Ho­tel Spy: Univer­sity Arms in Cam­bridge

New life breathed into an old city stal­wart

Lonely Planet (UK) - - Contents -

What’s the deal? A ho­tel has stood on the site of the Univer­sity Arms since 1834, start­ing life as a coach­ing inn and, lat­terly, serving as a rather tired chain ho­tel. Af­ter an £80 -mil­lion, two-year re­fur­bish­ment by ar­chi­tect John Simp­son and in­te­rior de­signer Martin Brud­nizki, it re­opened ear­lier this year. What’s changed? Any­one fa­mil­iar with the Univer­sity Arms in its last guise is un­likely to recog­nise the cur­rent in­car­na­tion. Gone is the ugly 1960s façade, and in its place is a mag­nif­i­cent clas­si­cal frontage, with three sets of enor­mous doors open­ing onto the lobby. While first im­pres­sions are of for­mal grandeur, once in­side, warmth and hu­mour reign. Tell me more The most in­ter­est­ing bits of the old ho­tel (the stained­glass win­dows show­ing col­lege crests, the ceil­ingheight oak fire­places) have been re­tained, but much else is fresh, in­clud­ing an en­tire new floor con­tain­ing the suites. A sense of play­ful­ness is ap­par­ent through­out: the hall­way car­pets are pat­terned like univer­sity ties, in­trigu­ing art­work cov­ers the walls, and Cam­bridge Blue, a bright turquoise, pops up in places as di­verse as the ex­te­rior iron­work and the Do Not Dis­turb signs. What’s my room like? ‘Calm’ is the word. Each is beau­ti­fully quiet, with black-out cur­tains, Far­row and Ball paint, Ed­war­dianstyle bath­rooms, 300 - thread­count bed linen and Hyp­nos mat­tresses. A nice touch is the set of three books in each: Wind in the Wil­lows, Porter­house Blue and Cau­tion­ary Tales for Chil­dren. For a treat, book one of the12 suites on the top floor; the won­der­ful Franklin (named af­ter DNA chemist Ros­alind) has a triple-as­pect bath­room in a tur­ret and a ter­race over­look­ing the park. What am I eat­ing? Be­fore food, have a cock­tail in the con­vivial bar or fire­side in the li­brary. The light-filled restau­rant, Parker’s Tav­ern, serves re­vamped, un­fussy clas­sics such as braised lamb and pie of the day, cour­tesy of head chef Tris­tan Welch. We loved the del­i­cately spiced kedgeree at break­fast (rooms from £188; uni­ver­sit­yarms.com).

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