Glancing out the window I could have sworn I caught a glimpse of a rabbit in a waistcoat consulting a pocket watch. Our room looked directly on to one of the gardens at the back of Mallory Court where neatly trimmed hedges form a zig-zagging mini maze that, in fact, divides up beds of herbs and vegetables for the restaurant kitchen rather than providing a home for tardy white rabbits (I think).
The gardens definitely have a hint of magic about them though, with openings in the tall hedges revealing lichen-flecked stone steps, terraces and fish ponds. Continuing the theme of well-kept antiquity, the front of the house is clad in a cosy jacket of green ivy and makes a very good first impression.
Mallory is not exactly a rambling mansion – the main building is quite compact – but the central corridor from the reception is effectively opened up by French windows that run the length of it and face out onto the gardens. There’s also a small conservatory that looks like a cosy place to tuck into a good book – or a cream tea – if it’s too cold for the terrace.
We stayed in the very comfortable Junior Suite. Along with the bay window and that beautiful view of the garden, there was a big Art Deco-style tiled bathroom with two sinks, a separate shower cubicle and a bath you could happily lose yourself in for a good while.
Eating and drinking
The reception area in front of the dining room in the main hotel has plenty of sofas and is another good place for an afternoon cream tea if the weather’s not conducive to sitting outside. But for a perfect pre-dinner cocktail (my Martini was spot on), head through to the small lounge, which catches the last rays of the sun and, with its opulent classy-chintz décor, prepares you for the special occasion that dining at Mallory Court can be.
The main dining room is classically done out – wood panelled, white-tableclothed and with just the right amount of dressing on top of that. Menu options include a Menu of the Day at £47.50 for three courses and an A la Carte at £65. If you’re celebrating, the tasting menu (£85 or £136 with wine-matching) features adventurous items like poached ray, sweetbreads and goats milk sorbet alongside more widely recognised ingredients like aged beef sirloin with oxtail, stone bass and ham hock with charred leeks, all adeptly dealt with as you’d expect from a restaurant with three AA rosettes.
A cheaper dinner option is the Brasserie, in a separate building next to the main hotel. The chrome bar with its diner-style stools jars slightly with the feel of the rest of Mallory but the dining room with its conservatory roof is nicer. The food is hit and miss – my crab cake starter is well made and tasty and accompanied by a fresh, crunchy Asian salad but my mushroom risotto is poor, the rice severely undercooked so the grains are unpleasantly hard and chalky, while the only real flavour comes from the vinegar in the jar the mushrooms have come from.
Breakfast, served back in the main dining room, has everything you could ask for – pastries, cereal, fruit and yoghurt, and cooked options including a full English, kippers and smoked salmon and scrambled eggs.
Price: Rooms start at £159 for a Standard, £225 for a Classic
Radio Times Travel rating: 8/10 – “An enjoyably old world setting in which to luxuriate, with some magical gardens”
Mallory Court is part of the Eden Hotel Collection of seven hotels across the south of England and the Midlands. You can arrange a tour taking in as many as you like by booking at the hotel you want to begin with