ONES TO WATCH: The best new boutiques set for success in 2018

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We look ahead to the next 12 months to see what we can expect from the boutique hotel market in 2018 and pick out the businesses that are promising to be something spectacular. Brace yourself for a year of excitement and inspiration as these hotels look set to raise the bar.

One year old…

Name of hotel: Backwell House              

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Owned by: Hobbs family

Managed by: Gwendoline Mailey

Bedrooms: Nine ensuite

Opened in: September 2016

Interior design: Elegant country house style with quirky vintage finds and up-cycled furniture.

Successes so far: Backwell House made its mark on the industry just six months into opening. The English house, built in 1817, is a joint venture between the Hobbs family who own the house and the estate and general manager Guy Williams. It has been awarded a Sawday’s ‘Best Newcomer Award’, a five AA star rating in the Restaurant with Rooms category, 2 AA Rosette Restaurant. On the hotel is number 1 in Bristol with a 9.5 review score, it was featured in the Good Hotel Guide 2018, and in the Sunday Times Ultimate British Hotels 2016. On TripAdvisor, Backwell House has a five-star rating.

F&B operations: Head chef Ross Hunter is responsible for the hotel’s 40-cover restaurant, which is open seven days a week, serving breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner. A seven course tasting menu is also served for Friday and Saturday dinner.

Stand-out factors

  • Relaxed and welcoming, the independently owned and run, revamped Georgian House has the air of staying a friend’s glamorous country pad.
  • Only 15 minutes from the bright lights of the vibrant city of Bristol, but you see only rolling hills of the Somerset countryside beyond the immediate grounds of Backwell House.
  • Kitchen Garden growing herbs, vegetables and fruit for the kitchen. Eggs come from Backwell House chickens, honey from their bees, beef from the herd grazing the pastures, and pork from their own pigs. Other ingredients are sourced as locally as possible

Plans for next year: Watch this space…


Six months old…

Name of hotel: Rectory Hotel

Owned by: Roman Road Properties Ltd

Managed by: Managing director is Alex Payne and hotel manager is Jenna Tomblin

Bedrooms: 15 and three-bedroom cottage

Opened in: July 2017

Interior design: The hotel takes the bones of a classic Georgian Rectory, sympathetically renovating it but also adding a subtly modern, smart yet relaxed contemporary feel.

Successes so far: Getting in the Times top 100 after only three months of being open was a huge achievement for the property. The hotel has been immediately embraced by the village and locals as a space where they can eat, drink and relax as well as somewhere for people from further afield to come and stay.

F&B operations:  As well as a fully fledged cocktail bar and restaurant, the Rectory has a newly-built glasshouse; a versatile space equally good for breakfast for residents in the summer or as a candle lit private dining space in the winter.

Stand out factors:

  • A sense of The Rectory being a country house rather than a hotel and the sense of fun and hospitality that goes with that.

Plans for next year: Continuing to build The Rectory Hotel’s reputation and F+B operation, with more plans promised in the pipeline.



Name of hotel: The Cookie Jar

Owned by: Debbie Cook

Managed by: Mick Holland

Bedrooms: 11 keys, one suite which is the former Chapel and 10 quirky rooms.

Opened in: Late September 2017

Interior design: English contemporary elegance with a twist; a Soho club in the country.

Successes so far: A former convent in Northumberland was transformed into high-end boutique The Cookie Jar earlier this year, in a project spearheaded by wife of former Malmaison CEO Robert Cook, Debbie Cook. St Marys Convent on Bailiffgate, Alnwick, closed in 2015, and was reborn as an 11-bed boutique with Mick Holland of catering firm Holland & Paige appointed as GM and chef. Since its launch, The Cookie Jar has received rave reviews in The Times Saturday Travel and The Telegraph.

F&B operations: The hotel is home to a 24-cover bistro and Cocktail Snug, with an outside terrace which is currently open all day and on a Friday and Saturday night.

Stand-out factors:

  • Daring be different, bringing something very new to Northumberland and promoting itself as a ‘cory retreat’.
  • The hotel is 100 yards from the tourist trap of Alnwick Castle.
  • The Cookie Jar is well set up for shooting parties, with custom-built kennels in the garden for gun dogs and a gun / drying room. Plus every room has its own individual gun cabinet.
  • Little touches such as Penhaligons Toiletries and homemade cookies in each bedroom for guests to enjoy on arrival.

Plans for next year: Increase the food and beverage operation both inside and outside in the garden, with the launch of The Holy Cow steak restaurant due for launch in 2018.


Name of hotel: The Methuen Arms

Owned by: Butcombe Pubs & Inns

Managed by: Ashley Harlow & Abi Vince

Bedrooms: 19

Opened in: Butcombe Brewery, owned by Liberation Group, acquired the business in November 2016 and undertook a transformational refurbishment project along with the addition of five new rooms in the summer of 2017.

Interior design: The interior of the Methuen Arms successfully marries comfort and country style as well as a little luxury and a touch of opulence.

Successes so far: Complete transformation of the interior trading spaces of the business to create a relaxing and welcoming space for guests and the addition of five new bedrooms overlooking the Cotswold courtyard. The hotel introduced the kitchen garden and polytunnels where head chef Leigh Evans undertakes new projects growing produce that is handpicked and to the table on the day.

F&B operations: The Methuen Arms has created a menu with highlights such as its signature Methuen beef burger, game and suet pudding and venision haunch. The Methuen Arms has a relaxed bar and dining area, a garden dining room, the Green Room and the 20-seater Scullery private dining room.

Stand-out factors:

  • Extraordinarily beautiful gardens, and a variety of spaces for guests to enjoy, indulgent hotel bedrooms, great food and friendly home-from-home welcome and service.

Plans for next year: Expansion of the kitchen garden, continued development of the committed Methuen team to build on the success of this pub that combines being a pub at the heart of the community with destination dining.


Tags : 2018hotelsones to watch
Zoe Monk

The author Zoe Monk

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