No 131

Cheltenham, Cotswolds & Chilterns, United Kingdom Book from

Reviewed by Sarah Breaux
A spoiling restaurant with rooms in a beautifully restored Georgian villa, where classy antiques sit alongside fabulous contemporary art
Sam and Georgina Pearman (the duo behind the Cotswolds’ stylish Wheatsheaf Inn) spotted potential in this once-derelict grade II Georgian villa the moment they saw it. Through a careful restoration, they have transformed it into a sophisticated restaurant, with a buzzing bar, 11 bespoke bedrooms, and a dash of design flair wherever you look.

Opened to guests in late 2013, the building is classically elegant, with a white columned façade overlooking the well-tended lawns of Cheltenham’s Imperial Gardens. Inside, walls are painted in soft greens and moody greys, providing a backdrop for a quirky collection of modern art and salvaged antiques. Bedrooms come with sumptuous throws and high-tech gadgets, luxurious bathrooms with rainfall showers or restored Victorian tubs; there’s also an inviting lounge with sofas, velvet armchairs and stacks of coffee-table books. By day, sunlight streams in through floor-to-ceiling windows; after dark, lamps and candles cast a soft glow, easing you into an evening of fine dining in the chandeliered restaurant. On the floor beneath is a cosier area, where you’ll find the Crazy Eights bar, a covered courtyard with an open fireplace, a patio, even a billiards room. As for the modern British food, it’s delicious stuff: inventive, locally sourced, organic, and seasonal wherever possible.

Highs

  • We loved the eye-catching British art, including works by Henry Hudson, Alexander Massouras, David Hockney and Sir Peter Blake
  • Ideal for gourmands, with excellent food, a dedicated wine and cheese room and a unique selection of cocktails (Crazy Eights Swizzle or Sherry Cobbler, anyone?)
  • Some of the best hotel bathrooms we've seen - it’s definitely worth requesting one with a tub for an indulgent soak
  • The central location is ideal for strolls and boutique-hopping in Regency Cheltenham, plus walking in the nearby Cotswolds
  • Plenty of little treats - hot-water bottles with hand-knitted covers, robes and 100 Acres bath products, pre-breakfast pastry and newspaper delivery, hot chocolate and cookies at turndown, iPod docks, an Apple TV movie library

Lows

  • Avoid rooms above the patio (particularly Very Good Room 4) at weekends - single glazing doesn’t cut out the noise
  • The food is pricey, as are in-room drinks and snacks
  • Small restaurant tables meant we were shuffling our plates and glasses around throughout the meal
  • Some rooms have tubs by the bed, or no door to the bathroom - request when booking if you’d prefer a fully enclosed ensuite
  • Rates include a continental breakfast only; you’ll have to pay extra for cooked options

Best time to go

Cheltenham is appealing at any time of year, with a packed calendar of festivals (see Activities). Its parks blossom in spring and summer, and its boutiques are ideal for Christmas shopping. No 131 also works well in all seasons, with open fires for chilly weather and a patio for alfresco drinking and dining in the warmer months.

Our top tips

Wine connoisseurs should have a chat with sommelier Lionel Periner, who’s knowledgeable, enthusiastic and happy to share his wisdom.

Great for...

City Style
Foodie
Honeymoon
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 11
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Billiards
  • Apple TV movie library
Room: Excellent Room 3

Rooms

The 11 rooms are characterised by comfortable beds (kingsize, super-kingsize or emperor), large windows, metal lampshades, antique radiators and a variety of fabric textures. Some are decorated in understated tones of grey and green, others have bold wallpaper and colourful tiles set against white panelled walls. Blankets across the beds add an additional splash of colour, and modern art is dotted around the walls. Spoiling bathrooms come with thick towels, plush bathrobes and natural toiletries by 100 Acres.

