Just a short drive from the buzzing heart of London is a country getaway that feels decades away. Here Old World elegance mixes with foodie flourishes and literary overtones, and its the resulting sense of charm and wonder that Masion Talbooth, in the heart of soon-to-be-sunny Dedham Vale, is all about.
The hotel is made up of 12 suite-like bedrooms named for the famed English poets whose work adorns the walls and rooms are equipped with baths you can swim in, neutral furnishings you covet and a bed you positively sink into. I'm a sucker for Egyptian cotton. This homely, welcoming space makes you feel at ease the moment you arrive with smiling staff and a light-filled sitting room where you can indulge in a spot of afternoon tea served with what may be the airiest scones around - the not-so-secret ingredient is buttermilk. Breakfast is also served on the ground floor and bringing along an appetite is thoroughly recommended. Masion Talbooth does the classics incredibly well.
What struck me though was not the hot tub, pool house, tennis court or treatment rooms (this is where you venture to indulge, especially when summer is in full bloom) but the view from my room. Rolling fields, distant church towers and trees awaiting the return of their leaves all bathed beneath a soft winter light. This was the countryside of Constable and you can see how the landscape inspired his work.
Having said that, our evening meal at Le Talbooth was sublime. A flavour sensation that showed just how far farm fresh ingredients can take a dish. Found right beside the river, the thoroughly English dishes match this thoroughly English setting, which is charming and swan-framed even by night. I can vouch for the brilliance of the Thetford Forest venison saddle - rich in flavour and beautifully presented on the plate - and the flat mushroom and goats cheese cadeau for its bold freshness. It's the attention to detail that really sets this restaurant apart - original selections of fresh made bread, artistic arrangements, exposed beams and coffees served alongside chocolate in an old cigar box. Who said fine dining couldn't be fun!
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