It’s very rare that you discover a hotel with the convenience of a city break and the luxury and bucolic tranquility of a country house hotel but I think I may have just found it with the Hotel Felix in Cambridge.
Situated just a mile outside Cambridge city centre – and just a five minute drive away – this 52-room hotel is built around the grand home of a C19th surgeon. It has had a few different lives since then and one storey buildings have emerged round it; but since it was converted into a hotel around 12 years ago is tastefully and comfortably appointed.
It is a bright, airy building, something of an antidote to the dark and gloomy Cambridge colleges its visitors will no doubt be visiting, and the staff are always friendly and helpful.
But I would say that the highlight of the stay was its excellent Grafitti restaurant which provided one of the best evening meals I have ever had in a hotel anywhere in the UK (but more of that later).
The owners seem to want their hotel to be a jumping off point for tourists hoping to explore the north Norfolk coast. It is about an hour away, granted, but clearly the main attraction for any visitor is the city of Cambridge and its maze of ancient colleges.
TV fans may also wish to visit the village of Grantchester, the setting for the ITV drama starring James Norton, Robson Greene and Morven Christie. The locale was also made famous by poet Rupert Brooke. His poem about the Old Vicarage in the village which immortalized in the words: “Stands the Church clock at ten to three? / And is there honey still for tea?”
Well there is if you ask the Felix staff and you can take it in a beautiful garden on a terrace just by the dining area which is gorgeously planted and (considering its proximity to the main city) very quiet.
One of the great joys (and something you should perhaps expect in this city of scholars) is fact that it is an art hotel. There are some excellent sculptures dotted around the grounds and original paintings in each room and in the communal areas. The ones in ours were erotic (but tastefully so – we didn’t need to hide the kids’ faces – though beauty is always in the eye of the beholder). There are also well-chosen books and reading matter placed in each room. It’s a small touch, but a considered and welcoming one.
Another pleasing thing about this hotel is how child-friendly it is. Well behaved nippers (and I am hoping my two little girls fall into that category) are made very welcome by all staff, all of whom were very helpful with everything, especially on the possible activities we could pursue; it was raining on one of our days and their suggestion of the Cambridge Science Centre was a winner.
Just an hour from London, an hour from the East Anglian coast and five minutes from one of the most beautiful cities in the world, this is as tasteful and elegant a resting spot as you can hope for.
Eating and drinking: Here the hotel really comes into its own. Service was a little slow but when it came the food was worth the wait. The pan-fried scallops I had were cooked to perfection and a beetroot and smoked salmon salad combined its flavours perfectly. The real coup de grace however was the trio of lamb on the main course. A fantastically cooked piece of meat was accompanied by a spicy sauce that really enriched the flesh – never overpowering, your taste buds sizzled. It was a real find. Foodies will slaver over the cooking here.
Price: A one-night stay costs from £215 per room (two sharing a Standard King Room) including breakfast, free parking and WiFi with special offers often available. Families stay overnight from £310 per room (family of four sharing a Junior Suite) including full English breakfast, parking and WiFi.