs, toast, mushrooms and more toast.
After ambling through the village, pottering on to Henley-upon-Thames and falling in love with Enid Blyton’s cottag
e (a must see: we whiled away most of the afternoon here, quietly reading and eating homemade coffee cake), we left full, happy and rested. And that is what I call a good end result.