Feeling fruity? Life is sweet at Plum Cottages
Fancy playing weekend escape bingo? Five star style, foodie, fresh air and open fires. HOUSE! We've found just the place and it's new. Muddy checks in at Plum Cottages in Bray.
Does Bray need an introduction? OK, here’s our Graham with a quick reminder (apologies for the ancient Blind Date reference). Bray is a pretty village on the River Thames, considered to be the culinary capital of Berkshire (some might say the UK). It boasts a constellation of seven Michelin stars. Heston Blumenthal’s three star Willy Wonka restaurant The Fat Duck (right next door) and his one star gastropub The Hind’s Head, plus Alain Roux’s three star thriller The Waterside Inn. But there’s more, there’s also a sexy Italian restaurant ,Caldesi in Campagna, a lovely pub The Crown at Bray and a coffee shop, The Old Post Office.
But it’s not all about the food here. At just 40 minutes from London, this location is the perfect spot for riverside and rural strolls, boating and seeing the Royal sights. Sounds idyllic, non? Rest, recharge and refuel on repeat. But you’ll be needing a place to crash, so we tried and tested Plum Cottages – a new boutique stay in the village – for a mini break of grown up indulgence.
Plum Cottages is a grade II listed building within walking/ staggering distance of all the famous foodie stops. It’s offers the luxury of a five star boutique hotel with all the space and privacy of a holiday home. Cosy, but cool. If you have kids, it’s home from home without having to walk the Lego gauntlet as you move from room to room, with the kind of decor you find in your Pinterest dreams. If you’re coupled up or away with the girls, it’s the antidote to a busy life where you can enjoy a weekend in country without getting your Alex Chung Barbour Jacket and Hunter wellies too mucky.
Sophisticated and oh so very stylish. We stayed with a couple of mates for a fun night of cocktails and dinner. Footloose and kid free, is a dangerous combo. First things first… ‘MIND YOUR HEAD’. The door frames are pretty low even for a hobbit like me at 5ft 5in, so fear for my BFG husband at 6ft 7in. There’s also a step down which is worth remembering after a couple of cocktails and a bottle of wine at the end of the night. Now we’ve got the risk assessment over with onto the fun stuff…
Plum Cottages is dressed to impress. It’s not massive at 1,000 sq ft, but beautiful things come in bijou packages. The Boot Room is the fanciest place to sling on wellies I have ever seen. Painted a delicious shade of dark green with burnt orange velvet sofa and an Insta-worthy wall of colour coordinated Penguin classics for that all important shelfie. There’s even a selection of wellies for guests to use neatly sat in the fireplace, if you’re planning on off roading.
The rest of the cottage is from a more neutral colour palette with pops of colour from lamps, artwork and soft furnishings. The lounge is a good size with squishy sofas that hug, and there are reading and coffee table books to lure you away from your daily scroll. Each corner has a sense of curation. It’s considered and that kind of detail is always appreciated.
The kitchen is a good size with doors out to a garden (rather lovely in the summer), a stunning sludgy pink crockery cabinet. Loved the marble worktop, brass knobs and Nespresso machine. But the bottle of wine (and milk) chilling in the fridge and selection of snacks was a very nice touch. The only niggle was the size of the dining table and chairs in the kitchen. It’s tiny. There is space for something with a bit more elbow room. That said, you probably won’t spend much time in there.
Upstairs are two beautiful double bedrooms, each with their own bathroom – interior goals galore. The main bedroom had a lush super-king bed, a mix of modern and antique furniture, and soft furnishings layered to perfection. But the star of the show was the marble bathroom with its roll top bath by the window and double sinks. Squeals of excitement and immediately hopped in the bubbles for a long soak. Nice to see a selection of Bramley products too.
The second bedroom is a bit smaller and the large shower room is just across the landing. The room has share the design DNA as the rest of the property. Despite its location in the centre of village, you barely hear any noise from the outside. So quality zzzz guaranteed.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Gastro heaven awaits, but you don’t have to cane your credit card to dip your toe in Bray’s foodie waters. Your closest restaurant is The Fat Duck. But eating here requires some planning. Reservations are taken within a five month booking period and payment (from £275pp) is taken in advance. The Waterside Inn also has a waiting list but nowhere near as long. Just be warned the person making the booking here, will be presented with the only menu with prices and the bill.
For the more spontaneous, The Hind’s Head is also close. We popped in for cocktails and snacks during our stay in the Royal Lounge (the location for Prince Philip’s stag do), but this Muddy Award-winning destination pub never disappoints if you staying looking for top nosh. On this occasion we tottered down to The Crown at Bray for supper, but if I wasn’t wearing heels Caldesi in Campagna would have also been an option – which serves phenomenal Italian food.
Hmmm, not really. Plum Cottages is a grown up playground that we’re not really willing to share. It will appeal to couples and was perfect was a night away with friends. The stairs are narrow and the decor is far to nice for ramaging kids. Best keep this as a place for you to kick back and relax without the fear of breakages, accidents or sticky mitts ruining the place.
OUT AND ABOUT
What do you fancy? Lots of things to do. Gorgeous walks, obvs, have a go at paddle boarding at nearby Bray Lake Watersports. You can charter a boat from On Deck Charter. Venture further afield for Windsor Racecourse, Windsor Castle, or perhaps the historic Stonor Park or Berkshire’s largest vineyard Stanlake Park Wine Estate. If you do go for tranquil riverside stroll, have a nose at some of the village’s big houses and see if you can spot any famous residents.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Romantics in the mood for lurrrrve. Grown ups stepping off the hamster wheel for a laidback weekend in the countryside and foodie fun seekers making the most of the Michelin stars.
Not for: Anyone looking for grandeur. No sweeping drive or ceiling height. Parents who like to take their kids everywhere. Or for lazy loafers No room service or concierge, so you’ll have to get up and make own coffee and toast.
The damage: From £350. Free Wi-Fi.
Plum Cottages, Bray Berkshire (sleeps 2-4). They also have properties in Henley, West Sussex and Empshott Green, Hampshire.