Morning Champers; Three Rustic Hotels Which Create That Loving Feeling

The Evening Standard (London, England), February 11, 2002 | Go to article overview

Morning Champers; Three Rustic Hotels Which Create That Loving Feeling


ELIZABETHAN Combe House draws together just about all the elements incurable romantics might need. A street-sized fireplace, permanently ablaze (stand well clear if having a lover's tiff), a special Chablis list (girls like Chablis), scenes-from-the Domesday Book era out of your bedroom windows and if you book the room named after a slippery local character, Tommy Wax, a bath big enough for two. Pretty aphrodisiac food, too: roast squab pigeon breast with foie gras, cumin potato and garlic foam; warm salad of tempura-fried oyster with a vierge dressing to start; roast stuffed saddle of rabbit with a herb crust, roasted jerusalem artichoke with a rabbit veloute or seared halibut with a lobster ravioli, lobster and vanilla veloute to follow. The pudding indulgence is light pistachio mousse with a dark-chocolate sorbet. Afterdinner chocolate truffles, mine long gone but not forgotten, melt on the lips.

Combe House (01404 540400), Gittisham, near Honiton, Devon, can arrange a chauffeur-driven car, from London, [pound]100 one way, (also pickup from Honiton station). Rooms on Valentine's Day, [pound]246, including unlimited Mercier champagne, dinner and frills such as handmade chocolates and Victorian posy in the room. Winter weekends, two-night minimum, [pound]226 per night, including most of the above.

Sally Shalam

A FRAMED announcement in the drawing room set the tone: "All spirits are served in large measures unless otherwise requested." It's not unusual to call a hotel homely, but at Painswick - a grand Palladian gesture in Cotswold stone - no other word more instantly applies. "Right, Nick and Ashley, when would you like to have dinner?" asked waiter Liam, bearing killer G&Ts. He'd absorbed our names by osmosis.

When owners Gareth and Helen Pugh bought Painswick in 1998, after running the Laura Ashley hotel in Llangoed, Powys, for five years they refrained from radically retooling this 1790s former rectory. Respecting the accumulations of decades - wingback chairs, Arts and Crafts wardrobes - they resolved to enhance things slowly, with country-house colour schemes and auction finds. …

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