The picturesque village of Sonning-on-Thames was once described as “the most fairy-like little nook on the whole river” by Victorian humourist Jerome K Jerome in his comic travelogue Three Men in a Boat. From tiny stone cottages to sprawling Georgian mansions, the unassuming village has housed more than its fair share of well-known names. Rock legend Jimmy Page, MP Theresa May, footballer Glen Hoddle and even Highwayman Dick Turpin have all been known to call Sonning home, but it really hit the map last year when newlyweds George and Amal Clooney bought the old Mill House in the nearby hamlet of Sonning Eye. And just five minutes after wandering down the winding road that leads to the village it is easy to understand why.
And located right on the banks of the Thames, adjacent to the narrow Sonning Bridge, is the social hub of the village – the Coppa Club. Situated in the main building of Sonning’s Great House, Coppa Club is a bar, restaurant, tea room and more. A venue for business brunches, long lunches, and lazy afternoons, as well as home to one of the best relaxed dining restaurant for miles.
The Great House itself is a collection of buildings including the former White Hart public house and dramatist Sir Terrence Rattigan’s home The Red House, as well as three smaller former houses, all renovated to create a warren of high-end hotel rooms.
Having checked in we found our room in a quiet corner away from the main building. Unfortunately no view of the Thames, but fitted with a 32” LED TV to watch instead! The rooms are ample and en suite with a large wet room and also furnished with a comfy sofa, and bar stocked with water and even a bottle of milk for your morning tea.
Having freshened up my husband and I decided to take a stroll around the village. Just a short walk through the beautiful churchyard we found The Bull Inn. So much for a walk – it was time for a drink already! The Bull Inn is all you could ask from a country pub. Guest ales on tap, local ciders and a great selection of wines. Service was extra friendly and there are plenty of nooks and crannies to hide away in for a cosy chat – that must be why George and Amal are keen to call it their local!
Having enjoyed an afternoon aperitif we headed back to the Great House and dinner at Coppa Club, a much more bustling and lively venue with an atmosphere reminiscent of London members’ clubs The Ivy and Groucho.
The Coppa Club menu takes inspiration from Italy and offers a selection of pizzas, pastas and meals from the grill. But don’t be fooled by the simplistic menu – this is a far cry from your High Street pizza pasta restaurants. While walking in we’d seen world-renowned illusionist Uri Geller leaving, but not to fear – all the cutlery remained in tact.
Having enjoyed a juicy flavour-filled seared king prawn starter and winter vegetable bruschetta, we were keenly anticipating our mains – the chef’s special mushroom pasta and a rib eye steak with grilled mushroom and watercress, with a truffle cream on the side. Having been a vegetarian for many years, there’s very little that gets me excited about mushroom pasta, but I was promised great things by our lovely waiter Magnus, and I was certainly not disappointed! The wild mushroom caramelle was a wild mushroom, ricotta and thyme filled pasta, twisted into sweetie-shapes and drenched in a deliciously buttery sauce. Having stolen a spoonful of the truffle cream from my husband’s succulent steak dish to drizzle on the top, my dinner was by far the best meal I’ve eaten all year! The other half was grinning from ear to ear while tucking into his rib eye which was cooked to perfection and an ample size. Although the grinning could have been encouraged by the flavoursome Chianti we chose to accompany our meal.
Dessert is a serious business at Coppa Club, with a range of offerings from lemony ricotta cheesecake to a rhubarb panna cotta or a sticky date and hazelnut pavlova. All look as good as they sound, but having stuffed ourselves to plate-scraping point with the mains we plumped to share the cheesecake and wash everything down with a warming Irish coffee.
Being part of the Great House is a great bonus for diners at Coppa Club as it’s just a short walk back to your bed for the night. And if you wake up hungry you only have to step back across the courtyard to find a full breakfast menu in place. Transformed from an evening restaurant to a bustling morning breakfast bar, Coppa Club serves up super juices, flat whites and full English breakfasts for residents and locals alike. It really does seem to be the one stop shop of social hubs in Sonning, and I for one can’t wait to go back!
*To book a table at Coppa Club or browse the menus see www.coppaclub.co.uk