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Cambridge: New Favourite Hotel – Hotel du Vin

I strongly believe one of life’s greatest pleasures is a mini-break in the Great British Countryside. So when the lovely folk from Hotel du Vin offered up an extremely generous trip to their outpost in Cambridge, I had one foot on the train before they’d even hung up. My haste was pretty judicious – what followed was a weekend of being thoroughly spoiled…
The cosy lounge – the perfect place to curl up with the paper. They did afternoon teas in here, too.
All the snugs (of which there are many to get lost in) are named after different colleges in Cambridge. The hotel itself actually used to belong to the University – it’s 5 Georgian townhouses knocked through to create one big, warren-like property.
I loved the wine glass chandelier!
Oysters down the road for lunch…
I’m a sucker for the small touches – I loved that our bedroom had a selection of new magazines in it, as well as Egyptian cotton sheets, a roll-top bath and a Nespresso machine which I proceeded to systematically drain of all pods.
Dinner caught me by surprise. I thought it would be nice but I wasn’t prepared for genuinely one of the most fabulous meals I’ve ever had, hands down. The Boy started with smoked eel, truffle potato salad and quails egg – paired with a 2009 Chablis Domaine Bernard Defaix.
I went for seared scallops, black pudding and cauliflower puree, washed down with a 2007 Chateau Bela. Given that we’d already had a cocktail at the bar beforehand, yes, I was already drunk. I like to think this only helped me enjoy the experience even more.
This mouthwatering image was The Boy’s roast partridge, bread sauce and game chips. He had not one but TWO glasses of wine with this (which makes any subsequent in-focus photographs he took all the more impressive) – a 2008 Chateau Bauduc ‘Clos des Quinzes’ and a 2007 Chateauneuf-du-Pape ‘Signature’ Domaine Barroche. I feel at this point like I should credit our amazing, incredibly knowledgable sommelier, who was also a lovely guy to boot!
I had wild duck with berry compote and the most delicious rosti potato ever. And honey-roast veg which, happily, tasted more like they’d been drenched in maple syrup. I drank an accompanying 2008 Pinot Noir Mt Beautiful.
The alcohol continued with a champagne sorbet cocktail, courtesy of the chef…
*falls off chair*
Dessert was Vanilla Panacotta with roasted figs and honey. Shared. Please, we’re not animals. Let’s just say by this time it was a very good thing indeed that we were eating in the same place we were sleeping. The drinks continued to flow… a 2005 Tokaiji Aszu 5 Puttonyos Chateau Deresla and a 2005 Vin de Constance Klein Constantia.
Then came the cheese….
I then had to be air-lifted to my room.
But don’t worry, it was soon breakfast time!
Croissants, kippers and the Sunday papers. Perfection.
If, like me, you fancy empirically testing how much food/alcohol your stomach can physically stretch to, and also would like a night in a fancy room afterwards, you can book at www.hotelduvin.com/hotels/cambridge
Thankyou to all the wonderful staff for making us feel like royalty! We’ll be back.

Gramercy Park Hotel, NYC

I can’t say there’s been many times that I’ve walked into a hotel and gasped. Especially to the point of embarrassing whoever I’m with, whilst they do the casual, ‘yeah, I stay in places like this all the time’ underwhelmed dance. There are certain moments when I am strictly anti-gawp; fashion week, fancy-pants restaurants, celebrities at parties (although I have to admit, this usually goes out of the window after two G&Ts or if David Gandy’s knocking about). But the Gramery Park Hotel in New York positively shook it out of me – eyes wide, mouth agog – upon entering…

Intimate but grandiose, the entire hotel is done up like a kind of very cool, rustic bordello – lots of deep reds, heavy drapery and flattering low lighting, made edgy by off-kilter furnishings, reclaimed wooden finishes and more modern artwork than you could shake half a pickled cow at. Speaking of Damien Hirst, his is one of the first pieces you come across in the lobby – a giant arch-shaped frame filled with a mosaic of exactly symmetrical real butterflies called Posterity – The Holy Place. The rest of the hotel is peppered with sculptures and paintings by everyone from Jean-Michel Basquiat to Andy Warhol.
(PS – my first ever video so bear with me! Hope you enjoy it.)

Opulence is a buzzword here, with luxury seeping out everywhere but in a charmingly bohemian, haphazard sort of way. You feel like you’ve stepped off the streets of New York and into Dali’s drawing room in 1920s Paris.

I’m wearing: Vintage fur gilet – Brooklyn Artists & Fleas, Scarf: Louis Vuitton, Leather jacket: Topshop, Jeans: Siwy, Boots: Dune, Sunglasses: Karen Walker, Bag: 3.1 Phillip Lim at My-wardrobe.com.

Off the lobby are the Rose and Jade Bars, opulent little coves perfect for after-midnight cocktails. The Rose bar is so-called after Guns ‘n’ Roses’ Axl Rose played in there. Pretty cool, no?

The Boy and I were lucky enough to stay in the Loft on the Penthouse floor – a decadent but eclectic suite complete with a kingsize bed, office area, walk-in wardrobe and beautiful bathroom. There was a serious gravitas about the room – oak wood floors, plush jewel-tone furniture and imported rugs – but it also seemed to have a dark sense of humour; a kind of Tim Burton-esque undertone that made everything seem a bit dreamlike and hyper-real. No doubt symptomatic of being the brainchild of artist and filmaker Julian Schnabel, whose creations also grace some of the walls.

I loved the mini bar set in a custom mahogany English drinking cabinet. It was the most comprehensive I’ve ever come across, featuring everything from a martini-shaker to a baseball cap. Well, why not? The staff also left a stack of books in the room, and informed me that in-room massages and spa treatments could be arranged should I so wish.
iPad: Apple
iPad case: Stella McCartney

The only thing I love more than a gorgeous hotel bathroom is a fabulous back story. The hotel was built in 1925 on the site of flamboyant architect Stanford White’s home. It’s seen Humphrey Bogart marry his first of four wives here, as well as JFK and his family living on the second floor for several months before they moved to London. The hotel’s website says: “…it was the headquarters for high bohemia, where artists, adventurers and bonvivants rubbed elbows.” Good enough for me.

The terrace was the perfect breakfast spot – half indoors, it boasts a retractable roof 16 stories above the city and struck the ideal balance between buzzy and relaxed. Exactly what you need before you head out onto the subway…

I’m wearing: Jeans: New Look, Slippers: Dune, Belt: Vintage, Top: J.Crew

I’m wearing: As first outfit apart from Scarf: Matthew Williamson (similar here), Gloves: Zara (similar here), Sunglasses: Stella McCartney, Gilet: Topshop (similar here), Bag:3.1 Phillip Lim at My-wardrobe.com.
Alongside the utterly inspiring decor and exclusive key access to the the only private park in New York City, the level of service was also pretty exceptional. 24-hour room service, ultra-helpful concierge and cheeky bellhops who offer hilarious opinions on the art: “He must’ve been on crack to do that!” In a good way, obviously. The Gramercy Park was a little bit of everything: glamorous, magical, beguiling – in fact, exactly like NYC itself. Given half the chance, I’d be back there in a heartbeat.
My New Favourite Thing was a guest of The Gramercy Park Hotel, New York City. Click here to book a room. Or just to ogle more pictures.
All pictures and video taken with a Canon 5D Mark II, a Canon 85mm fl.2 II lens and a Canon G12 camera.