The much-praised Hotel du Vin & Bistro in Winchester has replicated itself twice over, first here in Tunbridge Wells, and more recently in Bristol. They could now, therefore, be described as a group of chain hotels (more are planned), a species which this guide goes out of its way to ignore. However, such is the panache with which Robin Hutson, Gerard Besson and Peter Chittick have carried out their vision of an easy-going yet chic mid-price town hotel that we have no hesitation in including any of them: they are all great.
As in Winchester, once again the owners set their sights on a faded old hotel, ripe for conversion, in this case one with an elevated position, an abundance of space, and many period features such as the billiard room (its walls now charmingly decorated with hand-painted cigar designs), the staircase, fireplaces in the bedrooms and the delightful terrace overlooking Calverley Park. Bedrooms are stylishly restrained and extremely comfortable, with huge bathrooms and deliciously deep tubs and spacious showers.
The Bistro is a faithful copy of Winchester’s, right down to the garland of hops and the world-class sommelier. This one – Henri Chapon – came from Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons. We asked him why. 'At the Manoir, it was a case of keeping everything the same; here, with a new venture, we can move forward.’ The food has a sunny Mediterranean bias.