Away from the hustle and bustle of Bristol city centre (here’s our foodie guide to Bristol), you’ll find this stunning 9 bedroom boutique hotel and restaurant that’s recently joined Bristol’s burgeoning food scene. Read our expert review of Backwell House, a bed and breakfast within driving distance of Bristol airport.
This gorgeous honey-stone Georgian mansion feels soothingly away from it all, in rolling North Somerset countryside, yet it is just six miles from buzzing Bristol and four from the city’s airport.
Brilliantly transformed into a luxuriously relaxed nine-bedroomed boutique hotel, it oozes fun and contemporary style. Part of that fun comes from some deft upcycling – like the bathroom sink fashioned from an old suitcase. Another highlight is the (buyable) modern artwork on the walls (loaned from a Bristol gallery) and there’s a cinema, too.
On arrival, the hotel’s affable creator Guy Williams welcomes you like an old friend joining a house party. Kick off your shoes, huddle up under the antler chandeliers by a woodburner in the drawing room, and relax.
Meals are served in a stylish wooden-floored dining room and prepared by Ross Hunter (previously at The Stone Mill, in Monmouth, and The Swan, at Almondsbury). Menus are sensibly succinct and Ross makes fantastic use of seasonal, local produce, including vegetables grown in the hotel’s walled garden and eggs from its chickens.
The courgettes accompanying a main of Cornish cod with Brixham crab, for instance, are picked literally minutes before I eat them.
Although the cod is cooked to perfection, the accompaniments (a crab cake and crab bisque) are not quite punchy enough to make the dish a winner (cod needs livening up with something robust, and the crab didn’t quite cut it).
But a pressed pork starter (using pork from a farm up the road that’s owned by Guy’s cousin) packs in good flavour and the new season peas with it are pleasingly crunchy.
The dish that steals the show, though, is Ross’ strawberry cannelloni dessert, tubes of chantilly cream wrapped with shiny red fruit jelly, served with Cheddar Valley strawberries and meringue – a take on Eton mess that’s fast becoming a signature dish (for our fun take on an Eton mess in cheesecake form, click here).
The hotel is also getting a name for its dainty afternoon cream teas, served in the drawing room or the conservatory, or on the lawn when fine.
The funky bar, whose box shelves are made from recycled elm floorboards from the building’s old kitchens, is well stocked and helpful bar staff will happily turn your favourites into killer pre-dinner cocktails (the espresso martinis are a winner).
With the help of London’s Bibendum, Guy has created an imaginative wine list (bottles start at £16) including wines by the glass carefully selected to match dishes on the menu. A separate “ski lodge bar” is also set to open in the basement later this year.
The nine bedrooms vary in size from palatial to cosy (and are priced accordingly) but each has a wonderful view, either over the lawns and distant hills in front or over the walled garden and 19th-century greenhouse at the back.
All are named after families who lived, visited or worked here, and have top-notch bedding and stunning tiled bathrooms with feisty power showers. Look out for vintage touches such as old-style Bakelite telephones and stage lights.
The eye-catcher is “Robbins”, with a cast-iron bath that’s almost big enough to do lengths in, although we preferred the slightly smaller “Toogood” with its his-and-her basins and views over the rose gardens.
Breakfast comes not on a table but on an antique Indian wheeled cart – as you’d expect in a place that doesn’t do anything the conventional way. There’s homemade granola, assorted viennoiserie, fruits and yoghurt.
Follow that with made-to-order hot dishes such as the Backwell Breakfast (a full English with wonderfully flavoursome local back bacon) and blueberry pancakes with caramelised banana, crème fraîche and maple syrup.
Doubles start at £95, b&b backwellhouse.co.uk
Words | Clare Hargreaves
Photographs | Backwell House