RUNNER-UP: BEST SPA HOTEL – SMITH HOTEL AWARDS 2015
Dormy House – a boutique hotel in the Cotswolds, by honey-hued Broadway village – is a 17th-century farmhouse given a 21st-century twist by Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons’ interior-design talents, Todhunter Earle. Retro-chic rooms reflect the hotel’s cosmopolitan clientele, with cosy and clean-lined rooms in neutral hues and original features, or Emily Todhunter's bold geometric prints alongside bespoke Scandinavian-style furnishings. There's also an exclusive-use manor on site, and the hotel is set near Broadway Golf Club (on the 400-acre Farncombe Estate), offering timeless views from the rooms, the restaurant – where you’ll dine on cleverly composed Cotswolds’ fare – and the locally lauded country pub.
Vale of Evesham views
Creative country fare
A scented candle – designed exclusively for Dormy House – in your room. GoldSmiths receive an extra plate of handmade chocolates
In the know
Also need to know:
All public areas are wheelchair accessible and there are two disabled-access rooms (both are Comfy rooms). Need a bucolic breather? Ask reception for the key to the secret Japanese-themed garden, tucked away on the Farncombe Estate. Dormy House also offers a range of luxury hampers for garden jaunts, too.
A pair of Hunter wellies for rustic rambling. Leave your tablet computer at home; all rooms have one and in this sublime spot you’ll want to gaze at the view rather than a screen anyway.
Buffed-up bumpkin: put aside pressed collars and slip into chinos; well-cut Margaret Howell-style corduroys, knits and shift dresses will serve Mrs Smith well.
Mr and Mrs Smith reviews
Driving through Gloucestershire and then Worcestershire’s winding country lanes, we felt the anticipation bubbling. This was a special weekend to celebrate Mr Smith’s birthday and, quietly, I felt pressure, as I wanted everything to be heavenly. In true British style, it rained pretty much the entire journey from London to the Cotswolds, but funnily enough this didn’t dampen spirits in the slightest and only made us more excited for what lay ahead. Once we saw the village of Broadway, we knew that we were close. Fresh air gushed in through the windows along with the promise of a weekend of relaxation. Pulling into the gravelled driveway of Dormy House, we felt shoulders loosening.
If you harbour arriviste ambitions, but are too easy-going to affect Astor-style airs and graces, luxe yet laid-back Dormy House will be right up your tree-lined lane. From the moment you step out of the car, a lovely doorman appears to carry your bags. Everyone who works at Dormy House is smiley and patient – as we discovered when we repeatedly got lost trying to find our room in the main house (not that it was hard, we were just too relaxed to pay attention). There's nothing like feeling like royalty, before you’ve even stepped foot in the hotel.
After check-in, we were given a guided tour on the way to our room. Every space is charming and full of character, with little details that make you feel at home – log fire crackling in reception, and a cute owl hanging heavily off our room key. This 17th-century farmhouse has retained its rustic charm with crumbly limestone walls – in the Cotswolds’ trademark honey hue – and exposed beams, but has been sympathetically updated by Todhunter Earle. They’ve played fast and loose with the past – to great effect – adding bold 1950s-style wallpaper prints and fabrics, and a few well-chosen pieces of mid-century modern furniture.
Jazz music playing softly on the radio welcomed us into our room in the main house. The bed was so comfortable, it’s a wonder we did anything other than sleep. Thankfully a miniature jar of fresh milk in our fridge inspired us to perk up with a cup of tea, while admiring the view from our window over rolling, green fields. We’d barely unpacked before we’d donned our shawl-collared bathrobes from the gleaming ensuite to head down to the oh-so-pretty House Spa.
A beautiful space with a garden-view café and nail bar upstairs, there’s also a world of relaxation below. There’s a bubbly heated hydro pool on an outdoor terrace, and a glowing amethyst-hued indoor infinity pool flanked by huge, supremely soft sand-coloured sofa beds and glossy magazines begging to be lazily flicked through amid the tranquil atmosphere. Pick between the glass-walled lavender-infused pool-view sauna, and a Finnish junipery number; a sea-salty steamy hammam, and the tropical showers are as glamorous as places to sweat or splash can be. We already felt floaty and we hadn’t even had our couples massage yet… Warmly welcomed into a sprawling suite with heated couches, Mr Smith and I agreed this is what heaven must resemble.
