Old Government House

“Fine views, a profusion of cushions and some of Guernsey's finest cooking in this historic hotel in St Peter Port.”

Review by Fiona Duncan, published 14th June 2009.

Here's a neat idea for a short, two-centre break. Fly to Guernsey, then take the ferry to the island of Herm, and stay at the White House, of which I have recently written. The view from your balcony will be back towards Guernsey, with the buildings of St Peter Port climbing uphill from the harbour.

Contrasts are the stuff of life. The joys of Herm and the White House are very simple ones; soon you'll be ready for something different, so return to Guernsey and check into Old Government House at the top of the hill. The view? Herm, with the White House visible on the shore.

Though they face one another, there couldn't be two more different hotels than these, like following a spam sandwich with a cream puff. First simplicity, then artifice.

A bit of artifice, from time to time, doesn't go amiss. At the White House you'd be hard pressed to find a cushion unless it's wedged down the back of a sofa; at OGH you have to move about a dozen of them before you can sit down or get into bed.

It was not always thus. The Old Government House, a hotel since 1858, has just celebrated its first anniversary under the ownership of Red Carnation Hotels, run by Beatrice Tollman. Mrs Tollman runs some very fine hotels, including several in London that are consistently rated top on Tripadvisor. Contemporary they are not. Think cushions. Think tassels. Think padded fabric on the walls. Think a lot about padded fabric on the walls.

The brasserie, whose semicircle of windows look onto an alluring sunken swimming pool, is swathed in cream and pink, while the grand sitting room, entered through original wrought-iron gates, has taken on the air of aristocratic Edwardiana.

Bedrooms, found along a somewhat depressing maze of oddly decorated corridors and staircases, have been slower to evolve. They've all had new headboards, bedside lamps and (ongoing) air-conditioning, but pay an extra £20 to £30 per night and you'll secure one of the fully refurbished bedrooms, with or without a new bathroom. If Red Carnation's public rooms are flouncy, I can find no fault with the elegance and attention to detail of its bedrooms.

So quietly undertaken have been the changes at this landmark hotel that the natives have not yet caught on, nor to the fact that in the kitchen lurks a Breton by the name of Jerome Barbançon, who, according to the local resident who joined me for dinner, is cooking the best food on the island. We made light work of the seven-course menu dégustation, stopping conversation for an intense salmon ice cream and smoked salmon starter and a deftly presented piece of red mullet. The natives had better wake up soon or he'll be off to where he is more appreciated.

St Ann's Place, St Peter Port (01481 724921; www.theoghhotel.com) Doubles from £150 per night, b & b.

Further information on Guernsey at www.visitguernsey.com; flights: www.aurigny.com

Stay at this hotel

The Hotel Guru verdict

Rooms
4 out of 5

Pay extra for a new one; great top-floor suites

Service
5 out of 5

Excellent. harry, xavier and vaughan stood out

Character
3 out of 5

Heaven, if you love cushions and padded fabric on walls

Food and drink
4 out of 5

Value for money
4 out of 5

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