Sasha & Lettice at The Great House at Sonning.
Sasha is wearing: (gifted) dress by Lily & Lionel, pink Raf Simons x Adidas trainers. Lettice is wearing a (gifted) LoveMyDog quilted jacket.
The week before I moved house I was in quite the state. Surrounded by boxes, obsessed by spreadsheets, trying to co-ordinate van drivers, furniture deliveries, cleaners, helpful friends, utilities, packing, unpacking and all the rest, I was losing the ability to think straight. It didn’t help that I was moving on the cheap, because I had the most ginormous deposit on the new place which essentially swallowed up all my allocated moving budget. So it was hello ZipVan and goodbye removal company. (Thank GOODNESS for ZipVan, and for the fact that I’ve only moved one street over. No, I do not like change.)
So being invited to attend a party to celebrate the opening of The Great House at Sonning was a merciful respite. Some might argue that spending a night away the day before you move house is bordering on the insane, but I just couldn’t face the muddle a moment more. And poor Lettice definitely needed a break.
So after work Hannah and I caught the train from Paddington to Reading (25mins/a rather eye-watering £50 rush-hour return) and then a short fifteen minute cab to Sonning, a pretty little town on the banks of the river Thames, west of London.
There’s a very famous and very trad hotel restaurant in Sonning also on the river, The French Horn, which is the kind of place your parents or grandparents take you for lunch, or you have very expensive dinners with a partner (starters in the £20 range, and mains around £35).
What Sonning hasn’t had until now is a contemporary boutique hotel with a London sensibility, where there are eggs and avocado on the breakfast menu, and orange-spined vintage Penguins in the bedroom, and where you can just about get change from £50 for a quick two-course supper for two. Granted, this may be your idea of hell, but it’s all done so seamlessly and, most importantly of all, comfortably so it’s hard to baulk at its slightly self-regarding hipness.
That attention to detail and urban sensibility all starts to make sense when you discover that one of the investors behind the hotel is Sinclair Beecham, a co-founder of Pret a Manger, and of the Hoxton Hotel.
Part of the hotel is a Grade II listed, former Elizabethan coaching inn, part of it is a modern extension, and parts of it are in a cottage and stables in the ground. (Bring an umbrella if you expect rain for the dash to the restaurant.) You may want to avert your eyes from the car park in between. Don’t go expecting a pretty frontage at reception – it looks like any random provincial hotel. It’s the waterfront that gives the better view.
Our room was compact but extremely comfortable, with good lighting, space to sit, a desk to work at, and plenty of those all-important bedside charging points that so many hotels lack.
(Although I still come over all shudder-y at dry-clean only throws and cushions on beds, which I usually pick up between finger and thumb and stash in the closet for fear of, um, deposits.)
The bathroom was an Instagrammers wet dream with enough marble to backdrop no end of product shots and, most importantly, the shower was excellent.
And let’s not forget the dog-friendliness…Lettice couldn’t have been made more welcome.
We arrived just before twilight and were in time to take a trip on the Thames on the Midsomer Maiden, a river launch moored outside the hotel’s Coppa Club restaurant which can be hired for a short aperitif cruise or for a full day trip into Henley on Thames.
By this point we were starting to feel weak with hunger, so we ate a late supper at The Coppa Club, Beecham’s co-partner Hugh Osmond’s nascent restaurant chain – two in London, and more on the way – which is the hotel restaurant and bar.
I’m used to most restaurants at the casual dining price point offering vegetarian options of extreme cliched dullness: various iterations on risotto (I never want to see another sodding butternut squash one again), goats cheese whatever or a halloumi salad if I’m lucky.
The Coppa scores because (a) they let me take Lettice in, (b) the food was actually interesting and (c) it looks great.
My filo pie wasn’t enormously exciting, but at least it wasn’t a sodding risotto.
They also serve a truly delicious breakfast. I know avocado, poached eggs, quinoa is a whopping Instagram-friendly cliche in London, but but’s not a dish you see much of outside the city and, simple as it sounds, it’s easy to screw it up. (I had a dish last week in Hampstead with so much acidulated avocado that I gagged, and toast so soggy I could have used it as a sponge.) Oh and Coppa’s coffee is really excellent. I was also very taken with their custom Portuguese pottery.
Well fed and well watered we headed back to London with slightly damaged heads. Even Lettice looked a little the worse for wear on the train home.