“Classic meets contemporary at this stylish yet unpretentious hotel and spa in Cheltenham’s stuccoed centre”
The 61 double rooms are spread across the original villa and the extension (known as the Crescent) and vary in style accordingly. Villa rooms are cosy and carpeted, with plush textiles in slate grey and moss green. Crescent rooms are ultra-modern and almost Scandinavian in style, with deliberately bare walls and splashes of lime green.
All are suitably slick and come with monsoon showers, bathrobes, REN toiletries, and minibars packed with yummy snacks and imaginative drinks. There’s also plenty of technology to play with, including flat-screen TVs, downloadable film and music libraries, and Nespresso machines in the larger room categories.
The smallest Cosy and Standard Rooms (13-20sqm) are stylish but feel a little cramped. Superior Rooms, many with balconies or bay windows, are larger (up to 26sqm) and in our opinion worth the extra spend.
Bigger still are the snazzy Executive Rooms, which have an open-plan bedroom-cum-bathroom. Ours, in the Crescent, was a vast expanse of blonde wood and pale stone, with an Antonio Citterio armchair and a deliciously comfy kingsize bed. The bathtub and walk-in shower take centre stage, with a gauzy curtain providing a modicum of privacy: we enjoyed lazing in the tub while watching TV, but you’d feel self-conscious sharing with anyone except your significant other.
The largest room is the stunning Penthouse (55sqm) on the top floor of the Crescent, which opens out onto a private terrace with outdoor sofas and views stretching over the rooftops to the Cotswolds.
The bistro-style restaurant is wonderfully unfussy - choose between a table in the buzzy dining room, a quieter nook in the Garden Room, or a sunny spot in the courtyard. There’s nothing ostentatious about the menu, either: designed by Simon Hopkinson of Bibendum fame, it focuses on British and European classics, using local produce where possible.
Whatever you order, it’ll be prepared in front of your eyes in the tiled open kitchen, where the chefs chop, sauté and garnish with impressive ease. We plumped for pear and Roquefort salad and tuna Niçoise, followed by sea bass with fennel and citrus, and rump steak with béarnaise sauce - all simple, but done to perfection. Our desserts - gooey chocolate cake with Chantilly cream and a delicate strawberry millefeuille - were equally delicious.
We ended our evening with cocktails in the bar (our favourite was a sparkling blend of rosé wine, elderflower and raspberries known as the 'Montpellier Cooler'), which also serves all-day burgers, pizzas and snacks, plus afternoon tea.
After such fantastic fare, we were slightly disappointed with breakfast the next morning. Though tasty, the cooked options (Eggs Benedict, Full English, scrambled eggs and smoked salmon) were rather small; thankfully we could pile our plates with items from the cold buffet (pastries, cereals, yoghurts) to satisfy our stomachs.
If you fancy a change of culinary scene there’s no shortage of options for eating out nearby.
Children of all ages are welcome, and the relaxed atmosphere will appeal to families seeking kid-friendly style. Cheltenham is a good base for visiting the chocolate box villages of the Cotswolds, and there's a surprisingly large number of things to do in the area, from walks to indoor play barns and wildlife parks. Under 12s stay for free, and the film libraries will help keep kids entertained while the grown-ups chill out in the spa.
Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)
The Superior and Executive Rooms can accommodate baby cots and extra beds for 3-12 year-olds (both free of charge); most have open-plan bathrooms with a bathtub and shower. Some interconnecting rooms are available, but note there are no twin rooms.
Babysitting can be arranged via a local agency with 24 hours’ notice.
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
The restaurant has a children's menu, and the pizzas and burgers on offer in the bar will appeal to young tastebuds. You can also get food all day. Nearby, plenty of pubs serve up kids' meals or half-portions for lunch.
The ambiance is pretty relaxed but refined at the same time: loud groups of toddlers putting jammy handprints on the cushions are not encouraged.