Hotel Review: Poets House, Ely in Cambridgeshire
2017 is certainly becoming the year of the UK mini break for me. The British Isles offer a wealth of history and culture in our cathedral cities, market towns and quaint villages. I had visited Cambridge many times over the years, but had never ventured to the notable city of Ely, famous for its breathtaking 12th century cathedral and being the family home of one of our most prominent historical figures, Oliver Cromwell. Ely is situated around half an hour from Cambridge and is easily accessed by road or rail. It is a bustling small city where locals and tourists mingle in the picturesque small streets. The cathedral and Oliver Cromwell’s house are both open all year to receive visitors and the sight of a New Model Army Roundhead walking the streets is not wholly unexpected.
Poets House is set in a prime location with views of both attractions, the hotel cuts a stylish figure on the main St Mary’s Street that joins the Cambridge Road. The boutique hotel was opened in 2013 and comprises of three former Grade-II listed buildings, one of which belonged to the renowned Cambridgeshire poet, Sybil Marshall. As I arrive at the hotel my car is collected from the courtyard which overlooks the pretty garden. There is no parking at the hotel, so my car is taken to a secure offsite location for the duration of my visit. This turned out to be a great convenience as Ely is best explored on foot as central parking is limited.
Poets House has 21 rooms, each with modern decor in fashionable shades of silver, sumptuous Egyptian white cotton bedding and a bathroom packed full of Noble Isle cosmetics. I am staying in Room 11 which is light and spacious with floor to ceiling sash windows providing a stunning view of the cathedral. The focal point of this room is the enormous freestanding copper bath seamlessly incorporated into the bedroom. There is a separate bathroom with double shower, but my guess would be that it rarely gets used by guests staying in this fabulous room. The room is well appointed with a 50 inch wall mounted TV, coffee machine, iPad, fruit bowl and welcome treats of chocolate torte and carrot cake. This is the sort of space that oozes relaxation, it’s the sort of room that you don’t want to leave. I certainly took some persuading to get dressed for cocktails after the best part of an hour splashing about in my copper cocoon.
The hotel bar is located next to reception with views of the garden. In the summer the folding doors open the front completely, bringing the outside inside. The bar with its granite top forms a central feature and is fully loaded with a large selection of gins, vodkas and whiskeys. I sit on one of the charcoal velvet sofas accessorised with hot pink cushions and enjoy a cucumber martini as I watch the bar fill up with fashionable guests ahead of dinner.
The Dining Room is on the opposite side of reception at the front of the hotel and at 8pm is already busy with diners including a private dining party. Decorated in consistent shades of grey with black tables and modern chandeliers subtly lighting the restaurant. Dining here feels intimate and unlike some exposed stark white formal dining rooms, guests are relaxed and not speaking in hushed voices. The dinner menu is set and offers three courses for £30 which seems a little too good to be true.
As I consider the varied five starter choices, I’m brought the wine list which is sophisticated and, a selection of home made breads. I decide on the soy braised pork belly to start and to experiment with a new dish of rolled beef for my main course. The beef is served medium rare and simply melts in my mouth. It is accompanied by aubergine charlotte to give an earthy base to the dish and fresh gem lettuce, and predictably, I have some French fries on the side too. Our sommelier recommends a Gamay Noir which works perfectly with both dishes and sits nicely in the mid-range selection of reds on offer.
For dessert I opt for a vanilla mousse with coffee foam, dark chocolate and marzipan, a perfect fusion of three of my favourite things. It was an utterly delightful and relaxed dinner, as I look around my fellow diners certainly seemed to share my sentiments.
After dinner I relax in the garden with an Irish coffee before bed, it is a clear starry night although still a little chilly for late May. That night I sink into the queen sized bed and sleep very soundly, so much so that I nearly miss breakfast. I was glad to make the final sitting to enjoy some local sausages, thick- cut bacon and eggs. The coffee was strong and the orange juice, freshly squeezed. This is how a breakfast should be.
At midday it was time to check out. I would have loved to have stayed a little longer, sadly that was not possible as that day the hotel was exclusively booked for a wedding, something I’d imagine they do brilliantly. To coin a cliche, Poet’s House was pure poetry from start to finish.
Address: 40 St Mary’s St, Ely CB7 4EY
Phone: 01353 887777