Review by Fiona Duncan, published 13th December 2009.
Lucy Townsend’s three renovated inns – the Peat Spade on the Test, the Queen’s Arms near Lambourn, and this one – have a common “great British” theme that harks back to a bygone era. Each is packed with antiques and memorabilia sourced by Martin Miller (of Miller’s Antiques – and Gin – fame), they proudly “fly the flag”, marking Remembrance Sunday, hosting the hunt, organising country sports, and so on.
The theme may be fabricated, but if you meet her, you’ll find that true blue Lucy’s heart is very much in it. “God Save our Queen!” trumpets the brochure.
As a pleasant place to stay, it works a treat. In fact, I can’t help asking myself, why spend twice as much in a hotel when you can stay just as comfortably in a pub? Or, in the case of the Anchor, possibly a great deal more comfortably.
The five rooms here, ranging from £90 to £120 per night, including a cracking breakfast, are all that you could ask for. Our oblong room, Rupert Brooke (all are named after First World War literary figures), has a particular feeling of space, if unconventional, with French doors onto a balcony rising to a high apex and room for a sofa and table at one end.
All the extras you’d hope for in a fully fledged hotel are here, attractively presented: a choice of teas and ground coffees displayed in a wicker box; well-stocked minibar, including fresh milk; Bush radio; flat screen television; free Wi-Fi, antique-style sleigh bed with first-class mattress, oversized pillows and
Egyptian cotton linen; sturdy wardrobe with full length mirror.
There’s no bathtub, but the glass-enclosed, white-tiled shower is so good that for once I don’t miss my customary soak. The towels are huge, fluffy and warm from the towel rail and there are bathrobes, too.
As for the decoration, it’s fashionable yet full of character, with oriental carpets on sisal, pale sage walls covered in pictures, shelves of books and a small statue of the Three Graces.
My husband, though, could have done without quite so many old school photographs from Charterhouse, his alma mater, of which there are dozens more downstairs.
A group of us meet for dinner in the attractive painted, wood-panelled, candlelit dining room. Minus point: we are chilly both before and during the meal, not a good thing in what’s meant to be a warming English pub.
Once we’ve got used to the amazingly low, helpfully padded beams in the bar we manage to keep our heads upon our shoulders, but it’s good sport watching new arrivals lose theirs as we sip our drinks.
The “simple, honest”, properly English food from chef Kevin Chandler (pork loin and pan haggerty, spotted dick and custard) is very enjoyable, although extra vegetables have to be ordered to bulk out the main courses. Breakfast is excellent, and the staff friendly.