Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Calm Surface, Cool Service; Nothing Beats the Peace of an Autumn Weekend Somewhere with a Waterside View

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Calm Surface, Cool Service; Nothing Beats the Peace of an Autumn Weekend Somewhere with a Waterside View

Article excerpt

Byline: NICK REDMAN;CAROLINE FITTON;DERYA FILIZ

HAMBLETON HALL, Rutland

THE Victorians built with grandeur and morality aforethought; thus, even proprietor Tim Hart says of Hambleton Hall: "These sort of houses don't work well as picture postcards - the first generations were practical, they designed from the inside out."

That said, this crenellated 17-room family pile, in lichened limestone, resides dashingly, and discreetly, in a green fold of Rutland county, peeking through ash and cedar at vast Rutland Water spread poetically below.

With the distant anglers casting, and sheep munching about its banks, you could be in a remote swath of the Lake District. Yet Hambleton is a leisurely two-hour run up the A1 from London.

Mercs and Maseratis hint at predominant patrons (businessmen making weekend amends to gazelle-like wives; special-occasion sixsomes from Nottinghamshire and the regions). Within - all waxy wall colours, empire stripes and paintings of creamy-faced aristos - time is measured in G and Ts and rustling Telegraphs. Don't think staid, however. Hart's wife Stefa's decor unfolds crisply, in a Colefax and Fowler way: fern prints in frames along a bedroom wall; bath potions in a trug; vast, custom-made beds, pocket-sprung and clad in Egyptian cotton. In our Chintz Room - which does what it says on the door - the clear morning streamed through a mullioned window on to a bathtub with nicely utilitarian pipe-out-of-the-wall taps, travertine marble all around.

Tim Hart is too sharp to allow Middle-England stuffiness any leeway: "We have no rules, although most of our clients have a bath and put something different on." For dinner, he means - in Hambleton's utterly superb restaurant. Chef Aaron Patterson - ex Le Manoir - goes fairly and squarely for the Ramsay crown, delivering flawless courses: amusegueules in vodka-shot glasses; simply roasted loin of spring lamb with Mediterranean vegetables; red mullet with bouillabaisse and red-wine sauce. Puddings (in particular dark-and-white chocolate pav? elicited superlatives, the sommelier deftly matching wines to each choice.

Fay Ce Que Voudras - do as you please - is the motto over the door. We will.

We're going back next month.

Hambleton Hall (01572 756991), Hambleton, Oakham; doubles from ? B&B; three-course set menu ?without wine.

Nick Redman

MONKS COTTAGE, North Devon

To justify the Devon cream tea - a welcome gift at the 15th century thatched Monks Cottage - long healthy walks were imperative.

We had plenty to choose from.

Overlooking the Taw estuary - handy for exploration north to Woolacombe and Ilfracombe, south to Bideford, Appledore and Instow, and inland to Exmoor - the coastal area is dominated by the vagaries of light and tide.

Leading to the coastline, a long, almost disused toll road follows marsh-lined fields of inquisitive bullocks down to the inlet at Crow Point. …

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