After our treatments we glided down to dinner at the Garden Room. The statement on their Modern British menu is to serve the best food around, and after eating there I can confidently say, ‘mission accomplished’. Everything our charming waitress recommended was delicious. Then we planted ourselves on our bed and ordered a movie from the in-room tablet, which even has extra options such as popcorn and ice-cream delivered to your room along with the film. Feeling stuffed and indulged, we drifted off to sleep soundly.
Breakfast the next morning was just as much of a joy: eggs any way you like, freshly squeezed juices, so many cheeses from the surrounding farms. And presented with sweet hand-written tags here and there, in the light-filled dining room. Afternoon tea at the hotel’s own art-directed pub, the Potting Shed, was also a dream. Ingredients felt as though they’d properly travelled straight from field to fork. As loathe as we were to, we did break free from Dormy’s loving clutches to explore Farncombe Estate to admire the perfect country scene, with roaming deer and contented-looking Vale of Evesham lambs. (They obviously have yet to see the Potting Shed menu.)
A cache of chocolate-box villages lie within a half-hour drive of the hotel, and a stroll through the well-tended 400-acre estate offers the kind of Arcadian inspiration that the area’s eminent former residents – which include Beatrix Potter, Jane Austen and JRR Tolkien – must have felt while a wandering. Our aim for the perfect weekend away was well and truly achieved, and I have to thank the people, luxuries and atmosphere of Dormy House earning me huge girlfriend points. Quite honestly, it was rather hard to tear ourselves away at the end of our stay. We were made to feel so at home, it was a little bit like the feeling of fleeing the nest: you know you have to do it but it’s just so warm and cosy. Our consolation is knowing that we’ll be sure to return soon for some real ale in the Potting Shed or a meal of artfully prepared local produce in the Garden Room restaurant – at the very least.
Willersey Hill, Broadway, Cotswolds, Worcestershire WR12 7LF, United Kingdom
14.4 mi / 23.2 km from city centre
- Valet parking
- Aerobics instruction
- Exercise gym
- Internet services
- On-Site parking
- Room service
The hotel's restaurants are helmed by head chef Sam Bowser, whose skills helped whisk him through the ranks in some of the country's most acclaimed kitchens, where he worked alongside industry heavyweights like Raymond Blanc, Philip Howard and Michel Roux Jr. The Garden Room, the more formal of the two, has a glass wall facing the greenery and views that would make famed Broadway Village resident John Singer Sargent reach for his easel. It may have the view to compete with, but the food is far from humdrum; dishes like turbot with cauliflower, curry and lime make the menu a tour de force in wildly inventive West Country cuisine. The Potting Shed menu is more down to earth, but its offerings are no less delicious – expect wholesome, hearty dishes like roast duck, smoked haddock and pork belly. Tucked away in the spa, the Greenhouse serves wholesome lunches and tempting cakes; on a sunny day, its tree-circled terrace makes a peaceful spot for afternoon tea.
If you only have eyes for each other choose a secluded corner table; otherwise ogle the view from a window seat (or one on the terrace if it’s sunny).
Breakfast: 7.30am–10am daily; dinner 7pm–9:30pm. Tuesday to Saturday nights and Sunday lunch: 12 noon to 2:30pm. Snacks are served all day in the lounge and afternoon tea 2pm to 6pm. In the Potting Shed pub: lunch, 12 noon to 2:30pm; dinner 6pm-9:30pm.
Room service can be ordered 24 hours a day. All it takes is the touch of a button on your in-room tablet to send staff scurrying to your door with silver-cloche-covered sharing platters and meals made with fresh local fare.
The Potting Shed is a country pub that’s been tidied up around the edges – retro flooring, a spectacular conical skylight and architectural chandeliers denote a departure from the average British boozer. However, down-to-earth pub grub – replete with sharing platters – a selection of local Real Ales and a sociable seating plan show it hasn’t forgotten its rustic roots.