Bristol has a beautiful boutique hotel and restaurant right on its doorstep in Backwell village, a short distance from Bristol. Backwell House turns out to be the ‘whole package’ and exceeds my expectations.
I love the thrill of leaving the house on a sunny evening, windows down in the car. That pleasing feeling as queues of traffic and cheek by jowl buildings slip away behind me, replaced by trees and endless fields and an expanse of blue sky. An escape the country is always a good idea. My destination was Backwell House, a luxury boutique hotel, no less.
Backwell village is a popular spot for country living with easy access to all Bristol has to offer. Think: 20 minutes in the car, 7 miles from the city centre on a straight road. Tucked just outside the village is entrance to Backwell House. A winding drive way delivers you to a whole other place.
The house has a portico entrance, biscuit coloured stone, tall sashed windows and striking uninterrupted views across the Somerset Countryside. Until recently, Backwell House was a family home and has under-gone a complete refurbishment. Initially, there is a feeling of boutique hotel familiarity; dark walls in subtle hues. A closer look proves there are quirky styling details, original hand-made extras and the history of the house preserved in the details.
Starting in the bar (naturally) you are immediately struck by imposing shelving stacked high with wines and spirits, all hand-made from up-cycling flooring. The room sings “come hang out here”. Tucked at the back of the house, it is like discovering your own speak-easy.
Downstairs there is a cinema with day beds and bean bags. To come is a whiskey den. Check out the loo’s and discover the ceiling is papered with old receipts found in the restoration of the house. Look out for the sink in a vintage leather suitcase.
Currently there are 9 rooms each with a view. Sweeping Somerset countryside to the front. Quintessential walled garden to the back. Each room as a modern but vintage styled bathroom, massive shower heads and deep reclining baths. The huge beds look very inviting.
There is plenty of recycled timber, which adds a rustic modern feel to the interiors. Timber clad bed heads, the shelves in the bar are recycling flooring, the tables topped with parquet flooring, I discover are all made by Guy the General Manager. The sizeable beds and the Shepherd’s hut in the garden, also his handy work. Backwell House is Guy’s venture, in conjunction with the family that still own the house. His enthusiasm is infectious. His creativity leaves you in awe, many of the imaginative elements of the house, that give the edge over similar hotels are made by Guy. He has sourced and styled items for the house, poured over paint colours and has an imaginative vision for the development of the hotel, which will make it even more special. Modern styling combines with the perfect English country hotel setting, complete with walled garden.
A walled garden is a prefect retreat from the whirls of life, a place to stop and (literally) smell the roses. The walled garden at Backwell House is a joy. Hidden benches to stop with a book, a dove cote, abundant roses and a glorious glasshouse.
The house runs on a bio-mass boiler and many of the interior features are vintage or up-cycled. It ticks the green credentials box, before you consider that the produce is locally sourced seasonal fruit and vegetables. Should there be in any doubt in how local the produce, the chickens can be seen in the garden. The pork was previously snuffling in nearby woods and beef cattle can be seen roaming on fields behind the house. This is very local food.
Along with a group of bloggers, I was invited to stay for dinner. In the light and airy dinning room, 16 of us sat around a big table. It would make a great room a family lunch, small wedding or dinner for a big group of friends. The food was beautifully presented with subtle flavours, a food experience. From my vantage point at the end of the table, I could see diners in the next door conservatory, the service was appeared to mirror ours; attentive and friendly.
At the time of writing two courses are £29 and three £35. I ate Potato Gnocchi, Asparagus, Calcot Onion, Hazelnuts for my main. I sat next to Rebecca who had 60 day Hereford Sirloin, Ox Cheek, Alliums, King Oyster Mushroom, Beef Jus. Which was a good slice of meat. I don’t eat meat, Rebecca declared it perfectly cooked and very good. My gnocchi was tasty with full flavours, complimented by fresh vegetables. Tasty and interesting, that can’t always be said for vegetarian options. I had crab to start, which I forgot to photograph, being too excited to eat, it looked and tasted wonderful and you’ll have to take my word for both.
The desserts were a eye-popping end to the meal, stunningly presented. Really fresh fruit and sweet combinations of chocolate with a passion fruit filling or a strawberry meringue option. Looks are one thing, the proof is in the pudding. My dessert left me ‘oooh and aah-ing’ with happiness. I took to eating my chocolate globe with my fingers because breaking into it with a spoon seemed fraught with the possibility of a ball of chocolate spinning off across the table and I wasn’t prepared to risk it. I’m more than happy to eat with my fingers. You might be more dexterous with a spoon.
Rebecca and I tried the local cheese board which was a lovely combination of blue cheese, cheddar and a jarlsberg, with savoury home-made crackers and sweet home-made fruit gel which balanced the different strength of cheese flavours.
To end, we lingered over generous cups of coffee served with sherbet shortbread and beetroot marshmallows, less sweet that standard marshmallow and not overly beetroot. Very good. Nothing rushed and I was in no hurry to leave.
I’d recommend visiting now for a luxury stay, lunch or even afternoon tea, Backwell House is informal and welcoming. It has none of that stuffy country hotel atmosphere that makes you feel you should keep your elbows off of the table. The opposite, you feel that no-one would mind if you padded around in socks and did little but enjoy the interiors and admire the views. For the future, there are ambitious plans for additional rooms, covered pool and spa facilities, all of which will make Backwell House a destination hotel at the edge of a destination city.
Bristol has a vibrant cultural scene and a year round festivals. Named again and again as a best city. The city has loads to offer visitors, but Backwell House has charms that might make you want to stay right where you are.
The indulgence of a shiny bathroom and fresh sheets make hotels a lovely destination. To be honest, I expected Backwell House to be another “good” hotel and “good” food. My expectations were far exceeded. Backwell House is a gem of place and fantastic addition to accommodation in Bristol, whilst providing enough to make you relax and forget the need to leave. When we visited mid-week, 7 of 9 rooms were occupied. I expect it to become a thriving venue. It is base to explore the nearby Mendip Hills. Bath, Glastonbury, Wells, Frome (with it’s fantastic independent market) and Shepton Mallet all under an hour’s drive away.
Disclosure: I was invited to visit Backwell House with a number of other bloggers. We had dinner and a tour of the hotel. All words and opinions are my own and I honestly loved it.