Review: The 25 Boutique B & B, Torquay, Devon: If Carlsberg did B & B’s……
In a world where we’ve become resigned to steadily getting less and less in return for what we pay (‘budget’ airlines, ‘small plates’ in restaurants, ‘self service’ in supermarkets), how refreshing to find somewhere that actually gives us much more for our money than we’re expecting.
‘The 25’, just a ten minute walk from the centre of Torquay, may call itself a B+B — and modestly sets its prices like one — but in reality it’s one of the finest, and most faultless, little boutique hotels that this reviewer has ever had the pleasure of staying at in the UK. It scooped ‘Unique B+B of the year’ at the recent AA Awards and TripAdvisor has even ranked it “9th best B+B in the world”.
Owners Andy and Julian Banner-Price are no strangers to guests demanding high standards. They previously ran a hotel in North Wales where Prince William, who flew helicopters from nearly RAF Valley, was a regular visitor.
Andy confided to me that Kate Middleton, who was pregnant at the time, had “a bit of a sweet tooth” for the cakes he’d serve to them both. The good news is he still bakes those same delicious cakes today and gives them free to welcome guests at ‘The 25’.
When they moved here three years ago, the couple made a couple of bold decisions about how they’d run the property. Firstly, they reduced the number of bedrooms from ten to six, meaning that each guest would get to enjoy much more living space — I stayed in the smallest room, the Goodrington, which was amply spacious for a couple with plenty of luggage.
Secondly, they resolutely decided not to hire any staff but to do absolutely everything themselves, from the cleaning and cooking to the housekeeping as well as serving breakfasts and even doing the washing-up.
This has resulted in them being able to maintain their own scrupulously high standards and meticulous attention to detail in all areas, but it does of course have the downside of them having very little downtime themselves to enjoy.
Still, it has paid handsome dividends as can be seen from the stack of awards on display in the lounge, next to an honesty bar where guests can help themselves to a drink at any time of day.
Nice touches like this, as well as putting bottles of fresh real milk in the mini-fridge of each room (not that cheap plasticky UHT stuff) as well as daily home-baked treats on the bedside table, plus handwritten notes with suggestions of what’s happening and where to visit locally, that make the difference here.
Each room is highly individual and sports a different theme. Some are quirky and contemporary — a zebra named Frank stands guard in one brightly decorated suite – whilst others are more traditionally elegant, but all are luxuriously furnished and designed by Julian to be stylish yet comfortable enough to spend a week or two living there.
Free high-speed Wi-Fi and complimentary Nespresso machines seem to be almost de rigeur in a luxury boutique hotel these days, but high-tech mood lighting, the latest iPads and premium toiletries by Elemis certainly are not…and let’s not forget this is actually only a B+B…yet ‘The 25’ has them all.
The breakfast, which is included in the room rate, is a study in perfection and bears witness to Andy’s fastidious nature and desire to make everything at ‘The 25’ the very best it can be. Every ingredient is sourced from a local supplier who has been rigorously tested against their competitors, the tasting notes recorded and then compared on a spreadsheet to ensure that quality is always at the optimum level for their guests.
This kind of micro-management might appear a touch over-zealous and Andy only-half-jokingly admits to be being “a little OCD at times” but that’s no bad thing when you’re running a business so dependent upon complete customer satisfaction.
Whilst I was devouring my perfectly cooked fry-up, I saw through the window a delivery man bringing a new supply of eggs so fresh that I could almost see feathers wafting out of the wooden crate he was carrying them in. And don’t even get me started on the tender butcher’s sausages and deliciously golden hash browns.
At the heart of what Andy and Julian do seems to be the principle of doing just a few key things but making them absolutely perfect in every way, rather than going after the big bucks by offering a wide range of services, such as the evening meals or public bar that a hotel classification requires, and then being regarded as merely acceptable or average.
There’s absolutely nothing average about ‘The 25’ and what Andy and Julian have achieved on Devon’s English Riviera. You don’t need to be a prince or princess to stay here, but they most certainly know how to give their guests the royal treatment.
Address: 25 The Avenue, Torquay, Devon TQ2 5LB
Phone:01803 297 517