WE ALL know the story of the town mouse and the country mouse. There’s a moral in there somewhere, I’m sure of it, though what I’ve decided to take from it is that even the most devoted town mouse or comfortable country mouse can learn something from the occasional change of scenery.
City breaks are fun. There are museums and restaurants, theatres and parks, people and noise. Country breaks are for long strolls and slap-up breakfasts, fresh air and afternoon naps. I’m not sure I could pick between the two, but it turns out I don’t have to.
I’m having an early breakfast in Cannizaro House Hotel in Wimbledon. With the sun rising over the trees and the mist lurking in the extensive grounds (34 acres to be precise) as I tuck into a croissant, I could be at a stately pile in rural Yorkshire. However I’m holed up just a few Tube stops away from London’s bustling centre. This is the “country” half of my stay. I’ll be heading into “town” later for a very different experience, but for now it’s all still skies, twittering birds and bracing walks.
Three hundred years old with a white façade and a remarkably modern interior, Cannizaro House is the perfect four-star boutique hotel. Oscar Wilde has stayed here, as have Lord Tennyson and Henry James. It has an effortless elegance about it, an unpretentious rock ‘n’ roll vibe which belies its more formal, ordered exterior.
Inside, classical columns and Georgian details give way to bright, eclectic décor and an extensive collection of art, all of which is for sale, ensuring a constantly-rotating selection. It’s no surprise that this is a favourite haunt of the world’s top tennis stars when they are competing at Wimbledon.
The fattest jewel in the crown of this hotel however is the restaurant, a smart dining room with the obligatory twist (in this case Alice-in-Wonderland-esque flamingo wallpaper) and excellent grub at reasonable prices. Mains hover around the £20 mark – no mean feat for a fine dining restaurant on the outskirts of London – while the wine list won’t make your eyes water. The menu is light, interesting and decidedly British, the service exceptional.
One nibble on the chocolate platter and I know that leaving this place will be difficult, but leave I must. London is calling, and The Draycott couldn’t contrast more with Cannizaro. Tucked away in Chelsea’s Cadogan Gardens, this five-star red brick Edwardian town house is small, intimate and ultra-discreet, with just a whiff of English eccentricity about it.
Everything from the furnishings to the staff feels like they’ve been here since the 19th century. And that’s the charm of it. When I arrive back in the late evening after a day spent wandering around St James’s I’m told by the concierge that “we’re all having hot chocolate in the drawing room.”
It turns out this is one of three daily rituals; tea is taken at 4pm with champagne at 6pm and hot chocolate after 9:30pm.
There’s a sense that you’re visiting some wealthy great aunt, her home stuffed with antiques and loyal staff. When it’s time for bed, you’ll find your room by looking for the door bearing a card with your name written on it in a very elegant hand. One almost expects a kindly butler to tuck guests in to bed, hand them their teddy (there’s a bear in every room) and snuff out the candles.
Of course it needn’t be just about morning strolls around Cadogan Gardens and taking tea in the drawing room. At least, not if you don’t want it to be. Within walking distance of London’s starriest shopping streets as well as the Museums Science, Natural History and V&A, it’s an ideal London base.
Interestingly, there’s something of the town in the youthful buzz of Cannizaro House, something of the country in the quiet tradition of The Draycott. And this particular mouse felt at home in both.
A “town to country” package including one night at Cannizaro House with breakfast, dinner and afternoon tea, a one-way transfer between the two hotels and one night at The Draycott with breakfast costs from £655 for two people. For more information, visit www.mantiscollection.com
A standard return from Edinburgh to London King’s Cross costs from £33pp. Visit www.eastcoast.co.uk for details.