Hooray Hen­ley for the per­fect week­end

The Jewish Chronicle - - Travel - BY ELLE JACK­SON

EVEN IF WE are still choos­ing t o t a k e our main hol­i­days abroad, lots of us are tak­ing week­end breaks i n the UK. And with ac­com­mo­da­tion of the qual­ity of­fered by chains of chic bou­tique ho­tels and the grander coun­try house prop­er­ties, you can un­der­stand why.

One of the “bou­tique” brands to have rev­o­lu­tionised our week­end­ing habits is the up­scale Ho­tel du Vin chain, sis­ter brand to the Mal­maisons.

I spent a week­end in their Hen­ley-onThames prop­erty, which is not just per­fect for chill­ing out, but its prox­im­ity to Lon­don — un­der an hour’s drive from the north of the cap­i­tal — makes it per­fect for an in­dul­gent week­end away, without a long shlep home in Sun­day evening traf­fic. We were par­tic­u­larly lucky to visit the ho­tel on one of the sum­mer’s rare sunny week­ends, al­low­ing us to take ad­van­tage of the el­e­gant out­door space at the con­verted for­mer brew­ery be­side the river.

There’s a won­der­ful court­yard with ta­bles and it was a par­tic­u­lar treat to eat break­fast in the sun­shine. At week­days there is also a bar­be­cue com­ple­ment­ing the usual lunchtime menu. For win­ter vis­i­tors, the cosy bars with big squashy so­fas and great cock­tails, make up for not be­ing able to use the court­yard.

The ho­tel is also per­fect for a ro­man­tic week­end away. Its 43 guest rooms in­clude five suites — each named af­ter a va­ri­ety of wine or Cham­pagne spon­sors. For in­stance, Ruinart (named af­ter the firstCham­pag­ne­house,foundedin1729) is a split-level stu­dio suite with a bath­room that takes up the en­tire top floor and­hous­esanover-sized­walk-in­shower and a ter­race with roll-top bath, out­door heater and views over the Thames.

La Grand Dame — named for Veuve Clic­quot’s grand cru — is set on three lev­els with dou­ble roll-top baths and an eight-foot bed.

Other rooms are gor­geously fin­ished with stripped wood, white walls, crisp Egyp­tian cot­ton sheets, flat screen TV, DVD player (and DVD li­brary at re­cep­tion), Wi-Fi con­nec­tion and a well­stocked mini-bar.

A lot of at­ten­tion has gone into the ho­tel’s buzzy Bistro, serv­ing Euro­pean cui­sine with an ex­ten­sive menu which changes daily and in­cludes plenty of non-meat op­tions. As you would ex­pect from a Ho­tel du Vin, it also has an ex­ten­sive and well-cho­sen wine list. Af­ter din­ner, guests head to the Cham­pagne Bar, the softly lit Snug or the Ci­gar and Bil­liard Room with a huge choice for ci­gar-smokers, as well as an “in­door” smok­ing room out­side.

If you en­joy some pam­per­ing, the ho­tel rec­om­mend the Kubu Spa, a few min­utes walk away.

It of­fers a wide range of treat­ments, in­clud­ing the ex­cel­lent one-hour mas­sage I had, but some of the plea­sure is re­duced when you have to walk back af­ter­wards.

If you’re lucky enough to pick a week­end when it’s not rain­ing, you can use the Bateau du Vin, the ho­tel’s 12-seater re­stored Vic­to­rian barge and take your own pic­nic or or­der canapés spe­cially pre­pared by the chef.

The ho­tel is just 50 yards from the fa­mous river­side moor­ings and Hobb’s boat­yard, so you can stroll be­side the river or visit the his­toric town cen­tre where there are plenty of shops to keep you oc­cu­pied.

And there’s plenty to do in South Ox­ford­shire, if you choose to ven­ture a lit­tle fur­ther from the ho­tel. Through­out the sum­mer months there are nu­mer­ous fes­ti­vals in­clud­ing the Hen­ley Fes­ti­val of Mu­sic and Arts (July), Hen­ley Lit­er­ary Fes­ti­val (Septem­ber), Hen­ley Food Fes­ti­val (May) and Hen­ley Fringe Fes­ti­val.

And if you feel like do­ing some se­ri­ous shop­ping, it’s un­der 30 min­utes to the de­signer shop­ping vil­lage at Bices­ter.

One of the split-level suites at Ho­tel du Vin, Hen­ley, with roll­top bath

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