Ruislip & Eastcote & Northwood Gazette
BYRON MELTON TAKES A FANCY TO THE HOTEL CHAIS MONNET & SPA, IN COGNAC, FRANCE
A long driveway quietly sets five-star Hotel Chais Monnet & Spa off the road to Cognac’s town centre.
Courtyard gardens and trickling ponds give the entrance a calming influence, while each room inside is an opulent haven away from everyone and everything.
Staff are a pleasure to be around and make it a real treat to stay in the best hotel in town.
Chais Monnet’s 92 rooms elegantly marry traditional French luxe and modern design. Some tell a story thanks to beautiful 184-year-old wood beams from the site’s days as a cognac cellar.
Linen furnishings, bespoke Fragonard toiletries, marble bathroom details and oak parquet floors make each entry a rich embrace. Elsewhere, communal areas are a canvas for up-and-coming local artists to display their work.
The talent on show changes every six months and the hotel doesn’t charge creatives a penny – even if they make a sale.
FOOD AND DRINK
Chais Monnet has two restaurants of its own, La Distillerie and Les Foudres.
The former, decorated in rustic, industrial style, is your perfect bet for a more relaxed dinner. Main course options here are hearty and classically French – and the desserts naughtily rich. Order the crunchy milk chocolate and praline and all your sweet-treat dreams will come true.
The latter, which translates as The Barrels, is a Michelin-starred tour-deforce. At sunset, rays drench its cathedral-like facade to give its dining rooms a magical glow.
Inside, new head chef Paolo Boscaro’s tasting menu is nothing short of an ascension. He injects his Italian heritage into flavour combinations you never knew worked so well, such as lobster and peach, and gnocchi and orange.
For breakfast help yourself, or order an incredible trunk of treats straight to your room.
Chais Monnet’s facility offers treatments from 30 minutes to an indulgent four hours using products from KOS Paris and Olivier Claire.
Salt and sugar scrubs, deep-tissue massages and facial treatments are all on the menu – and there are even options for the little ones.
When you’ve visited the thundering jacuzzi, hammam, sauna and sensory shower, a tropical-warm relaxation room awaits, with hot and cold teas to sup while you kick back.
WHAT TO DO
A clear retractable roof makes Chais Monnet’s indoor/outdoor pool a must, whatever the weather.
Follow your relaxing dip with a peaceful sunset stroll around the hotel’s grounds to take in its stunning £56million 2018 refurbishment.
The new glass pavilion above the pool is perhaps the most striking viewpoint, but the mansion-turned-office in its front garden is by far the prettiest photo stop.
Before or after dinner, saunter to the hotel’s uber-cool 1838 Jazz Bar to sample one or more of its 200-plus cognacs.
If you’re new to the spirit, ask for it instead of whisky in a delicious cocktail of your choice – or opt for a game-changing cognac espresso martini.
A DAY OUT
Trips to local distilleries are the best way to get the most out of Cognac and its lush, rolling backdrop. Follow the serene Charente river on foot to begin your education at Hennessy.
Its slick interactive tour (from £21.20, hennessy.com) will sow the seed for your love of cognac, spanning the brand’s journey from Irish family business to a global superpower.
Next, leave your blues in the rear view mirror and weave through green fields in one of Chais Monnet’s adorable Citroen 2CVs to Renaud de Champ Contre.
Led by Bertrand and Sabine de Witasse, passion abounds at this family distillery.
They earn 80% of their income from cognac they produce for Remy Martin, providing freedom to distil their own labour of love, Cognac Raison Personelle.
Le Baume de Bouteville, 25 minutes east, is also worth a trip to see how a tiny team uses cognac to make vinegars loved by top French chefs.
For that rural je ne sais quoi, park the 2CV in a quiet vineyard for a very French trunk picnic.