Room types differ by size and bathroom facilities. The 2 Cosy Rooms are the smallest and have showers only; Very Good Rooms are larger, with a bath, a shower or both; for garden views, request Room 5 or 7. The 2 Excellent Rooms are vast and worth the splurge if you can afford it. Room 6 also has garden views as well as a double-sided TV that you can watch from the bed or the wood-topped in-room tub, plus a separate bathroom with a walk-in shower; Room 3 has an enormous bathroom with a cast-iron tub, a slate-lined shower and a Victorian tiled floor.

We stayed in Very Good Room 4. We loved the blue and white geometric wallpaper, the turquoise accents, and the lovely bathroom with its refurbished roll-top tub, ample drench shower and pull-chain toilet. Our only disappointment was the noise from the patio area beneath, which was rather loud during our Friday-night stay.

All rooms have a selection of posh but pricey drinks and snacks, as well as Nespresso machines, iPod docks and Loewe TVs with Sky and an Apple TV movie library. The nightly turndown service brings hot-water bottles, cookies and hot chocolate, and you can request a complimentary pre-breakfast delivery of juice, pastries and your choice of newspaper.

Features include:

  • Apple TV
  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Coffee maker
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Ipod dock
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

Food in the restaurant - a sophisticated space centred around a long bar with bright turquoise stools - is locally sourced, organic, and seasonal wherever possible. The style is modern British with a twist and, although a little pricey, it’s very good indeed.

The lunch menu includes focaccia sandwiches, small plates (perhaps Wye Valley asparagus with poached egg, or watercress and potato soup) and salads (butternut squash with lime and chilli, mussels with samphire and tomato). There are also a few larger dishes - grilled salmon with blood orange and pine nuts, rump of lamb with cannellini beans and wild garlic - plus indulgent seafood platters.

The dinner selection focuses on steaks cooked in the wood-fired ‘Josper’ oven - choose your cut (there are around 20, including Ruby Red Devon and Welsh Wagyu), your sauce (everything from classic Bearnaise to an exotic Argentinian Chimichuri) and your sides. There are also plenty of starters and seasonal mains, including a few vegetarian dishes. We opted for tuna tartare and crab gratin, followed by hake with clams, a rump steak with peppercorn sauce, and delicious carrots with cumin and dill butter. We topped it off with a tasty treacle tart with ice cream: delicious.

The continental breakfast (included in the rates) is similarly good, with a generous offering of cereals, fruit, pastries and cheeses, plus a ham - what a treat! Cooked breakfasts, including the full English, are available for an additional cost.

The restaurant’s wine list showcases small, international producers chosen by executive sommelier Lionel Periner, formerly of La Trompette in London. There’s also a selection of local beers and ciders, and the clubby Crazy Eights bar has fantastic cocktails, as well as bar food, a patio for alfresco drinking and dining, and a counter where you can pull up a stool and sample Neal’s Yard cheeses from the dedicated wine and cheese room.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Coffee maker
  • Coffee tea making
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
  • Wine and cheese room
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Explore Cheltenham. A spa town since 1716, it’s packed with colonnaded terraces and grand gardens. Head to the Pittville Pump Rooms to sample the medicinal waters for yourself
  • If you prefer therapy of the retail kind, browse the boutiques in the classy Montpellier area, just a short stroll away
  • Cheltenham is renowned for its festivals. 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)
  • Or don your glad rags and spend a day at the races. Cheltenham Racecourse holds regular meetings, kicking off with Cheltenham Festival and its famous Gold Cup in March
  • 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 lovely
  • Visit the Cotswold Water Park (half an hour’s drive) for bird-watching, cycling, fishing, kayaking, windsurfing, sailing and waterskiing
  • Back at No 131, play billiards in the bar, or relax with a glossy book in the lounge

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cycling
  • Festivals
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse racing
  • Kayaking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets
  • Windsurfing
  • Wine tasting

Kids

Children of all ages are welcome, though we’d say this is a sophisticated hotel that’s better suited to couples. Baby cots and rollaway beds can be added to Very Good and Excellent Rooms.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Babysitting:

Staff can recommend a babysitting agency.

Children's meals:

Children's meals available on request.

Our guests' ratings...

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

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Rates for No 131