Backwell House Hotel is rather a hidden gem of North Somerset, a beautiful Georgian House sitting in 120 acres of undulating parkland with far reaching views, blink and you’ll miss the turning from the main road. Built around 1813 its most famous owners were the Robinsons, an enthusiastic cricketing family who began the tradition of a yearly cricket match played on the August Bank Holiday which lasted eighty seven years, along the way teaming up with some of the Grace family of which our most famous local cricketer, W G Grace, was a member. The house has recently been restored and updated in a most gentle and sympathetic manner and I think if one of the Robinsons popped back from beyond for a cup of tea they would be delighted to see that their family home has been kept in a style of comfort and elegance much as they left it.
We like to see no celebration stone unturned so it being our anniversary we chose to stay for the evening at Backwell House to mark the occasion. Our room, called Hobbs (all the rooms are named for previous family members) I suspect is the best in the house : large, with an imposing high ceiling, dual aspect and a commodious free-standing copper slipper bath before the window overlooking the walled garden. A bottle of champagne had been set on ice in our room beforehand and you haven’t lived until you have sampled sinking into the soapy depths of such a bath, glass of bubbly in hand, with the warm soft breeze and bird song from the open window floating over you. I had to be encouraged out by the rule that only one glass of bubbly was to be consumed in situ before it was my husband’s turn.
It was a great start to the evening and a lot of thought has gone into the preparation of the rooms, all your needs are catered for; tea tray with plenty of coffee, Clipper teas, and biscuits, bathrobes, a selection of REN toiletries, large fluffy white towels, good reading lights and plenty of hanging space and hooks. Sometimes design overtakes practicality in hotels to the detriment of the guest but Backwell House has managed to combine both in equal and pleasing measures.
Suitably powdered and pampered we made our way down to dinner via the impressive winding staircase that has a magnificent tear drop chandelier spanning two storeys. It was a lovely evening and we took aperitifs outside in the grounds which are beautifully kept with manicured lawns and plenty of thoughtfully placed benches and wooden garden furniture so that you can enjoy the view. A new chef and his team are in place and we were looking forward to testing their skills, hoping they would match our satisfaction with our room.
The dining room is lovely, cosy and rather intimate (I could feel the presence of the Robinsons impeccably dressed for dinner, being served by an ancient butler amid happy chatter about the day’s cricket) and our table for two by the window had a lovely view over gardens. The menu is reassuringly short so you know everything is freshly prepared but with a good choice. To start we ordered creamy cauliflower soup with truffle oil and Parmesan for me, and for my husband, poached duck egg, English asparagus and local cured ham, and to follow, chicken breast, asparagus, broad beans, wild mushrooms and pommes Anna, and fillet of cod, grilled chorizo, samphire and avocado salsa.
We ordered focaccia and Mediterranean olives to nibble with our first glass of wine; the bread was homemade and delightful dipped into the olive oil. Our starters were great; the soup was just the right blend of creamy without being too heavy and my husband really enjoyed the combination of the duck egg and local cured ham. There was the optimum interval between the starter and the main courses which when they arrived were beautifully presented and we tucked in with gusto. The chicken was flavourful and juicy and the wild mushroom and cider sauce delicious; the snowy white pillow of cod, graced with the grilled chorizo tasted as good as it looked, backed up by the salty samphire. We thought me might be running out of steam but the dessert menu was so fine we couldn’t resist : namely orange and cardamom crème brûlèe and lemon meringue pie, no sweeter way to end a meal.
In for a penny, in for a pound we finished our evening with silly coffees (a family name for any liqueur coffee) in the comfortable lounge disporting ourselves on the large leather Chestefield before retiring to bed for a wonderful night’s sleep in the peace of the countryside. In the morning we awoke refreshed and ready to try the amazing rain forest shower (did I not say we had this as well as the slipper bath?) which placed at a height of some twelve feet above was just like standing in a fierce tropical shower and was one of the best aids to waking up I’ve ever experienced!
Breakfast is served in the conservatory, very pleasantly light and airy and full of quirky ornaments, and each table has a pretty posy of fresh flowers from their gardens I think, as in the dining room. There is a good choice of fruit, cereals, juices and pastries, as well as breakfast cooked to order. For us unless it involves eggs it just isn’t breakfast so we ordered, full English for him, sausage, baked beans, mushroom, hash browns and fried egg, and ham omelette for me, meantime being supplied with endless coffee as a bonus. Thus fortified we took a turn around the walled garden which amongst many other flowers and herbs has beautifully yellow roses, before leaving for home.
Our stay had been perfect; we loved the room, the food, and the service was excellent from the friendly reception staff, the courteous waiter at dinner and the fresh and smiling breakfast waitress. Nothing could have been improved upon, not even the weather!