A stay at Talbooth House & Spa
The key to a memorable hotel stay is a great welcome and such was my arrival at the excellent Talbooth House & spa on the Essex/Suffolk border was that within ten minutes I felt utterly at home.
The signs were good from the start, with a smooth check-in done in seconds in the entrance hall on an iPod, rather than having to stand at a reception desk filling out endless forms.
The country house atmosphere continued downstairs in the lounge which had a full-sized grand piano, a good selection of newspapers and magazines and was a popular spot for afternoon tea.
Even better, once I was shown to my room I was invited to explore the rest of this 12-bedroom boutique hotel as all the as yet occupied rooms had their doors left open, meaning you could have a good old nose around.
Talbooth House bedrooms
In hotels as individually-designed as Talbooth House (which was called Maison Talbooth when I stayed and has since had a name change) it is great to be able to see what else is on offer for future trips.
I spent a happy half hour wandering between Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Betjeman and other poets who had given their names to each bedroom. Framed poetry from the bedroom poet was hanging on the bedroom wall, so being in Wordsworth, we got On Westminster Bridge and Daffodils, while our neighbours got Shakespeare’s sonnets.
Each room, while different, had a luxurious feel, with thick carpets, immaculate furnishings and the soothing tones of Classic FM coming from every bedside digital radio.
The rooms ranged from standard (Kipling) up through superior and deluxe and ended up with the Principal Suites of Shakespeare and Keats, both of which have their own private terrace.
Our room, Wordsworth, had great views of the green Essex countryside, an incredibly smart bathroom down a few steps with a vast bath, stand-alone shower and a selection of good quality toiletries, a separate twin-closet space with all the essentials such as a minibar with complimentary soft drinks and homemade biscuits, a coffee machine (fresh milk was available on request), hairdryer, iron and several plug points.
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Talbooth House spa
Talbooth House spa is tucked away at the other side of the hotel with three treatments room where guests can indulge in all manner of massages, facials and beauty treatments.
The hotel also does day spa packages including treatments and access to the swimming pool which seemed to be very popular as people were arriving for a day of pampering when we left the next day.
While Talbooth House isn’t set in vast grounds, it has made good use of the acres it does have with a tennis court and, in a walled garden, an impressive pool house next to a ultra-modern outdoor heated swimming pool and hot tub.
Swimming outdoors in a January evening isn’t something I undertake lightly but walking along the spotlit path in the frosty blackness towards the steaming pool wasn’t to be missed.
Spending a balmy summer’s evening in the pool and beautifully-designed pool house (which has its own honesty bar) would really be something.
An evening at Le Talbooth
Dinner wasn’t in the hotel itself but at Talbooth House’s nearby sister restaurant, Le Talbooth, which sounds like it could be a effort but really isn’t, with a staff member ready to drive you in chauffered comfort the 30 seconds or so it takes to cruise down the road to the restaurant.
Le Talbooth itself is a stunning half-timbered building on the banks of the River Stour, the border between Essex and neighbouring Suffolk and was actually the first site in what became Milsom Hotels & Restaurants group.
Le Talbooth was just a tearoom when acquired by the late Gerald Milsom in 1952, who then bought Maison Talbooth in 1969 and established it as a luxury hotel. Later on he added The Pier seafood restaurant in Harwich and his son and daughter-in-law Paul and Geraldine Milsom opened hotel and restaurant Milsoms, which is just down the road.
Le Talbooth restaurant
Le Talbooth itself was faultless: a charming, cosy room where the service was impeccable – attentive without being bothersome. What seemed to be an all-female staff glided noiselessly about the restaurant anticipating to the second the right moment you wanted to order, or have the plates cleared, and I can’t remember a better service in a restaurant.
The top notch food matched the service and every dish was a delight, beginning with excellent starters of pan seared scallops with pork belly – juicy, succulent, delicious – and Mersea crab mayonnaise with melon, wasabi and sardine dressing.
The dishes tasted as good as they looked and would have been the highlight of the meal were it not for the superb Dedham Vale Chateaubriand which was carved in the restaurant and done to perfection.
This isn’t a restaurant where you would dine everyday but for special occasions, romantic evenings or for an occasion treat I would say it’s the perfect place – and there’s a terrace overlooking the river for summer dining.
After that we were almost done but we did manage to share a vast but delicious passion fruit souffle before coffee, petit fours and the arrival of Amelia to whisk us back to Talbooth House.
A dreamless sleep followed and then the sad realisation that we had to leave this deeply relaxing hotel and venture back out into the real world. Talbooth House itself is just a few minutes drive from the beautiful village of Dedham, the most famous village in ‘Constable Country’, the region where artist John Constable lived and worked for years. The famous Talbooth bridge, Talbooth Restaurant & Idle Waters feature in Constable’s famous 1828 oil painting, The Vale of Dedham.
The village has some lovely tea shops, vast arts and crafts centre and stunning church, with a painting, The Resurrection, by John Constable himself. It was a great place to spend the morning and keep the sense of luxury and relaxation from a stay at Talbooth House going for a few hours longer.
Hotel information and to book Talbooth House
Talbooth House & Spa
Colchester, Essex CO7 6HN
Prices for Talbooth House range from £300-£415 per room per night on a B&B basis.
Talbooth House & Spa and Le Talbooth are part of the Milsom Hotels group which includes Kesgrave Hall. Talbooth House is a member of the luxury hotels group PoB Hotels (formerly Pride of Britain Hotels).
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