Review by Fiona Duncan, published 20th April 2009.
Imagine this, if you can – Liberace lives. He visits the Moulin Rouge, Las Vegas, a Sixties bordello in Soho and the planet Mars. He picks up elements from all of them, mixes them together, and stuffs the result into the oldest and most historic building in nice, comfortable, conservative Beaconsfield. Bizarre.
I know that Beaconsfield is nice, comfortable and conservative because I was brought up there. Directly opposite the historic building in question, a 16th-century coaching inn called the George, is the church where I was married. If we had been told then what was going to become of the dear old George, we wouldn’t have believed it possible. How it has been possible, I know not. It must have cost squillions. As for planning permission, does it still exist? Farewell, historic George, identifiable today by beams, many of them, but little else. In its place, behind huge wooden doors in an anonymous, sober façade, lies Liberace’s lair, or perhaps the drug-fuelled fantasy of a rock chick or a Mafia boss. One expects to see bowls of cocaine and sofas draped with half-naked women. Instead, one finds the nice, comfortable, conservative inhabitants of Beaconsfield. As I say, bizarre.
But successful. That’s because the whole insane, flamboyant interior of this second Crazy Bear hotel (the first being an endearingly wacky affair near Oxford that seems mild by comparison) has been executed by owner Jason Hunt to the highest of standards. It’s the admirable attention to detail that keeps tackiness – and nausea – at bay.
There’s a staircase decorated with foliage covered with 24-carat gold leaf. There’s Persian pony skin on the walls of the bar, which feels like an opulent Napoleonic den; there’s velvet fabric, embossed leather or chequerboard tiles on other walls, fur on ceilings, white plastic studded with crystals for upholstery, dripping chandeliers, a creepy mirrored chill-out room, loos that are deliberately unmarked, impossible to find and astonishing once inside.
Across a courtyard there’s an Arab tent, a “hunting lodge”, a hot tub and a swimming pool that glitters at night, and a private dining room with a massive, specially made marquetry table fit for a king. There are two restaurants, one English and one, a few doors along the road, Thai.
We ate in the English restaurant from a long menu that provides a welcome contrast to the ostentatious surroundings: sensible, freshly prepared and very well cooked. Razor clams, rockfish soup, pan-fried calves’ liver, osso bucco. On a Monday night, the place was heaving.
The bedrooms are each built around a wildly ornate bed, with copper baths filled from the ceiling, and large wet room. Our room was a modest blood-red-and-black affair in crocodile skin, fur, velvet and chiffon, lit by chandeliers. One night, we reckoned, was probably enough. A night, in the shadow of our church, that we won’t quickly forget.
Crazy Bear Beaconsfield (01494 673086; www.crazybeargroup.co.uk). Doubles from £215 per night, including breakfast. Fifty per cent off Sunday to Thursday for readers of the Sunday Telegraph until May 31. Access possible for guests with disabilities.