Not everyone’s idea of the perfect Christmas involves cooking their own turkey or fighting their family for the last purple Quality Street. If your version of the dream festive gathering entails someone else doing the cooking – and topping you up with glasses of fizz – then read on for five of the best foodie getaways for Christmas 2016.
The Tudor Farmhouse Hotel
Surrounded by farmland in the Forest of Dean, the 13th-century Tudor Farmhouse Hotel makes a romantic destination for a Christmas break in the country. Each of its rustic-chic bedrooms (sage greens, duck-egg blues, painted furniture, smart woollen throws) has wonderful views over fields and trees but, for ultimate pampering, book the Loft with its roll-top bath, monsoon shower and private terrace.
Arrive on Christmas Eve for a visit to atmospheric Clearwell Cave followed by music, mince pies and mulled wine before settling in for a three-course dinner in the hotel’s restaurant. Chef Martin Adams and his team use produce from no more than 20 miles away, as well as foraged ingredients from the hotel’s grounds, so expect an inventive seasonal menu.
Breakfast is also a local affair, while Christmas lunch includes ham hock terrine, smoked haddock soup or house-made curd followed by butter-roast stone bass or roast turkey with all the trimmings (the drinks list includes local cider from Ty Gwyn, wine from nearby Tintern and ales from Kingstone Brewery).
On Boxing Day, work off any excess with a guided walk around the village or head off on your own for a hike around Symonds Yat before returning for afternoon tea and, later, a 5-course tasting menu dinner.
Three-night Christmas breaks start from £1050 for two, tudorfarmhousehotel.co.uk
The Ham Yard Hotel
Christmas in London is a special time. As many residents leave, and others are holed up at home, a stillness descends on the city’s historic streets and it’s a beautiful time to amble from restaurant to bar, cinema to gallery. If you’ve got the means, stay in the heart of things at the Ham Yard Hotel and you can enjoy all that traditional magic with a twist of hip urban glamour.
If you have family in tow, it’s a surprisingly family-friendly retreat with designer travel cots and wet wipes thrown in for babies, milk and cookies for younger children and DVDs, popcorn and an hour’s play in the hotel’s bowling alley for older kids. Being a new-build, everything works (no creaky floors or drippy showers), but there’s character, too, thanks to co-owner Kit Kemp’s trademark interiors: colourful, patterned textiles, quirky finds and original artwork. Rooms are as stylish and vivid as the rest of the hotel, with big windows, decadent bathrooms and blissful beds.
And adults are well looked-after too. The softly lit dining room is an atmospheric place to enjoy Christmas lunch; think Jerusalem artichoke velouté with truffle salsa or River Farm smoked salmon followed by slow-roast goose with spiced jus or baked gnocchi with wild mushrooms, butternut squash, spinach and a crisp Parmesan crust. Desserts use seasonal ingredients – try blood orange cheesecake and clementine and vanilla crème brulee with dark chocolate macaroons.
Double rooms cost from £378 per night over Christmas, family rooms from £492 per night. Breakfast costs from £4 for porridge. Four-course Christmas lunch with a glass of Prosecco, £110pp (firmdalehotels.com).
Just past Burnham Deepdale, on the Norfolk Coast, you come to Titchwell Manor, a stylish and colourful hotel that puts a contemporary spin on a grand Victorian house. Book in for Christmas and pampering is guaranteed. Arrive on Christmas Eve and you can trot off to the service at nearby St Mary’s Church or just sit back with a cream tea and sherry in front of the hotel’s log fire before listening to carol singers with cocktails, champagne and canapes – and a dinner of modern English dishes (fish caught locally by fisherman Simon Letzer is a must) in the candlelit Conservatory.
Christmas Day begins with a champagne breakfast. Then there’s time for a windswept coastal stroll before Christmas lunch. Take your pick from the informal Eating Rooms or the fine-dining Conservatory; either way you’ll enjoy the likes of salt cod or smoked salmon, roast Norfolk black leg turkey with a ‘Christmas trimmings’ kebab or Loch Duart salmon with fried cauliflower, brown butter, sherry vinegar and almonds. Walk or snooze it off afterwards and then graze on a cold cuts supper in the evening.
After a hearty breakfast on Boxing Day, visit the Rose and Crown at Snettisham – a 700-year-old treasure with log fires and a good range of real ales (pick the zesty, Norfolkbrewed Woodforde’s Wherry to go with some Brancaster oysters and mussels) and head back for your final dinner and night at the manor.
Three-night Christmas breaks at Titchwell Manor cost from £580 per person (titchwellmanor.com).
If you’re looking for tradition with a Caledonian twist look no further than Airds Hotel. This small luxury hotel in the wilds of Scotland (Port Appin, on the west coast, to be precise) wouldn’t know a third-wave burger, or a plate of cauliflower rice, if it hit them in the face. And is all the better for it.
The hotel is a member of the select Relais & Chateaux group and attractions here are of the timeless kind: log fires, discreet service, floral curtains and views that make you want to set off for a leisurely post-lunch stroll – before returning for a slap-up afternoon tea. The other great plus point is the sense of escapism. If you’re looking for tranquility, this former ferry inn, standing sentry over lochs, castles and lighthouses certainly promises a sense of solitude.
Food, of course, is a major pull. Not least at Christmas when the hotel’s festive packages get booked up early by repeat guests keen to indulge in chef Chris Stanley’s 3-AA rosette cooking.
This year’s festivities begin on Christmas Eve with afternoon tea and cake before a champagne reception with canapés and a candlelit dinner in the evening. Christmas Day starts with a full Scottish breakfast and follows on with a lunchtime snack of mince pies, Christmas cake and mulled wine – and, at 4pm, a full Christmas dinner (expect local seafood, meat and game to feature heavily). If you still have space on Boxing Day begin, again, with a full Scottish breakfast before striding out around the adjacent loch to work up an appetite for another fine dinner.
Three-night Christmas breaks at Aird Hotel cost from £625pp (airds-hotel.com).
As a Michelin-starred restaurant with rooms there’s an unsurprising focus on food over Christmas at this Welsh hideaway. A pretty Georgian house just outside the village of Llandrillo, in North Wales, it was built as a shooting lodge for the Dukes of Westminster and comes with uplifting views of the Berwyn Mountains, as well as four acres of carefully tended grounds to explore on the doorstep.
Owned by Susan and Bryan Webb for almost 15 years, there’s a strong personal touch throughout, with Susan working front of house and Bryan in the kitchen (if you’re impressed by his cooking you can recreate some of his recipes at home with the help of his recently published cookbook).
The reassuringly old-fashioned dining room (starched tablecloths, patterned carpet, shuttered windows) makes an apt stage for cooking that is precise, skilled and honed from many years at the stove. It also veers commendably towards the local and seasonal, with Welsh black beef fillet, roast partridge with apricot and chestnut stuffing and game chips, wild bass with laverbread butter sauce and plum soup with cinnamon ice cream among typical winter dishes.
In the colder months afternoon tea by the fire (think proper homemade welshcakes and Bara brith – a kind of fruit loaf) is a highlight of a stay at this ultra traditional retreat. For ultimate decadence, however, book in over Christmas and enjoy a two or three-night gastronomic celebration that includes afternoon teas, a French-themed Christmas Eve dinner, breakfasts, a full Christmas lunch and, if you stay on for Boxing Day, an Italian-themed festive dinner.
Two-night Christmas breaks cost from £395pp, three nights from £595pp (tyddynllan.co.uk).
Written by Rhiannon Batten and Alex Crossley