Perfect for: A weekend at the races
Horse lovers know Cheltenham for its racecourse, but it was originally designed in the 18th century as a pleasure health resort for the wealthy, and – following the discovery of the purgative benefits of drinking water from a spring in 1761 – became affectionately known as Cheltenham Spa. You’ll find a happy mix of regency architecture and modernity as well as a gin distillery, theatres, cocktail bars and an art gallery.
We’re staying at the Queens Hotel, which stands proudly on the south end of the promenade. Its Palladian-style façade which is adorned with more than 50 Corinthian columns is impressive – but what’s it like inside?…
I’m on my way to Gloucester to meet my Monsieur for the weekend – my good friend and dance assistant Michael. I’ve been invited by the National Association of Teachers of Dancing (NATD), of which I am a patron, to partake in An Audience with Craig Revel Horwood where I’ll be interviewed by Angela Rippon OBE. I’ve also agreed to host a Charleston workshop the following day: 200 eager people, all ready to get down and dance the Charleston for 45 mins darling. Wonderful!
I grab a taxi from Cheltenham Spa train station to the Queens Hotel (£8 fare btw) and am greeted very warmly by staff. One, beaming, opens my taxi door and attends to my luggage, whilst Jasmin, the hotel manager, comes through the petit revolving doors to greet me. First impressions are good!
I’m escorted into reception by the very smiley and polite Jasmin. It’s beautifully laid out with striking high ceilings, a gorgeously polished black and white tiled floor, and an air of calm.
I can also spy a spacious blue sitting room with a white fireplace, augmented above with lots of interesting plates.
I’ll examine them later, but for now Jasmin’s going to take me to my suite; my bags will arrive separately.
When the door of the small lift from reception to the first floor opens, I step out onto an amazing pyramided skylight at foot level with a balcony running squarely around it.
Looking upwards, I can see an open staircase climbing to all floors – similar to what you may find in a Moroccan courtyard. It’s impressive; and so too is the wallpaper which, Jasmin tells me, is 175 years old and was designed by A.W.Pugin. Apparently it’s the same wallpaper that lines the walls of the Houses of Parliament.
We turn left and left again and arrive at the Montpellier Suite – a horse jockey themed suite.
My eyes instantly fall on a somewhat random jockey shirt and hat which are displayed on a stand in a corner of the bedroom – I guess it filled a space, and adds a spot of fun.
The suite itself is decorated in calming duck egg blue with high ceiling and the huge bed standing proudly in the centre backed by a half-wall, which splits the room neatly into two. It certainly has the wow factor.
There’s plenty of space to dress, thanks to a dressing area complete with dressing table, sizable mirror, and lots of closet space.
And I particularly like the nice little touches we’ve been left, which include cakes, fresh strawberries, macaroons, a box of chocolates, an assortment of toiletries, a gorgeous gift-box of Les Notes De Lanvin, I Vetyver Blanc, a chilled bottle of Champagne (supplied as a thank you by the NATD) and a Hollywood clapperboard with my full name on it.
Plus, there’s a hand written note was stood on the dresser reading:
I thought that was a really agreeable personal touch.
The bathroom is semi open plan with a lovely big bath, separate shower, and separate toilet (which was also rather open and made me feel slightly uncomfortable about doing a number two in it if someone else was in the room – in this instance, my assistant, Michael. Stay here and you certainly wouldn’t want to be prudish darling!
As Jasmin is about to leave, Michael arrives (his car’s being valet serviced to the car park). He’d got stuck in the small revolving door on the ground floor with his luggage. Ha-ha! I’d have paid to have seen that!
Knowing we can’t make supper because of our plans with the NATD, I ask Jasmin if we can pre-order two of the hotel’s Napier Restaurant’s signature dishes for our return and to my delight, she kindly arranges them to be delivered by room service. I order the Pig Cheeks with white chocolate, black shallots, spring onion and apple and for the main course the hotels specialty dish Whole Roasted Truffled Poussin with thyme baked new potatoes, tender stem, thyme and shallot jus. We’re told that the hotel dedicates its Poussin to their namesake, Queen Victoria, because of her fondness for chicken which was imported for her in 1843! Now, you never knew that, did you?!
Downstairs in the sun-drenched conservatory, we enjoy a cup of tea and some absolutely delicious ginger shortbread which we devour with great enthusiasm as we go over some of the questions for tonight with my PA, Clare, and Angela Rippon OBE.
Meeting over, Michael and I head back to our suite to unpack and get ready for the evening’s events.
The shower is really good: even, strong flowing and with excellent temperature control, and it’s so spotless it feels brand new. Toiletries are by The White Company.
The towels are white, big and thick (just how I like them) and there’s a fabulous view through the huge Victorian sash windows overlooking the Imperial Gardens in all it’s summer splendour. It gave me a wonderful feeling of well-being and happiness.
