When visiting ‘the best place to live in Britain’ (as recently declared by The Sunday Times*), it’s only right to spend the night at an equally perfect hotel. We’d struggle to find somewhere more apt than Hannah’s B&B, a cleverly converted dancehall designed and run by Hannah McIntyre, who lives on the premises. It’s in the centre of Winchester and offers three bedrooms, each one individually decorated and equipped with carved wooden steps that lead to a standalone bath big enough for two.
Have you ever been to a B&B that offers complimentary afternoon tea? It’s a genius idea, and one that encourages guests to treat their B&B like home. After exploring Winchester all morning, we returned to Hannah’s for tea and cake on the patio before heading out afresh – it was the perfect pit stop. If the weather doesn’t suit, take tea in the library instead, complete with cosy log fire and arched bookcase.
Hannah makes everything herself, including aromatic honey, lavender and Earl Grey loaf (her own recipe); coconutty white chocolate biscuits; raw chocolate brownies; and plump fruit scones with homemade jam and clotted cream. Take as much as you want, but leave room for the Winchester Cocoa Company chocolate bar on your pillow upstairs.
Breakfast is taken in what used to be a garage – hard to believe, given the platform-raised oak piano in the corner, exposed wooden beams, textured dining tables and chic light fittings. Breakfast is more meal than snack here (“I always serve a ‘starter’ at breakfast,” says Hannah), and begins with homemade granola (not too sweet), fresh berries, yogurt and sticky marmalade loaf made, of course, with homemade marmalade.
Next, buttery mushrooms, creamy scrambled egg, bacon, sausages and oregano-roasted cherry tomatoes with toast, and a glass of freshly squeezed pear and pineapple juice… it’s a pretty epic start to the day.
Hannah has an eye for tasteful, contemporary design (perhaps gleaned from her mother, an interior designer). She decorated everywhere herself and it feels overwhelmingly chic; but as well as the Farrow & Ball walls, there are also trendy, industrial elements to the rooms, including towel racks made from copper pipes and matching, shiny copper wash basins. We loved the little basket of easy-to-forget items (like a toothbrush) in the bathroom, too.
King size beds fitted with Egyptian cotton sheets; the aforementioned pillow chocolates; free (yes, free!) Netflix; chunky wooden floors; Hannah’s own fig and vanilla bath products; and the slipper bath upstairs make this one of the most luxurious B&Bs we’ve ever stayed in. It’s quiet, too.
Where to go for dinner – The Chesil Rectory
Alas, Hannah doesn’t do evening meals. But the walk from Hannah’s to The Chesil Rectory restaurant is charming. You’ll see the High Street, peppered with talented buskers and home to the 15th century Butter Cross statue; enjoy great views of Winchester Cathedral; and cross River Itchen, with the National Trust city watermill to your left, all in the space of 10 minutes.
Both inside and out, The Chesil Rectory looks like it belongs in Godric’s Hollow. The building dates back to 1425 and is charmingly wonky, with an original black beam frontage and tiny entrance door that livestock once trampled through. It used to belong to Mary Tudor, who was bequeathed it by King Henry VIII – a present she later gave to the City of Winchester as part payment for her lavish wedding at Winchester Cathedral to King Philip of Spain (it nearly bankrupted the city).
History aside, The Chesil Rectory is our favourite place for dinner in Winchester because of the romantic, candle-lit atmosphere (see how many vintage chandeliers you can count) and the delicate style of cooking. To start, a vibrant risotto made from local Secrett’s Farm beetroot was ever so slightly sweet, with a subtle tang from Hampshire goats’ cheese and fresh, herby rocket pesto.
Rosemary gnocchi, another starter, was crispy but buttery soft inside; it came with charred onions for a pleasant, barbecued aftertaste. Peppered Hampshire venison was a minute-or-so undercooked, but still impressed with the intensity of flavour, matched by a syrupy blackcurrant jus and rich confit root vegetables. Pearly white Skrei cod was served with smoky aubergine relish, smashed Bombay potatoes and a velvety cumin velouté – this is gutsy, flavoursome food, elegantly delivered.
Desserts were just as pretty. Caramelised poached pears were balanced on a sable biscuit, with billowy Chantilly cream for company; and a precise slice of chocolate tart was decorated with candied almonds, coffee cream and – our favourite part of the plate – a scoop of malty ice cream. A memorable meal, enjoyed in an unforgettable setting.
Double rooms at Hannah’s B&B start from £155, b&b (hannahsbedandbreakfast.co.uk). Prices at The Chesil Rectory start from £16.95 for two courses (lunchtime & early evening menu, chesilrectory.co.uk)
Written by Charlotte Morgan, April 2016
* The Sunday Times Best Places to Live guide, 2016
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