Malmaison Cheltenham

Cheltenham, Cotswolds & Chilterns, United Kingdom Book from

Reviewed by Abi Dare
Classic meets contemporary at this stylish yet unpretentious hotel and spa in Cheltenham’s stuccoed centre
We half expected to see Georgian lords and ladies pulling up in carriages outside Malmaison Cheltenham, such is the grandeur of its neoclassical façade. But this impression lasted only as far as the door - inside, this elegant white villa has received a thoroughly modern makeover. Eames chairs and Matthew Hilton sofas dot the lobby, walls are festooned with avant-garde paintings by students at Central St Martin’s, and a sweeping arc of steel and claret-coloured glass by Ken Shuttleworth (the architect behind London's Gherkin) forms a distinctly 21st-century extension.

It’s sexy and sophisticated, but not at all showy. A relaxed, contemporary approach extends from the staff uniforms (khaki trousers and Converse plimsolls) and unusual reception desk (a laptop perched on a rough wooden sphere) to the open kitchen in the informal restaurant and the technological wizardry in the 61 rooms. The building hasn’t lost its Regency soul, however: period touches include sash windows, fireplaces and a conservatory, and the divine treatments on offer continue Cheltenham’s spa tradition. It's a striking fusion, and it really works.

Highs

  • Lashings of style with a low-key ambiance - ideal for laid-back breaks, trend-setters, families and business types alike
  • Central location in buzzing Cheltenham's Montpellier district, handy for bars, boutiques and the Cotswolds
  • The small spa is a great place to unwind, and guests get free use of the pool and tennis courts at nearby Cheltenham Ladies' College
  • Beautifully designed restaurant, bar and courtyard for lingering over meals and cocktails
  • Sleek rooms with impressive features, including REN toiletries, ironing board and (in most categories) Nespresso machines

Lows

  • In the throws of change: the hotel was taken over by Malmaison in 2016 and we're yet to visit in its current guise
  • Executive Rooms have in-room bathtubs and showers, with only a flimsy curtain for privacy - not to everyone’s taste
  • Some of the technology is a little too clever - it took us a while to suss out the heating controls in our room
  • The cooked breakfasts were on the small side, although you can pad them out with items from the cold buffet
  • The underground car park is very tight - manoeuvre with care!

Best time to go

Cheltenham is lovely at any time of year. Come in spring and summer for blossoming parks, or in autumn and winter for Christmas shopping and frosty walks in the Cotswolds. Make sure you book well in advance If you want to visit during one of the festivals.

Our top tips

If you like the art dotted around the hotel, take time to flick through the glossy directory provided in each room. It explains the artist and inspiration behind every piece.

Great for...

City Style
Family
Foodie
Honeymoon
Spa
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 61
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room: Executive

Rooms

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.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Iron
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

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.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Coffee tea making
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Soothe away stresses in the spa, which offers pampering treatments using REN potions. My 80-minute ginger and black pepper massage left me blissfully relaxed
  • Soak up Cheltenham’s Regency splendour. A spa town since 1716 (mad King George III once came here in search of a cure), its streets are lined with colonnaded terraces and grand gardens. Head to the Pittville Pump Rooms to sample the medicinal waters for yourself
  • For therapy of a retail kind, browse the classy Montpellier boutiques on your doorstep
  • Cheltenham is renowned for its festivals, and chances are there’ll be something going on during your visit. Come in April/May for the Jazz Festival (performances from the likes of Jools Holland, Jamie Cullum and Madeleine Peyroux), June for the Science Festival (free lectures and hands-on activities), July for the Music Festival (classical concerts) and October for the Literary Festival (past guests include Salman Rushdie, Zadie Smith and Stephen Fry). There are also smaller events throughout the year - when we visited the town’s parks had been turned into open-air art galleries
  • Don your glad rags and spend a day at the races. Cheltenham Racecourse holds regular meetings, kicking off in March with the Gold Cup - one of the biggest events in the racing calendar
  • Head to the Cotswolds for country walks and pretty honey-coloured villages. Bibury, Lower Slaughter and Bourton-on-the-Water (all within a 45-minute drive) are particularly picturesque
  • Visit the Cotswold Water Park (half an hour’s drive) for bird-watching, cycling, fishing, kayaking, windsurfing, sailing and waterskiing
  • Pop down the road to Cheltenham Ladies' College to use its pool, gym and tennis courts (hotel guests get free access)

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Windsurfing

Kids

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.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

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:

Babysitting can be arranged via a local agency with 24 hours’ notice.

Baby equipment:

  • Cots
  • Highchairs in the restaurant
  • Bottle warmers and potties (book in advance)

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

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.

Kids Activities on site:

  • In-room film and music libraries
  • Access to the large indoor swimming pool at Cheltenham Ladies' College

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Cotswold Wildlife Park (30 minutes' drive)
  • Cotswold Water Park (30 minutes' drive)
  • The Cheltenham Science Festival (June) has plenty of free hands-on activities for youngsters
  • Birdland in Bourton-on-the-Water
  • Sandford Parks Lido in Cheltenham (May-September)

Families Should Know:

The ambiance is pretty relaxed but refined at the same time: loud groups of toddlers putting jammy handprints on the cushions are not encouraged.

Distances:

  • Airport: 1 hour (Bristol or Birmingham), 2 hours (London Heathrow)
  • Doctor: 10 minutes
  • Hospital: 20 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
9/
Food
8/
Service
8/
Value
8/
Overall

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