Jackie: We want to talk about the very essence of England’s hospitality. Dorset is one of Britain’s most fascinating areas — this is the real English countryside, the land of Thomas Hardy, the haunts of Tess of the d’ Urbervilles, villages with thatched cottages dressed in ivy vines – in short one terrific place to visit. Since I didn’t travel this trip, I’ll get in line right behind you.
David: Summer Lodge, in the quaint village of Evershot, is a renowned 5-Star country house hotel named by Harpers & Queen magazine as one of the 100 best places in the world to stay. Twenty guest rooms and four elegant suites, each individually designed and styled, luxuriously furnished and equipped. Outside is the rural world of a time long gone by; inside is unparalleled comfort and service with all the up-to-the-minute whistles and bells of contemporary life.
My room (more like a home than a “room”) was mammoth in size, cabbage roses on fabric covering the walls, huge windows overlooking the gardens and art and antiques everywhere. A sofa and two great chairs, a working fireplace with large flat screen TV over, a huge four poster bed with another flat screen TV cleverly hidden under the canopy. An enormous marble bathroom with shower and another room with dressing table for milady (wherever you are!) and sparkling bathtub with still another flat screen TV over. There is high-speed Wi-Fi connection, air conditioning, Belgian linens on the bed, fluffy bathrobes, slippers, toiletries by Penhaligon, scented candles, fresh fruit and shortbread made in the Summer Lodge kitchen. A feast for all the senses!
The elaborate on the kitchen of this is Relais & Chateaux house offers gourmet dining worthy of the brand. I must admit it was difficult to tear myself away from the spa with its heated swimming pool surrounded by glass walls and ceiling. (If Jackie were here she would be in one of the private rooms enjoying the long list of soothing treatments.) In the main house (there are 3 buildings of accommodations plus cottages), I saw the warm, inviting bar, (I would definitely be back here at day’s end, after my swim)! Adjacent is the restaurant and just outside, a terrace. The drawing room was actually designed by Thomas Hardy! He was a hyphenate, writer/ architect, and created this truly magnificent space.
OK, ta da! Dinner time. My table waits. My mouth waters. Now, just imagine you were with me, sharing:
A half bottle of Cahors (luscious). A starter of pan seared Lyme Bay scallops (perfectly prepared). An off-the-menu salad of tomatoes, onions and a variety of greens — many grown in the hotel garden — with a light tangy vinaigrette dressing. (Totally delicious)… We pause as Charles Lotter makes the rounds, chatting with each guest. He and I discuss our dogs. How nice to have a dog to discuss! Charles is a charming, soft-spoken man who speaks passionately about his birthplace, South Africa, the appeal of Dorset and his pride in Summer Lodge By the way, every single member of the large staff addressed the guests by name each time we passed. Well done, Charles. So, to my main course – line caught Portland Sea Bass filet with tagliatelli turned black as night with squid’s ink. (Truly superb.)
As a matter of fact, I can unequivocally say that every dish I had for dinner – and the smoked salmon, egg-white omelet with mushrooms, tomato and smoked haddock for breakfast – were the very best in quality, preparation and taste I have ever experienced. I will be eternally grateful to Arnelle Kendall, Red Carnation’s public relations guru, for directing my attention to this splendid place in Dorset.
And – when you’re in the neighborhood, do drop in. Your heart (and your tummy) will thank you for it.
Jackie: I’m looking forward to it.