Category Archives: B&B

Hotel Hostal del Cafe, Xilitla, Mexico

A long and winding road brought us to Xilitla, a small town perched in the mountainous jungle of the Sierra Madre. The journey had been long, and hairy – tight, tight corners with nothing but hard desert rock or, later, steep and abundant jungle to capture the incongruously large bus as it toppled over the edge. Thankfully, it was not to be and our B&B was close; so close, the taxi drivers laughed at the prospect of a lift uphill.

Into the Hostal and it was like arriving at an old friends’. Set up by Alejandro and his wife, the building was full of family photos, brightly coloured rooms and interesting ephemera, Mexican quotes about the richness of life on the walls and fantastic B&B rooms set into the (practically) vertical, verdant tropical garden.

This being the jungle, the air was thick with moisture and nothing dried (the backpacker’s pants wash in the sink all for naught); the town, however, was a wonder, with rooftop bars looking to the mountains, excellent taquerias and cowboy-only establishments (even a hoe-down in the local square).

The next morning, breakfast was served by locals in the great dining room, one long table set up for the handful of guests. From the kitchen came chicken and spicy maize, baked in a banana leaf and served with beans. Coffee was local – next door’s, to be precise – and flavourful, if a little less strong than the Bristol palettes were used to.

After such a feed, we were set for our adventure to Las Pozas, unaware then that this wholesome feed would see us through a more convoluted experience than we could have imagined…

Price: from $465 MX. Breakfast $70 MX per person.

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The Swan at Wedmore, Somerset

IMG_2070[1]Nothing quite screams ‘bank holiday weekend’ than a leisurely Sunday roast, followed by a nap on a giant double bed in one of Somerset’s multitude pub with rooms. The Swan does all of these things will aplomb: the young staff deliver great plates of roast beef, fresh gnocchi and delicate crab washed down with local lagers or a multitude of wines by the glass, while upstairs the rooms are cool and inviting, with woolen throws and tartan armchairs adding a touch of texture to otherwise neutral Farrow & Ball tones. Ours had a small balcony overlooking the main strip of yellow stone buildings, the nearby church chiming on the hour to complete the Archer’s feel; better still, a claw-foot bath and a host of Bramley products meant an afternoon bubble bath in the sunshine (pint included for good effect).

And of course, one of the best bits about an overnight stay is the fact that breakfast comes with it. Like their dinner menu, the focus is on local fare – the bread comes from a bakery a short stroll from the door, and bacon is home-smoked; elsewhere suppliers are listed on the chalkboards around the bar. The menu is simple and traditional, and offers plenty for those less egg-averse than me (my bacon and mushrooms on toast looked somewhat lacking without the mound of scrambled egg). Nonetheless, with ingredients this good the flavours win the day, and, importantly, the coffee is just as well-sourced and made with equal care.

There’s plenty to love here, and lucky locals flock (expect a troupe of chinos and well-polished sprogs mussing their Sunday Best in the garden out the back). For those less close, it’s worth the journey – come armed with the papers and your PJs and you’ll be in for a weekend treat.

Price: from £3 (toast & jam) to £11 (The Swan Full English) B&B from £85.

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Villa Magdala, Bath

20130203-162945.jpgLovely Bath. On a chill December weekend we descended on the city in search of romance – the Egg Poacher and I were celebrating 3 years of brunch hunting and needed somewhere with an excellent breakfast reputation. Enter Villa Magdala.

Set apart from the sharp-elbowed tourist centre, the hotel is a sanctum of calm. On arrival our bags were whisked to our room before we’d even noticed we’d put them down, their staff attentive and friendly (with a welcoming waggle from Billy the dog). Following a gorgeous dinner at The Olive Tree (the owner is a gin expert) and a fine nights’ sleep in their lovely beds, we were hoping for another good feed. Things were looking promising with the weekend papers delivered to the door, a buffet table groaning with pastries and fresh fruit juices, Classic FM on the Roberts radio and one of the best possible questions at breakfast: “Would you like some Bucks Fizz?” YES.

The cooked menu is a bible of brunchy goodness – buttermilk pancakes with bacon and maple syrup, enormous kippers on toast, eggs doused in freshly made hollandaise and a proper full English. Cafetieres of coffee and topped up toast-racks appear from nowhere, and a young waiters were keen to make sure all was well. Nicely full (and with a slight Bucks Fizz buzz) we headed off in search of the Spa, smug in the knowledge we’d be back for more the next morning.

Price: B&B from £120 per night for 2.

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Horse & Groom, Bourton-on-the Hill, Wiltshire

The Greenstocks have pulled off the nigh-on impossible, running a pub with rooms that keeps locals and tourists happy in equal measure. The Horse & Groom sits atop Bourton’s eponymous hill, overlooking some fine Cotswold golden stone buildings and the verdant fields beyond. In such rural surroundings, you can expect the country set – chaps come in a rainbows’ array of chinos and ladies are immaculately presented, but we scruffy Bristolians were made to feel equally welcome by brothers Tom and Will. After a fabulous dinner we retired to our room with a giant bed and a bath deep enough to disappear in, somehow still salivating at the thought of more food to come. The breakfast menu is left in your room the night before, and it’s a well-chosen list of traditional fare: muselis and cereals, followed by organic bacon and eggs or fresh fish, cafetieres of coffee or lashings of tea. We were up early (goodness knows why) and ate to the sultry sounds of the hoover, but the food was well seasoned, freshly made and generously portioned. Much of what they cook comes from their own veg patch and kitchen garden, and the chefs look mighty pleased to be here.

Price: double rooms from £120 per night (including breakfast).

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Harptree Treehouse, East Haptree, Somerset

Harptree TreehouseSafely ensconced in the boughs of an ancient oak is a treehouse unlike any other. Hand-crafted and beautifully appointed, it suits its regal surroundings in the grounds of Harptree Court and makes waking up for breakfast very special indeed.

The Egg Poacher and I arrived on a crispy Autumnal evening and were left to wonder at the russet coloured surroundings and indulge in Linda’s famous lemon drizzle cake in perfect peace. A somewhat cack-handed attempt at stoking the woodburner nevertheless left us feeling snug as night drew in, and after a soak in the deep copper bath we wrapped ourselves up to look up at a night sky heaving with stars. With so much beauty surrounding us, we left our windows uncovered and were rewarded with a smouldering sunrise that burned through the mist that clung to the fields around us.

Breakfast waits for the first to rise – there are local sausages and thick cut bacon in the fridge, freshly baked bread and eggs from Haprtree’s own hens. The treehouse kitchen is anything but rustic, with electric hobs and all the bits you need… dishwasher included. For less hungry souls organic muesli or porridge await, as well as teas and ground coffee to be made just as you please. Such magical surroundings would make any breakfast good, but this one will be hard to beat.

Price: From £175 a night (self-catering, with breakfast provided or available in the house on request).

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