Sil­ver ser­vice on the Isle of Wight

ROOM AT THE INN

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Europe - AZB KNIGHT

THE Hambrough at Vent­nor is some­thing of an anom­aly on this stretch of Isle of Wight coast. Its neigh­bours are a so­cial club, where el­derly cou­ples glug neon drinks and dance to loud Dolly Par­ton cov­ers, a beach shop that sells in­flat­able dol­phins, choco­late bars and cig­a­rettes, and a pub serv­ing scampi and chips, fish and chips, and sausage and chips.

This is the Bri­tish sea­side of the 1950s — un­so­phis­ti­cated, up for a good time. The Hambrough is a dis­creet cuckoo in this brassy nest, set high and back from the beach, a quiet villa from Vent­nor’s Vic­to­rian-era hey­day.

As I check in, every­body seems to be pol­ish­ing spoons. The man­ager clinks down a nap­kin full of cutlery as she emerges from the bar to greet me, the wait­ers in the restau­rant are care­fully rub­bing sil­ver­ware as they pre­pare for the ser­vice, and, as I pass the of­fice on the way to my room, I spot the re­cep­tion­ist shin­ing her way through a stack of cutlery.

A more ap­pro­pri­ate wel­come there could hardly be, for at The Hambrough, the food’s the thing. So, straight to the restau­rant. This small room of nine ta­bles, unas­sum­ing and hushed, holds the isle’s only Miche­lin star. Newly in­stalled chef-pa­tron Chris Denny sends from his kitchen such sub­lime of­fer­ings as roasted quail with pick­led beetroot and crunchy grains; and a stuffed cour­gette flower with tapi­oca that re­claims the old English school din­ner sta­ple with panache. The wine I am rec­om­mended is both de­li­cious and star­tlingly in­ex­pen­sive. Pud­dings from pas­try chef Alex Wib­ber­ley are ter­rific (with an hon­ourable men­tion for the le­mon curd fudge he makes for gue­stroom mini­bars). The sec­ond-floor gue­strooms are, re­ally, nec­es­sary ad­juncts to the restau­rant, some­where to sleep off all that grub. And, as such, they do fine — clean, spa­cious and taste­fully dec­o­rated.

But rooms 1 and 2 on the first floor have bal­conies look­ing over Vent­nor Bay, above which the moon hangs with car­toon­ish per­fec­tion dur­ing my stay. All rooms have flat-screen tele­vi­sions, espresso ma­chines, per­fectly ad­e­quate and airy bath­rooms with un­der­floor heat­ing and (imag­ine my shock 20 years into the global wood floor­ing rev­o­lu­tion) fit­ted car­pets. The fo­cus is on com­fort, rather than lux­ury be­cause you stay at The Hambrough for the food, not the bed; you shell out for the room in or­der to be se­duced by the restau­rant, and by the home- baked, home-churned, home-pre­served and home-squeezed break­fast.

It’s a fur­ther bonus, af­ter con­sum­ing your body’s weight in snacks, that the area’s most beau­ti­ful beaches are a healthy walk away. The Isle of Wight is a blessed spot, as Queen Vic­to­ria re­alised when she set up home and even­tu­ally died here in 1901.

There may be more sump­tu­ous places to lay your head but for the most re­fined din­ing on this quintessen­tially English is­land, The Hambrough is the place to be. AZB Knight was a guest of The Hambrough.

The Hambrough’s gue­strooms are airy and com­fort­able

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