“Champagne to prime you for the evening ahead?” asks Michael, who’s being eyeing the bottle on ice. Of course! He pours me a glass and we kick back on the sofa.
I look around for something to nibble on, but Michael’s already managed to scoff all the cakes and macaroons – he’s rather passionate about chocolate and anything sweet! That’s why he’s friends with me!
It’s time to face the public. We walk down the wonderful staircase and head across the Imperial Gardens to the Town Hall for a meet and greet with local dignitaries and VIPs, followed by an award ceremony presentation and photos. It’s all very pleasant and fun. And then I’m on – it’s showtime! An Audience with Craig Revel Horwood begins!
Back at the Queens we head to the bar for drinks. It’s very busy and a bit on the small side, but it has a great energy, the staff are very pleasant and efficient, and the Hendricks and tonic with cucumber make it even better!
Back up to the suite, I’m ready for our food tasting. I’ve been so looking forward to it and I’m not disappointed! The plates are laid out beautifully on the coffee table and as we lift the silver cloche plate covers, the smell is mouthwatering.
To my surprise the food is still warm. I tasted the pig cheeks first and they are succulent and literally melt in your mouth. The combination of the white chocolate, black shallots, spring onion and apple is simply superb. And I can’t wait to rip that Poussin apart – it smells so appetising and is cooked to perfection: juicy, full of flavour, tender, delectable!
The broccoli tender stem is crisp, fresh and seasoned well. The thyme baked new potatoes have just the right amount of seasoning and dragged through the thyme and shallot jus are just truly scrumptious. The restaurants motto…
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well”
It’s bedtime. The super king size bed is really comfortable with just the right amount of firmness to support a weary back and enough room to thrash about in without disturbing a partner during the night. The pillows are deep and firm, but soft and very comfortable – but you only need one per Monsieur, not the two supplied.
Alarm call. I had a really fantastic sleep, and needed it, as I have a big Charleston dance master class this morning back at the Town Hall. Without a good night’s sleep in a supportive comfy bed, that would’ve been a drag!
Power shower and down to the restaurant for breakfast.
Breakfast… at Queens, it’s called the QUEENS K-RATION, and this is why:
During the Second World War, the hotel was home to American servicemen before returning to the US. Whilst on the front line, each soldier was issued with a ration pack, which was fondly known as a K-Ration. The hotel has taken inspiration from the story of the K-Ration and its place in the Queens history to create their own indulgent version of this classic.
The K-Ration includes: Eggs Benedict, toast and nutter, Granola Bar, Preserved Fruit Bar and Chilled Water. On offer many items from the pantry chilled juices, whole fruits, exotic tropical fruits, seasonal berries, yoghurts, cereals, muesli and granola, nuts, seeds, locally sourced cheeses, smoked and cured fish, English cold cuts. From the Viennoiserie…butter croissants, pains au chocolat, Danish pastries, banana and walnut loaf, Hobbs house bakery selections, locally produced preserves, gluten free selections. Available fresh from the kitchen…Porridge, English breakfast, Omelettes, Eggs Benedict or Florentine, Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, smoked haddock and scrambled eggs, blueberry pancakes and unless breakfast is included it’s £17.50 per person.
Michael has eggs Florentine, which looks amazing, and I tuck into the English breakfast with fried eggs, which are done to perfection. The Gloucester Old Spot sausages are delicious and a favourite of mine. There’s a massive choice on offer and altogether its a breakfast of champions.
The service is ok, but they don’t know who has ordered what, even though there are only two of us. I find this quite surprising in such a remarkable hotel.
Well, we’ve just sweated our butts off at the masterclass, so we’ve headed back to the Queens for a much needed shower.
It’s time to checkout, and we do so without stress or complication. The staff are just as friendly and professional as they’ve been throughout our stay, and Michael and I would have no hesitation recommending the Queens Hotel to anyone visiting Cheltenham overnight. We’ll definitely return here, but next time we’ll make more time to enjoy the wonderful restaurant the hotel has to offer.
– Craig Revel Horwood and Michael Cotton
Guest Experience Offer
Sensory Storytelling package: £170 pp for an overnight stay, afternoon tea and signature cocktail.
Enjoy a sensory experience when you visit MGallery by Sofitel’s Queens Hotel Cheltenham, the Francis Hotel Bath or the Castle Hotel Windsor, where you can choose one of three fragrances for your room. The fragrances have been specially created by scent historian Lizzie Ostrom, of Odette Toilette and draw on 18th and 19th century perfume formulations. Each scent has been inspired by the heritage, personality and unique story.
And, if that leaves you craving further sensory adventure, why not enjoy a specially created cocktail and afternoon tea at the hotel, and discover the different notes and materials that make up each scent.
To participate in this offer, ask for the Sensory Storytelling package when you book.
Remember to mention les Deux Messieurs when you book, or ask us to book it for you!Not what you’re looking for. Discover other amazing UK cultural destinations and city breaks here
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