In an attempt to fend off a severe case of post sunny destination wedding blues, my wife and I decided to embark on a much needed festive mini break to the gloriously scenic Test Valley in Hampshire.
We had recently returned home after weeks in Greece to our beloved pet dog Nyla and couldn’t bear leaving her again, so were delighted to hear that The Grosvenor in Stockbridge and foodie’s paradise The Crown in the nearby village of Upton were 100% dog friendly.
The Grosvenor has 18 stunning bedrooms in the elegant main house, a further 13 in the mews to the rear and the super chic 3 bedroom Tap Cottage, nestled between the 15th century St Peter’s Church and the iconic hotel itself.
This gorgeous hotel is complete with comfy dog beds and treats and boasts an eclectic mix of antique pieces, bold colours and country-chicfabrics. Each room is unique and painstakingly refurbished during 2020 or 2021 under the watchful eye of Lottie Keith, perhaps Hampshire’s boldest and most talented Country House interior designer.
Nyla loved sitting with us at breakfast and dinner on her very own home dog bed and was completely spoilt by all the friendly staff who went out of their way to make sure our stay was perfect.
Breakfasts at The Grosvenor were a hearty affair – we adored the full English breakfast and the smoked kippers with eggs – perfect before long walks by the beautiful River Test.
Dinner in the glamorously styled dining room and bar was also a joy – especially with Nyla by our side staring hopefully at us every time we took a bite of steak – which was perfectly cooked and extent flavoursome. The beef tartare and mesmerisingly creamy truffled Mac and cheese were equally divine and sent us into blissful food comas relieved by the plush hotel bed.
Anyone wishing to visit for the festive season can look forward to the following for £499 per person;
- A welcome drink and mince pies on the day of arrival
- 3-nights in one of our stylish bedrooms
- Dinner on each night of your stay
- Breakfast each morning
- A spectacular 5-course Christmas Day lunch with a glass of fizz
- Cake and coffee in the afternoon on the 25th
- Boxing day lunch
We spent our first day walking along the scenic heritage trails and shopping in the quaint shops selling a variety of tempting goods such as embroidered cushions, handmade scented candles and organic food products.
On our second and last day we visited renowned pub The Crown for a hearty Sunday lunch to remember – complete with even more treats for Nyla who snoozed off by the crackling log fire.
We were excited to visit The Crown after hearing that it is a multi award-winning pub with a TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice Award, inclusion in the Michelin Guide, Trencherman’s Awards, one of the Top 5 Destination Pubs in the Muddy Stilletto award scheme and a mention in Sawdays Pubs and Inns guide for the best places to eat and drink in the UK.
Dave Watts, Chef and owner of this multi award-winning pub and restaurant in the heart of the Test Valley, Hampshire, serves high quality food with an unusual twist, using local and artisanal produce. Dave and his team are currently preparing for a series of seasonal treats and events to banish the winter blues and give people something to look forward to. First off is an exciting wine and food pairing event featuring English wines and a delicious 5-course tasting menu (£45 p/p excluding wine) on 18 November – for foodies with no plans it’s the perfect way to start off the festive period.
Dave started his career at Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons under the direct guidance of Raymond Blanc. At The Crown he’s passionate about what he does, cares for his team and his customers. Ingredients are sourced wherever possible from local artisanal suppliers, supporting the community.
The Crown’s renowned Christmas party season starts on 29th November and carries on untill Christmas Eve. Groups of friends and family or company parties are all welcome and the menu is a seriously impressive one, with 2 or 3 courses offering unusual takes on traditional seasonal fare from salmon gravalax with mustard Skyr and toasted pumpernickel and other alluring dishes to start.
Mains include tasty fish dishes and tastebud tantalising accompaniments, roasted turkey, grass-fed beef with all the trimmings, or more perfectly roasted fish of the day. Of course generous portions of Christmas pudding, eggnog tarts and other sweet treats will end your festive feast on a belly pleasing note all washed down with the finest selection of tea and coffee to finish. Vegetarians and vegans or guests with special dietary requirements will have sumptuous choices too, and are asked to consult staff so that bespoke dishes can be specially created for them.
On New Year’s Day The Crown Inn will be offering its now eagerly anticipated New Year Brunch featuring a twist on the full English, Eggs Benedict, pancakes, pastries and other delights – we can’t think of a better cure for New Years Eve hangovers.
Private dining for up to 12 people is also available during the winter months in the cosy, welcoming ‘cwtch’ room (Welsh for ‘hug!’) – we sat here in pure comfort and watched a live band on the day we visited, mugs of hot tea in hand.
Private dining for small groups can also take place in the outside H’igloos (Hampshire Igloos) which provide a warm, Nordic atmosphere with wood burning stoves and sheepskin rugs – perfect for cozy festive hot toddys with your favourite people.
In the run-up to the festive season visitors to some Farmer’s Markets and the Christmas Market in Winchester may get to meet Dave as he will be offering produce for sale from The Charcuterie at Parsonage Farm, which he also owns. The cured meats, all from meat supplied by smallholdings and small producers where animal welfare is paramount and therefore ethically and sustainably sourced include flavoured salamis, coppa and lomo as well as pancetta. These can also be ordered online.
If you’d like to see and hear more from Dave about The Crown and in particular The Charcuterie, tune in to James Martin’s Saturday Kitchen on 10th December on ITV 1.