A belated birthday lunch provided the perfect opportunity to visit an intriguing boutique hotel which has long been on my list to visit.
Converted to a hotel in the early 1970s, The Glazebrook was purchased in 2013 by present owners, Pieter and Fran Hamman. A painstaking process of major renovation and updating ensued, and the resulting metamorphosis is a quirky but sophisticated homage to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
The theme is perhaps more prevalent in the sumptuous bedrooms but downstairs it manifests as a subtle undercurrent you take delight in teasing out. Far from being heavy-handed or overly kitsch, finely tuned creative flair is evident in the elegant chandeliers and charcoal walls which set the stage for fascinating vintage finds and curios ranging from the quaint to the outright bizarre.
Prepare to be wowed by the aeroplane wing reception table, a bust of Sir Winston Churchill complete with glowing cigar (pictured), and the intricacy of a vacated wild bees (or is it wasps?) nest on display. These, together with many other disparate objets, are so cleverly juxtaposed you feel as though you are taking part in a rather surreal but enchanting dream. Keeping it local, the best analogy I can come up with is Agatha Christie’s Burgh Island deco meets Otto Overbeck’s museum eclectica at Sharpitor. Yes, you really need to see it.
However, we were not there to dine on novelty alone. What about the menu?
The calming rustic neutrality of the dining room provided the perfect foil for a delicious lunch which started with an appetizer of shared pimento-stuffed olives and very fresh baked bread. This was followed by a silky spring green risotto garnished with parmesan crisps, asparagus spears, and a crispy hens egg still runny in the middle as it should be.
We finished with the mixed berry Eton mess which managed to remain light and crunchy with the meringue, and tart with summer fruit, to offset the lovely richness of the cream (Lunch set menu: Two courses for £16; three courses for £20).
Between courses, we leaned back against comfy leather button-back chairs to relax and enjoy the simple table posy gathered from the hotel’s delightful perennial borders. These warranted a closer inspection so, afterwards, we took our coffee on the sunlit terrace overlooking the gardens (pictured).
Two tiers of immaculate lawn are surrounded by borders bursting with summer colour, flanked in turn by the mature woodland which extends to surround the hotel itself. The combination of inside and out cultivates a sense of a world apart where you can indulge in a little escapism and fantasy for a while before returning inevitably to ordinary life.
When it comes to coffee, my mother is notoriously picky and difficult to please. She says she isn’t but she is. But even the after-dinner flat American with cold milk which my mother always orders, but rarely likes, got a thumbs-up. An unexpected bonus.
A trip to a Wonderland retreat would not be complete without the opportunity to indulge in an Alice-style High Tea. We were full from lunch but furtive sidelong glances at our neighbours’ table revealed a mouth-watering extravaganza of mixed sandwiches, cakes and scones accompanied by flutes of chilled Prosecco. What better way to spend a sunny South Hams mid-summer’s day? (High Tea, £25 per person; cream tea £9.50 per person)
Any negatives? Well, no … except one very small thing; where was the Cheshire Cat? As a fan of all felines, great and small, I was half-hoping for a glimpse and kept a watchful eye on the recesses of the woods. I suspect, given the heat of the day, he was doing what all cats do; reclining invisibly in the shade or hiding in a tree whilst smiling mischievously down upon us all.
Glazebrook House Hotel is easy to find. East-bound, turn off the A38 at Woodpeckers and left at the junction towards South Brent. Turn left where signposted and keep going straight until the hotel entrance is seen on the right. For more information and bookings, telephone 01364 73322 or see their website www.glazebrookhouse.com.