Hotel of the week: Castle House, Hereford


Where is it?Three minutes' walk from Hereford Cathedral, on the corner of a quiet, elegant street, most of which seems to belong to Hereford Cathedral School.

Where is it?Three minutes' walk from Hereford Cathedral, on the corner of a quiet, elegant street, most of which seems to belong to Hereford Cathedral School.

What's it like?Not what you'd expect, with all due respect to the Marches. It's a bit like finding the old Bela Vista in Macau plonked down in Barsetshire. The owners are a very rich Dutch couple, the Heijns, who are fanatical equestrians and Anglophiles.

Ambience?Small, welcoming, high-gloss, Anglo-Dutch. The terrace leads down to the old castle moat. The house is believed to date from the mid-18th century, but the TVs, hi-fi equipment and telephones are definitely 21st century.

Service?A patchy mixture of Herefordshire amateur and French professional under the direction of a suave, experienced Dutch manager, Ben Jeger. Sounds like a newly promoted Premier League football team, but shows definite signs of making the grade.

Food?Imaginative and accomplished with fabulous presentation, especially the desserts, which resemble sweet sushi. Local produce (Herefordshire beef, applejack brandy) well to the fore. Try the local duck eggs, fried with black truffles and white truffle oil for breakfast.

Rooms?Fifteen of them, all suites named after and themed on such famous locals as Nell Gwynne and David Garrick. Bidets, baths and separate shower cabinets in the bathrooms; personal fridges stocked to individual requirements; enormous beds, capacious sofas invite serious curling up. Fresh white roses in black-and-gold decorated drawing room and thick, creamy, understated stationery in blue suede folder.

Awards?Open for less than a year, it has already received a commendation in the new entries section of the Which? Hotel Guide. If the restaurant does not soon garner the cornucopia of Michelin awards they have up the road at Ludlow, the chef should be seriously displeased.

Clientele?A noisy trio of local mobile-phone-toting businesspersons rather lowered the tone of the cocktail bar early on Friday evening, but mercifully they pushed off elsewhere for a balti and lager. Only one other couple, elderly tweeds, in the dining room. Apparently (heard this before) packed out the night before and the night after. Corporate trade during the week (big local firms are Bulmers Cider and Sun Valley Chickens), international tourist trade yet to really take off.

Things to do?The cathedral's medieval chained library and Mappa Mundi within easy walk. River trips on the Wye opposite Dr and Mrs Heijn's spectacular modern complex of riverside bars, restaurants and serious food and wine shops. (Is Hereford ready for such sophistication?) Great walking. Periodic horse racing, and the Three Choirs Festival.

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