Maison Talbooth

Hotel in Essex

Luxury Boutique Hotel

The view is, quite literally, like a landscape painting. From Maison Talbooth, I can take in the full sweep of the Dedham Vale: its water meadows, church steeples and stands of proud oaks veiled in autumnal mist.

It is a scene little changed since that old Romantic, John Constable, whipped out his oil colours 200 years ago. Constable would have undoubtedly liked Maison Talbooth, a handsome Victorian pile, which now bears the boutique-chic hallmark of owner Geraldine Milsom and has an air of relaxed luxury about it.

I receive the warmest welcome and am ushered into the Garden Room, where an open fire crackles. This nouveau-elegant salon has recently had a makeover, I am told, and plush armchairs and covered chandeliers add decadent edge to a subtle palette of monochrome hues. Charcoal sketches of sheep are a rural reminder of where we are, less you forget, which is unlikely as the windows frame the Dedham Vale view perfectly. It is a calm, intimate setting for lunch, and a glass of the crisp house white pairs well with the tempura soft shell crab with chilli jam. The Cajun chicken Caesar with a soft boiled hen's egg that follows is generous and delicious.

And so to my suite. I am staying in the Shakespeare, one of 12 suites named after British poets. The sheer size impresses at first, then the detail. No expense has been spared on the furnishings and fabrics: the king-size bed is draped in Egyptian cotton sheets and a goose feather duvet, there is a leather sofa to stretch out on and tinkling capiz shell lamps cast a soft glow over muted shades of cream, chocolate and caramel. The bathroom? Wow. I feel like a Roman empress in this vast, beautifully tiled space, with a step-up double bath, walk-in massage jet shower and Ren cosmetics. Wow again when I clock a private hot tub on the terrace. Chilly November day though it may be, within minutes I am in the piping hot water, watching rabbits hop across the manicured lawn.

This loosens me up nicely for a spa treatment, of which Maison Talbooth offers a full array, from yogatox facials to four-hand massages. I opt for a Dermalogica visible brilliance facial and drift off in the expert hands of my therapist. An hour later I emerge with smoother, glowing skin. After a rest and change, a courtesy car arrives to whisk me to Le Talbooth, one of the finest restaurants in Essex, serving modern British food in a gorgeous timber-framed Tudor house on the banks of the River Stour.

Breakfast is often a worthy judge of a hotel and here it meets the mark 100%, with fresh fruit, cereals and patisserie, and full English, kippers and eggs to order. I go for the poached eggs with avocado, coriander and chilli on rye toast, a spicy kick-start to my day, which begins with a nose around some of the other suites. While all come with the same comforts: minibar with free soft drinks, Bose Sound Radio, CD player, Sky TV and free Wi-Fi, each is strikingly different – some with Dedham Vale views and roll-top bathtubs, others with ornamental fireplaces and sunken marble tubs. The décor manages the delicate act of combining period features with contemporary design flourishes.

It is too chilly to make use of the tennis courts but I do venture over to the Pool House, where a log fire burns and the heated pool and whirlpool are warm enough for a dip. When I return, afternoon tea is gracefully served in the Garden Room - a spread of Novus leaf teas, sandwiches, dainty macaroons, strawberry profiteroles and still-warm scones with clotted cream and Tiptree jam. It is a fitting end to what has been a thoroughly indulgent stay. Outside, Constable's beloved Dedham Vale fades into a watercolour distance as day softens into dusk.

Kerry Christiani is an award-winning freelance travel writer, author and MA-qualified translator

Reviewer's Rating
Ambience Charming, Romantic, Cosy
Services Free High Speed Internet, Restaurant, Room Service, Swimming Pool, Health Spa
Cost High
Number of Rooms 12 Suites
Relaxation, Great local restaurants

Room and Suite Categories

Deluxe, Standard, Principal and Superior Suites.

Additional Ambience Information

Boutique flair, laid-back ambience, discreet yet attentive staff.

Additional Price Comments

Suites range in price from £210 to £420 per night. Prices drop around 20% midweek. Garden Room: starters £5.95-8.95; salads £10.95; mains £11.95-13.50. Afternoon Tea costs between £18.50 and £28 per person. Spa treatments: £65 for a 55-minute aromatherapy massage; £68 for a 55-minute facial.

Last updated on 02-10-2015

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