Hotel of the week: The Olde Bell Inn

Welcome to week three of our celebration of the greatest, goodest and gorgeousest of the Smith boutique-hotel collection. (In case you’ve missed our first fortnight, we’ve already covered a fabulous Portuguese farmhouse in Alentejo and a superb self-catering cottage in Norfolk). This week, we’ve been wondering, ‘if we fled the Smith offices in London, and ran away to the countryside for a few days, where could we get to a) quickly and b) with a guarantee of glorious surroundings, fantastic British food, and a chic-yet-informal atmosphere?’ There’s only one answer – let’s hear it for…

The Olde Bell Inn, Berkshire

Olde Bell Inn bedroomStyle Inn-keeping with tradition
Setting Thames riverside village

Why this week? There’s no better antidote to a rainy July than hearty seasonal food, no better chef to prepare it than Rosie Sykes, and no better place to eat it than this Ilse Crawford-redesigned coaching inn in Hurley (except perhaps, its sister establishment in the Chilterns, The Crown Inn). Add the fact that Mr & Mrs Smith members can currently get two nights for the price of one throughout August, olde-bell-foodand we have all the incentive we need.

Our favourite rooms
Simple, pared back, modern and comfortable, the Olde Bell’s Crawford-refurbished rooms retain the quintessentially English feel of the inn as a whole, with chunky farmhouse furniture, woven wool blankets, oak floorboards, and smart, natural tones. Thanks to the grassy scents of the hand-made rush matting, the rooms even smell rustic. Bathrooms are fitted with drench showers or elegant claw-foot baths. All the rooms have been recently (and lovingly) refurbished but ask for a room overlooking the wild-meadow garden.

Mr & Mrs Smith say ‘The exterior looks like any other Tudor pub – white, slightly wonky, with leadlight windows and orange roof tiles – and you’d be forgiven for walking right past. Don’t. Upon crossing the threshold, the first thing we noticed was the roaring fire and the typical English-inn oak bar.  Even with a king-size bed, flatscreen TV, several chairs, side table and whatnot, there’s enouOlde Bell Inn barngh space in the rooms to dance around, swing a cat and do the fandango. The bathroom is similarly vast and has dark oak floors, a walk-in shower with a monsoon showerhead the size of a dinner plate, and Australian botanical skincare range Aesop. The best feature, however, is the deep, claw-footed, roll-top bath. We’re looking forward to our next trip to Henley, mainly in order to schedule a dinner stop at the Olde Bell Inn – but, next time, we won’t imbibe quite so much whisky by the fire…’

Read our full hotel review

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This article was written by

Before joining Mr & Mrs Smith, managing editor Anthony Leyton was at The Independent, writing about universities for the Push Guides. As you can imagine, it was a tough task persuading him to exchange league tables for luxury holiday retreats and halls of residence for hip hotels. Anthony has penned pieces for publications both top-drawer (The Telegraph) and top-shelf (Fiesta), and he has had a love of travel ever since he found bullet holes in the walls of a hotel room in New Orleans. He also has too many pets. But that's another tale altogether.

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