Cheltenham. Elegant Regency spa town, land of horse racing and a great place to spend a weekend, by all accounts. Choose to hang out in this picturesque part of the country and you’ll be in good company, as Kate Moss, Lily Allen and Damien Hurst all have properties in the surrounding areas.
As far as city centre accommodation goes, there’s plenty. Previously, if you were looking for a touch of London cool, you would have had to hunt around. Not anymore, as fashionistas escaping from the capital and without a county pile in the Cotswolds are heading for No 131, the new boutique hotel on the block.
A restored Georgian villa set on the Promenade in the heart of Cheltenham – which is not such a good thing when trying to park on a busy Saturday (the hotel does not have a car park but does offer a limited number of permits to guests), as spaces come at a premium – once you’ve left the parking stress behind and checked in, it’s a real home from home atmosphere.
Cosy sitting rooms with sofas you sink right into, coffee table books piled high, contemporary artworks, antique furniture, you get my drift.
There are 11 well appointed crash pads upstairs, including our room, which overlooked the front and was small but perfectly formed. It was also quite hot, despite it being November, and we couldn’t seem to regulate the temperature so had to open the windows.
Still, once you got over the fact that there was actually no wardrobe, all the luxe touches were there, including the biggest bed ever (or maybe it was an average sized bed in a small room?), Apple TV, Nespresso machine, knitted hot water bottles and a generous tiled bathroom with two rain head showers, great amenities including toothpaste (yay!), 100 Acres apothecary toiletries, dimmable lights (LOVED this) and underfloor heating.
But lunch beckoned so we wrapped up and went for a wander. We found sustenance at The Tavern, a gastropub just a couple of minute’s walk away. The Tavern fuses modern American and British food with a touch of Asia; salads, prime cuts, burgers and dogs being some of the highlights.
Cheltenham has lots to offer the shopaholic. If you want to escape the main chain store drag, head for Montpellier just a minutes’ walk from the hotel, where you’ll find the independents and a plethora of antique, interior and food shops.
Wander down on Sunday morning and you’ll find a street market selling food, nick nacks and homewares.
By the time evening arrived we were ready for fun. After catching up with a friend at the hotel bar/pub, Crazy Eights, we checked in at the restaurant.
Supporting local farmers, their heritage breeds and artisan producers, the kitchen aims to serve food that is relaxed and fun. Seasonal English produce is used that, where possible, is always organic.
The vibe in the dining room is informal yet elegant (so you won’t feel out of place if you dress up), with a touch of rock ’n’ roll rebellion provided by the neon cross installation bearing the words, “Sin Will Find You Out.”
The bar was buzzing and we ate ridiculously well, binging on fresh oysters, braised lamb shank with white beans, seabass with red chard and lentil vinagrette, washed down by a great house Prosecco. We even took advantage of the dessert menu and indulged in treacle tart with salted caramel ice cream, and a selection of local cheeses.
After all that food, in the end it wasn’t hard to fall asleep, and we didn’t even need the earplugs in the amenities kit.
If you do anything while at No 131, GO DOWN TO BREAKFAST, despite how wild the previous night may have been (you’ll be catered for anyway, just check out the ‘pharmacy’ jar on the bar). For this is the mother of all breakfasts.
Unless you have the patience of a saint, ignore the boiled egg machine which nobody seemed to be able to fathom, and order something off the menu such as devilled kidneys, eggs benedict, or smashed avocado, bulgar wheat and poached egg.
Then settle down with the papers or gaze out onto the Promenade, accompanied by (depending on your hangover status) a green juice, Bucksfizz, Bloody Mary or good old fashioned cup of tea.
And with a morning feast like that inside of you, you’ll be well set up for the drive home.
No 131, 131 Promenade, Cheltenham, Glos GL50 1NW. Tel: 01242 822939; email@example.com.