How do you like your hotels? Country House, full of history and Agatha Christie-type intrigues, or modern clean and bright, a homage to the minimalist ideals? Those keen on the former will delight in this incredibly accessible location in the heart of the beautiful Chess valley, which is under an hour’s drive or train journey from the centre of town. The Latimer Estate has a fascinating history: in WW2, many high ranking German prisoners of war were held here and their bugged conversations led to MI6 discovering a wealth of secret information, including details of the infamous V1 and V2 rockets that caused so much devastation in London. After the war the house was a training school for many years, and was finally converted to a hotel in 2006, though there is a secret tunnel that has to remain sealed until sometime in the 2030s – intriguing!
Subject to a recent £7 million refurbishment, the vast majority of the original fabric and character of the building has been kept, though purists will note that some things are more recent additions: wardrobes in the suites are vintage in style for example, but would look very out of place in a genuine antiques shop, as would the modern replica steamer trunk placed on top. Nobody, however, is going to get picky about when the huge and excellent beds and bathrooms were installed, and here comfort reigns supreme. There’s all sorts of nice original details, and the overall effect is one of luxury from a bygone era.
The restaurant, whilst betraying a bit of its corporate hospitality role in its layout, definitely has ambitions. Although excellent in its presentation, I’ll have to take slight issue with my starter scallops that weren’t seared – I’ll blame the rise of sous vide and anyone who still espouses this as fine dining. It rarely works for me, however it looks good, but in this case it let the chorizo overpower the delicacy of the scallop. Complaint over – the duck breast, confit rhubarb and Hasselback potatoes were perfect and even though a bottle of Chablis may not be the traditional accompaniment to duck, it slid down a treat. On the other side of the table, Madame was busy devouring her steak, making only a half-hearted offer to share a chip, which only happens when things are going well. Stays are currently from £109 per night including breakfast for a family of 4 (both children under 12) which is definitely an affordable stay, and it’s a lot easier to get to than the Cotswolds. Bookings on 01494 412312.