Travel: Heavenly CookhamBy Sarah Hamilton
November 09, 2011
I THINK I shall buy a boat. I shall moor it by the stunning banks of Cookham village and enjoy the inspirational countryside abutting the River Thames there. But until such time I can afford such a vessel, a stay at Sanctum on the Green affords similar tranquility.
Sanctum on the Green (SoG) is sister hotel to London’s famous Sanctum Soho hotel. Beware finding it at night though, as we had to, as street lighting is non-existent in the rural roads surrounding it and road signs Dickensian, but this is also what makes the area so attractive in the daytime.
There is a lot of National Trust land here – indeed, on the doorstep of the hotel it includes Old Cricket Common – and of course the area of Cookham village, a short drive away or longer walk, is a beautiful place to perambulate.
Sanctum has only nine rooms and a poolhouse containing two rooms and a suite, which opens on to the outdoor heated pool, hot tub and courtyard. I can imagine this being great fun in the summer months, especially if you want to visit with a bunch of friends and just hang out poolside between strolls in the country.
We had one of the poolhouse rooms, which included a rolltop bath in the corner. I loved the styling and colours of the furnishings; silvers, minks and chocolate browns courtesy of London-based interior designers Wrothams.
Although we didn’t have any, the hotel does offer treatments which include all the usual beauty pamperings you would expect. The hotel can also arrange activities like horse riding and kayaking.
Minor irritations were very creaky floorboards in the room above us and a thin ceiling so our neighbours’ ‘activities’ could be heard, not being served what we ordered during one of our courses at dinner – which was uncharacteristic inattentiveness from otherwise helpful staff – and ordering newspapers for the next morning but none being delivered. Strangely, I find this latter problem repeated at other hotels we’ve stayed at, why I do not know.
But for me the best thing about SoG was its food. Celebrity chef John Burton-Race is the hotel’s consultant executive chef. Readers will remember Burton-Race as formerly being behind the Michelin-starred l’ortolan restaurant in Shinfield.
We had dinner here on our first night and can only say we’d make the trip into Cookham again just to eat here.
An amuse bouche of some mushroomy soupy thing started us off, this was very flavoursome and followed by goat’s cheese mousse with the sweetest, freshest beetroot salad while husband had a delicious trout fillet to start.
Other highlights included my pork with mash, superbly cooked, my husband’s buttery tender venison, and for pud the best restaurant crumble I’ve had in several years, with ice cream and a delicate creme anglais. More please! And the great thing about the whole meal was it didn’t make you feel stuffed, just very contented and like you’d done your constitution a world of good with all the fresh, perfectly cooked ingredients.
On the flip side, Sanctum’s breakfast was limited, I presume because they have limited guests, but I would have liked more croissant-y things and a better selection of jams for one’s toast – they only had raspberry and, albeit delicious, a mixed marmalade and honey preserve. But unlike most hotels, their coffee was spot on.
We were blessed with a sunny Saturday and took the short drive into Cookham village. After parking up we spent the afternoon variously wandering through meadows, feeding some horses, lunch at the Crown pub (good chips here), iced coffee at the friendly Infusions cafe and peeped into the famous Stanley Spencer art gallery. Spencer was a son of Cookham and described it as ‘a village in heaven’. The village is also well placed for visiting other supernal places nearby like Marlow, Henley and Windsor.
That evening we walked from the hotel to the nearby Uncle Tom’s Cabin pub with only an iPhone torch app to light our way. Had it not been a cloudy night we’d have seen a bank of stars above us no doubt, unhindered by light pollution.
It felt like we had left the city behind – and that was no bad thing.