I arrive at Lucknam Park’s 200-hectare estate, said to date to the 11th century. I snail-pace along the famous mile-long driveway, flanked by two rows of guards of honour, a total of 400 lime and beech trees. I pass horses, part of Lucknam Park Equestrian Centre, which attracts hotel guests and day visitors. What an arrival…
Well, I followed an ancient white Rolls-Royce with white wedding ribbons, to a somewhat tight turning circle, near a colourful range of off-road bicycles. I passed through the house’s entrance columns to a pair of glass doors: inside awaited a croquet set to left and, to right, a neat array of all-sizes of Wellington boots. A residential side table ahead is obviously the rather public ‘front desk’.
Up 30 carpeted stairs, I turned right to Coral, a 54-square-metre area in soft cream/beige-rose hues. From the small foyer, I turned left to the main room (vertical broad-striped paper), to look out through two windows at what feels like my private park. Add to the room’s ingredients a theatrical four-post bed, a retro Bakelite circular-dial phone, and a working Victorian fireplace with tongs, kindling and wood supply.
On the walls are a seriously large Samsung television, plus wildlife prints, architectural drawings and family portraits. The bathroom with grey-flecked, off-white marble, floor and walls, has a deep soaking tub, electric towel rails and ESPA ‘stuff’.
Lunch. I cross a couple of outdoor courtyards to the spa. Go in, turn right to the Brasserie, a lovely casual space with a stone floor and mid-wood tables bearing small pot plants. A shallow ceramic dish holds my vegan starter: heirloom tomatoes, pickled fennel, marinated olives and pine nuts on ricotta mizume. Next, a deeper bowl holds a superbly significant tranche of wood-roasted, crispy-skinned Cornish cod, plus herbed gnocchi. Would I like a coffee to go? By the time I reach the exit, in under two minutes, Bart produces a first-class double espresso in a paper cup. He clicks on the cap, securely.
I have a fabulous personalised ESPA facial, with SkinVision analysis (I planned using the 18-metre indoor pool with vitality stations but the hours have disappeared). Pre-dinner, I coincide with a wedding party, all male with the exception of the dark-haired bride, in a dreamy lace gown with long and graceful train; a possible challenge for ushers’ footwear.
I proceed to the Michelin-starred Restaurant Hywel Jones, named for the long-time executive chef. This stately golden room, with sparkling crystal chandeliers, showcases starched linens and all-white china, plus careful service. Three choices offer six-course tasting menus: Signature, Seasonal and this carnivore’s rare choice, Vegetarian. My pointillist journey of small bites includes Isle of Wight tomato tart, a large morel tortellini, a kalamansi-and-white-chocolate ice-cold lollipop, and a vanilla crème brûlée, all enhanced by Malbec Winemaker’s Reserve Norton Mendoza 2018.
Hotel GM Sakis Dinas, a Greece-born German foodie, says he hosted two special dinners last month, celebrating sous-chef Jamaar Semper reaching the semi-finals of Masterchef. Post-meal, as a self-professed pyromaniac, Dinas escorts me back to my Coral home, and lights the fire using only one match. After he leaves, I discover a M Monroe-pink satin sleep mask – what fun – and I do a high-dive up into bed.
A great sleep leads to morning exercise. Knowing the Technogym, next to the indoor pool, does not open until 7.30am, I trek that amazing front drive and return to the main restaurant for breakfast. Greek yoghurt topped with poppy seeds and a few berries is followed by tasty toasted sourdough topped with smashed avo, two poached eggs and greenery. As I leave I promise, next visit, to take a horse-whispering session.