Breakfast in the Cotswolds makes John ponder the semantics of accommodation classification and what it is that makes meals memorable.
by John Pope on September 29, 2015
The Cotswolds is full of interesting places to spend the night, but then with tens of millions of tourists visiting the region every year I guess that it needs to be.
There are of course the big hotels, which are often filled with coachloads of elderly ladies and gents replete with knitting and crossword puzzles, but there are also a whole host of smaller guest houses and B&B’s. Having stayed in very few I feel I am completely unqualified to make any judgments, but I think it would be safe to assume that they range widely from the terrible to the terrific
While staying at one of them this past weekend, I started wondering about the difference between the terms B&B, guest house and hotel. Historically they were very different beasts, but now the lines are blurred, in fact the only legal definition in the UK is that a Bed and Breakfast can have no more than three guest bedrooms. It doesn’t stop people from having very different perceptions and expectations of/from each of them though.
I believe that what makes a guest house somewhere that you would happily return to time and again is very different from what it might be in a hotel. It isn’t the bed or whether or not there is a hairdryer, it’s not about parking or what kind of biscuits they have on the tea and coffee tray. Of course all of those things matter, but it’s really all about the people who run it and the welcome you receive from them.
At the Vale of Berkeley, in (unsurprisingly) Berkeley, the beds are comfortable, there is parking, the biscuits are fine and I don’t have a clue if there was a hairdryer or not. It’s also easy to get to, is surrounded by a lovely garden and has other great things going for it, but the thing that really makes it somewhere you would want to go and stay are the people. Harri and Claire genuinely seem to care about the house and garden and also about each of the guests who chooses to stay there, and that I think is what makes a guest house great.
All the things you put in your mouth
Obviously this is not a website about places to stay, it’s about the things you eat, but where there are beds there must also be breakfast.
The Vale of Berkeley offer evening meals from Monday to Thursday, and they may be wonderful, but our stay happened to be from Friday to Sunday so we really have no idea. What they do offer every day of the week, and the main meal that most people staying in a guesthouse/hotel will be interested in is something hearty to wake up to.
This breakfast is not pretentious or fluffy, it does not throw up surprises. This is a classic English breakfast, no more and no less, and eaten in a conservatory with the greens and browns of the Costwold autumn surrounding you it is a great way to start the day.
Tea, coffee, juice, a selection of cereals, yoghurt should you be in a healthy mood, and then the all important bits. You can’t get much more English than the Cotswolds, so anything other than a breakfast of bacon, sausages, eggs, etc. would just not be right. At the Vale of Berkeley everything (apart from the eggs obviously) is cooked in the oven. A full English is never going to be the lowest calorie morning food option, but this has to be better for you than it all being deep fried.
For all of its simplicity, all of the elements are in place, and all of them are done well. The toast is neither pale and floppy (one of my pet hates) or burned, and every poached egg that appears has a bright yellow yolk that runs beautifully all over the place when it is cut into.
There are some dishes that stick in the mind because they are amazingly cooked, have some spectacular ingredient or exhibit wonderful creativity, but more often the meals that are truly memorable are so not only because of what you actually eat. They are memorable because of the setting you eat them in, the people you share them with, and also the people who cook and serve them.