Knights in armour in the reception, manicured lawns as clipped as the accents of its guests, looming portraits of nubile ladies in the dining room, double-decker bus high ceilings… it is fair to say Cliveden House is one of the grander locations I have frequented.
Even after a week of tempestuous storms that left much of Britain devastated by floods, this most palatial of country house hotels, which sits on the banks of the Thames, remains remarkably unflustered. It reminds me a little of Roger Federer in that regard, who after a lung-busting rally will merely flick any stray hairs insouciantly back into place while his doubled-over opponents reach for their isotonic drinks.
‘Fortunately, the Thames has only burst out at the other side, away from us,’ a waitress tells us. Of course it has; how very obliging of it.
Part of Cliveden’s charm, and this is complimentary, is that it feels so detached from the real world – a cosseted dimension of power corridors, vintage champagne and Cold War love triangles. It is the type of place you could come to to forget a war is on – escapism at its very best.
But what is a five star hotel without a five star restaurant? Well, missing a trick, that’s what, so it was no surprise that towards the end of last year Cliveden approached Galvin at The Windows Head Chef, André Garrett, to lead its dining room.