“Outstanding gourmet cuisine, 3 small-but-perfect rooms, wild mountains on your doorstep - and it's only 3.5 hours from London”
There are just 3 rooms, one of them good sized and the other 2 are considerably smaller. But, like everything here, they're impeccably thought out and beautifully finished. Expect delicate Fired Earth hues, crisp white Laura Ashley bedlinen, masses of pillows, a flatscreen TV (bring your own DVDs in case of rainy days) and some gorgeous furnishings, from exuberant chandeliers to a Venetian glass dressing table. Bathrooms have underfloor heating, stacks of fluffy towels and enough Penhaligon smellies to coax the weariest limbs back to life. Overall it feels smart but not over-designed, indulgent without being fussy.
Side-facing Oliver is the one to go for, if it's available. Blood-red walls, a leather armchair, a vast wrought-iron sleigh bed, and a freestanding tub in the bathroom - there's plenty of material for mooching. We slept like babies on an excellent mattress with a lambswool throw over our duvet, and were not disturbed by road noise, even with the window open.
Side-facing Phoebe is smaller, but still manages a kingsize bed in its pale-blue and cream snugness; there's a decent sized shower room with a glass-brick window and travertine floor. It's not a place to linger during the day, but with 2 homely sitting rooms downstairs and an endless expanse of countryside outside your window, there's no reason to.
Road-facing Otis is the smallest, but the Venetian glass dressing table and mirrors reflect light and pale beige stencilled wallpaper keeps it bright. It's the only one with a standard sized double bed, most of which seems to be occupied with pillows. There's a short slipper bath next door, among grey-white tiles with occasional glimmers of precious metal in their glass casings.
This is what you come for so make sure you reserve a table in good time (it can get busy with locals). In the kitchen is a husband and wife team: Colin in the engine room, Melanie as maitre-cum-assistant chef (pastries, pastas, desserts). After fireside aperitifs, she ushers you into a kitchen dining room (or the private 'chef's room' for groups up to 8) where you peruse the grey menu card propped against gleaming glasses and shiny Vileroy and Boch cutlery. With 3 choices for each course (and they change daily), you may wish you had booked for an extra day or 2, just to try them all.
Our taste of gourmet heaven started with sculpted lattices of parmesan crisp with buds of goats' cheese mousse and a glass of Juvé and Camps Cava (crisp and bright and decent value - or there are 75 other wines to choose from!). The seafood platter (scallops, langoustine, mussels) and the salad of Cardigan Bay crabs with caviar and avocado got the taste buds going. A dinner speciality is the Welsh black beef - firm and flavoursome and a perfect texture - with a finely layered potato-onion galette and a neatly wrapped parcel of crunchy mangetout, baby sweetcorn and other veg, including chanterelles and deceivers picked by a Ludlow mushroomer. Brecon venison and mountain lamb are also local - Melanie and Colin set great store by this, as by the freshness of the ingredients - and cooked with a touch of the unusual (peppercorn and blueberry sauce, Mediterranean-style vegetables) to set them apart. Our banana and rum soufflé oozed its warm heart gratifyingly into the praline ice cream, and the sabayon tart was pure lemon and pine nuts and butter and bliss.
After that, it's no surprise to find a breakfast menu encompassing wild mushroom sauté with duck eggs, scrambled eggs with caviar, rhubarb and orange jam and fresh-pressed apple juice - enough to set you up for a full day's walk (you'll barely need lunch). And as for Melanie's dark date and walnut bread, well, Marie Antoinette would have given up cake for it.