Fancy a night with George Clooney?
OK, so he won't actually be in the same room, but he's just a stone's throw away from the refreshed, funky Great House in Sonning. Flash him from your window and you might get lucky.
You probably know Sonning, above, because of George Clooney! Yup gorgeous George is its most famous resident having bought a beautiful riverside home to waft about in with Amal and the twins. Of course it’s easy to see why he chose this village as base camp one. It’s stunning, and homes here come with a serious price tag – £895,000 on average. But fear not, you can dip you toe into Sonning’s waters and enjoy this Berkshire beauty with all the luxury of Clooney’s pad, at a fraction of the price. Say hello to The Great House – a recently refurbished boutique hotel that’s perfect for naughty nights, a mini break with kids or fun weekend with the girls.
The Great House is a large boutique hotel perched on the banks of the River Thames, next to Sonning Bridge which is a blessing and a curse. The location is stellar but the single traffic bridge causes frequent traffic jams. Use the time for property porn. The houses here are showing a serious amount of ankle. It’s hard not to gawp. Once you’ve parked up, it’s all about kicking back and going slow. Grab a drink from the Coppa Club bar and relaaaax.
This is a big hotel for such a small village, with 49 rooms, including larger suites and a 2-bedroom apartment. It’s hour’s drive from London, 30 mins on the train, and 5 miles from Reading and Henley – a cheeky escape to the country, without spending hours on the M4.
It’s bold and beautiful, as you would expect from a buzzy boutique hotel. The decor is comfortably cool – velvet and leather squidgy sofas, statement lighting, warm wooden furniture with nice touches – there are old Penguin classics dotted everywhere. A little bit of town in the country. Head outside and the you can sink into a deck chair with your Aperol Spritz and drink in the view. It’s perfect for a romantic night away, but a large family gathering would work well here too. In fact it is a very popular wedding and party venue.
The furnishings have modish touches – retro telephone, mini Roberts radio, big telly, fridge, orange accents and exposed brick to break up the blue walls. It is right up my street. There’s no chandelier to swing from, but the bed was huuuuge. Perfect for a 14-hour zzz fest or, *ahem, you get my drift. Full marks for the swanky bathroom – great shower, freestanding bath and the standard grey metro tiles. All the rooms have a decent hairdryer (one with more power than an battery operated hand fan) and if you’ve forgotten anything (in our case, the toothpaste) call down to reception and they’ll grab what you need form the Plan B Box. This box of tricks can supply you with anything from missing toiletries, colouring books for the kids, chargers and much more. Genius.
SCOFF & QUAFF
The Coppa Club serves up the food and drink for The Great House. No room service here, but that’s ok when you have sexy banquette to slide your tush onto. Coppa is a big pull locally, and it’s no wonder – a casual dining experience that caters for all ages and tastes. I’ve eaten here a lot with the family and it’s an absolute fave. Plus the lovely garden and boats keep the nippers happy (when the sun shines).
Try the crispy squid with hot pepper mayo, Coppa Club burger, skinny fries and slaw, garlic and chilli prawns, all absolutely delicious. It’s not fine dining, but it fits the laid-back feel of the place and informality with no washing up is a winner in my book.
… I forgot to mention we rounded it off with pavlova, because we are pigs.
The following morning we ate our breakfast outside on the terrace. Blankets are provided if you feel chilly. Yes it is summer, but true to form it was raining. A strong coffee and the obligatory full english was ordered. Although the menu was extensive and included every fashionistas favourite, avocado and egg on toast.
Definitely. The staff were all lovely, chatty, helpful and there’s a family suite with the cutest beds. It’s worth them appreciating the love of a good hotel room from an early age, don’t you think? The hotel can also provide a box of toys and cots and Z beds are available in larger rooms for ankle bites under the age of 10.
Your furry babies are also welcome in both The Great House and The Coppa Club. Book one of the five dog-friendly room and your happy hound will be provided with a comfy dog bed, treats and bowls for £5 per dog.
OUT AND ABOUT
There’s a really lovely walk along the towpath – a tranquil jaunt past willows and meadows and the opportunity to have a nose at some of the village’s big houses and mahoosive gardens – including the former mansion owned by former Sonning resident Uri Geller. There’s even a tribute to Geller near his former £15m home in the form of a bent girder ‘Bent by the power of the mind by the Ehrlrich Brothers inspired by Uri Geller’. Hmmmm, that’s right.
Fancy a night out at the theatre? You got it! Head over the humpback bridge to Sonning’s fantastic theatre, The Mill At Sonning. It’s currently showing A Spider’s Web, directed by Brian Blessed. Gordon’s alive! And directing an Agatha Christie classic until 9 September.
Alternatively, book a ticket for The Great House pop-up cinema night on Thursday 10 August. The Coppa Club will be firing up the BBQ and laying on the popcorn, while you enjoy sundowners and The Jungle Book on the big screen. Why not make a night of it and sleepover? It would be rude not to.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Family stopovers, large group stays (including worky ones – there are flexible meeting room spaces), weddings, parties and romantics in the mood for lure.
Not for: Anyone looking for grandeur. No sweeping drive, gilded cornicing or fine dining options. Or for those who plan to stay in bed like John Lennon and Yoko Ono. No room service.
The damage: Doubles from £120 (Monday to Saturday; from £60 on Sundays). Breakfast from £10. The rooms are great value, considering their quality. Free Wi-Fi.
The Great House, Thames St, Sonning, Reading RG4 6UT. Tel: 0118 969 2277.