THEY are the awards every hotel wants to win. Today the Good Hotel Guide unveils its César Award winners for 2021, with 10 hotels, inns and B&Bs in the honours.
Each year, ten César awards are presented to a selection of hotels which have demonstrated consistent excellence in their field.
Named after César Ritz, they’re regarded as the Oscars of the hotel industry.
This year, award winners include a Scandi-designed 18th century thatched cottage on the Isle of Wight, a Belfast hotel which serves a Titanic-inspired nine-course dinner, and a Wiltshire pub which offers wild camping and whose owner has been awarded an OBE for services to farming.
Here are the winners, and the judges’ verdicts.
Eccentric hotel of the year: Rayanne House, Holywood, Belfast
Truly extraordinarily, chef / patron Conor McClelland recreates the last first-class, nine-course dinner served on the Titanic, including cream of barley soup with Bushmills whiskey and cream, and filet mignon topped with foie gras. See what’s on the menu here. Bedrooms are equally remarkable, particularly the golf-themed Rory McIlroy room, its bathroom featuring grass-effect floor tiles and bunker (ball provided).
Scottish guest house of the year: Woodcroft House, Perth
A rare and ancient Monkey Puzzle tree stands in the extensive garden of this Arts and Crafts-style Victorian guest house, which overlooks the city of Perth. Three spacious bedrooms – one with its own turret – come with Egyptian cotton bed linen and traditional Scottish treats. Take your own wine to dinner to enjoy alongside dishes such as Hebridean chicken and wild red venison chateaubriand.
Welsh inn of the year: The Bell at Skenfrith, Skenfrith, Monmouthshire
Superbly restored after the River Monnow burst its banks, the hotel – beloved by food aficionado walkers and their canine companions – is better than ever. Twenty minutes from Abergavenny, the former 17th century coaching inn has 11 elegant rooms, glorious riverside walks, an exceptional culinary reputation, and a Pooch Parlour with bath, shower and towels for muddy dogs.
Family-friendly hotel of the year: Porth Tocyn, Abersoch, Wales
Owned by the Fletcher-Brewer family for three generations, this hotel has the perfect recipe for a happy holiday for guests of all ages: the seaside within walking distance, an inviting outdoor heated swimming pool, a games room with table tennis, a cosy snug with entertainment, high tea for tots, an adapted dinner menu for older children, and baby listening devices.
Small hotel of the year: Plantation House, Ermington, Devon
Chef patron Richard Hendey delights guests with his home-grown and local ingredients on a nightly-changing menu with pressed guinea fowl with pistachio, Cointreau and duck a particular highlight. Sublime back massages can be enjoyed from the contemporary comfort of your bedroom in this Georgian country house a five-minute drive from the market town of Modbury, in the glorious South Hams.
B&B of the year: Newbegin House, Beverley, East Yorkshire
Walter and Nuala Sweeney welcome guests warmly to their Georgian town house with sherry, fresh milk and flowers in bedrooms, and a tour of the impressive walled garden. After the feast of a breakfast (traditional Yorkshire-style, should you wish), head to Beverley’s bustling Saturday market. Check-out tends to be a pleasing surprise in terms of value.
Newcomer of the year: Locanda on the Weir, Porlock Weir, Somerset
Caught between the untamed allure of Exmoor and the compelling draw of the sea, this eclectic and intimate restaurant with rooms stands in the impossibly pretty harbour of Porlock Weir. After an aperitif by the fire, dinner awaits – expertly created by owner and chef Pio Catemario di Quadri – promising joys such as Calabrian onion tatin, local 31-day aged chateaubriand, and vibrant, fresh-picked produce from the kitchen garden.
Island hotel of the year: Hillside, Ventnor, Isle of Wight
Eighteenth century thatched cottage on the outside, Scandinavian-inspired world within, Hillside overlooks the Victorian seaside splendour of Ventnor and is palpably infused with hygge harmony. Danish-born owner Gert Bach openly displays his passions for both food and art: his seasonal menu is a French-Scandi fusion; his collection of vivid avant-garde canvases is seriously enviable.
Inn of the year: Helen Browning’s Royal Oak, Bishopstone, Wiltshire
Champion of all that is organic, and awarded an OBE for services to farming, Helen Browning runs a characterful pub and inn – set amid 1,500 acres of farmland in the beautiful Wiltshire Downs – with passion. There are 12 irresistible bedrooms named after different fields, and farm safaris and wild camping are on offer. As you’d expect, everything from milk to meat is supplied from the surrounding fields and is splendidly wholesome.
Country house hotel of the year: Askham Hall, Penrith, Cumbria
Despite the grand medieval façade and stately surroundings, informality overrules ancestral pomp. The Grade II listed garden is a reverie of topiary, terraces, lawns and meadows; the interior is delightfully furnished with antiques and old photographs – and the Michelin-starred restaurant serves estate produce in unusual combinations: Lowther roe deer, smoked sheep yoghurt, juniper, elderberries; rose geranium cream, rhubarb, orange and Campari.
Established in 1978, the Good Hotel Guide is the only truly independent UK hotel guide. Co-edited by Adam and Caroline Raphael, together with the former travel editor and assistant travel editor of The Times, Jane Knight and Kate Quill, the new 2022 edition features 675 hotels, inns, B&Bs and guesthouses, with 424 main entries and 49 new entries.
The Good Hotel Guide 2022: Great Britain & Ireland is published on today, Monday October 4, priced £16 (including p&p within the UK) from The Good Hotel Guide, 50 Addison Avenue, London W11 4QP (Tel: 020 7602 4182; www.goodhotelguide.com) or priced £20 from all good bookshops.