IAIN ROBERTSON Exterior (55) (Small)

 One of the side benefits of sampling new motorcars is that the manufacturers accommodate the Press in some of the world’s best hotels and Iain Robertson was generally satisfied with a pleasant South Midlands’ respite.

 

Falling under the outstanding ‘Relais & Chateau’ umbrella, Mallory Court Hotel, part of the Eden Hotels chain, falls between two stools, in that it cannot boast a ‘spa’ as part of its high-end appeal, yet it is small enough, with just 31 first-class rooms, to satisfy most visitors’ demands. Its Lutyen-style manor house sits in a ten acres site, which includes the well-stocked kitchen garden that provides most of the seasonal fruits, vegetables and herbs that star on the menus.

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Readily accessible from several major arterial routes, Mallory Court’s location close to Leamington Spa and the beautiful North Cotswolds tourist area places it ideally in the middle of the English countryside. Other local attractions include Warwick Castle, the National Motor Museum at Gaydon and the delightful shopping areas of Stow-on-the-Wold, Stratford-upon-Avon and even Coventry, with its industrial history, cathedral and extensive parklands. Compton Verney, Ragley Hall and Hill Close Gardens are all within easy reach of day trippers.

 

Of particular use to the motor industry, wishing to show-off its latest models to the motoring media, the roads network in the area is delightful, with sleepy villages and bustling market towns providing great photographic opportunities, when not being used to sample the capabilities of the vehicles. However, the hotel provides a comfortable, accommodating and well-serviced retreat, away from the hustle and bustle of modern business.

 

While the main house offers a range of bedrooms, from luxurious suites to classic country house double-rooms, a newer building (the Knights Suite) adjacent to the main car park offers a more modern twin and double-room viability. In all cases, the beds are never smaller than an exceedingly comfortable queen size (wrapped in traditional, snug wool blankets and immaculate white Egyptian cotton sheets, while digital TV and in-room snacks and refreshments are provided as part of the service. My first-floor bedroom in the manor house, overlooking the gardens at the rear, also featured an elegant bathroom suite, complete with a refreshing ‘rain shower’ in the bath and a good stock of soaps and other accoutrements. The immense towels were both luxurious and quick drying. I loathe hotels where the soaps and shampoos appear to be strictly limited in supply and there are no such issues with Mallory Court.

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Although our group dinner was a pre-determined corporate affair, the quality of the food was excellent. A starter of fresh salmon, with an avocado emulsion, sea vegetables and crispy wild rice was utterly delicious. The main course was a superb cut of lamb, with slow-cooked belly on the side, truffled mashed potatoes, a lightly seared gem lettuce and sprouting broccoli. The flavour was richly herbed and the taste totally beguiling. Finally, dessert consisted of a vanilla ice-cream parfait, with glazed apple slices, caramel and shortbread crumbs, again very flavoursome. The wine selection of a light, yet hearty Dom Homelin Petit Chablis and a deeply impressive Australian Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon was well-chosen from the manor’s extensive wine list.

 

Breakfast, the next morning, was extensive and cooked freshly to order, with the customary choice of porridge, various freshly squeezed juices, sliced fresh fruit, yogurts and breakfast cereals. The ‘Full English’ consisted of two hens’ eggs, a sliver of crunchy fried bread, a truly flavour-packed tomato, two slices of fine Shropshire back bacon and a very tasty pork sausage from the same farm supplier. Fresh toast was always ‘on the go’, while a choice of hot beverages washed it all down.

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Staying for lunch, which was taken in the garden restaurant of the Knights Suite (which also acted as the base for our business trip, with a couple of cars parked within the meeting area concourse), a self-service buffet provided a choice of two hot dishes (salmon, or Thai chicken and rice in a green curry sauce), while a cold collation of various meats and salads, plus a choice of vanilla panacotta with fruit desert, or local cheeses and biscuits proved most satisfying.

 

The quality of service was excellent and the staff were both communicative and friendly, with no task, or request, too arduous for them to complete. Booking can be carried out on-line (mallory.co.uk), with prices for a couple staying overnight ranging from a discounted £132 to £525 for an all-services luxurious getaway. If you can live without the swimming pool and body refettling of some country hotels, Mallory Court is a surprisingly accessible, most comfortable and welcoming venue. If not, there are other hotels in the chain that can satisfy your needs.