Hotel: The Great House, and Coppa Club restaurant
Location: Sonning, Berkshire
Phone: 0118 969 2277
Nearest station: Reading, and a ten minute £10 taxi ride from there
Perfect for: Couples and families looking for a buzzy restaurant and bar area, with a river view lawn perfect for running around in/lounging in a deck chair with a Pimms…
WHERE AM I?
The postcard village of Sonning in Berkshire, which is just a ten-minute taxi ride outside Reading. Did you know there is a multitude of lovely Thames riverside villages so close to the bustling city? Despite having spent a fair amount of ‘student days’ here, I didn’t, either. You’ve probably heard of Henley (of the regatta fame), Marlow (where Tom Kerridge’s Hand and Flower restaurant is – which yes, is an absolute delight) and Taplow, (which looks SO pretty from the train line to London Paddington, and which is on my list to visit) – but I certainly hadn’t realised they were so accessible. Catching a fast and direct 25-minute train from London Paddington to Reading, then catching a taxi out is easy peasy, and makes for an ideal weekend escape to the English country riverside.
Exploring pretty Sonning
Located along the windy river Thames, these village idylls are truly quaint. Mismatch cottages, some with thatched roofs and exposed beams, all with perfectly manicured gardens and most with sweet prerequisite rosebeds, with the stone churches holding court in the centre of town and oodles of ‘cosy’ pubs – most of which now serve modern gastropub food (think chorizo burger) and real nice ales and ciders: topped off with a few day boat trips, scenic locks and the odd celeb neighbour – ahem, George Clooney.
WHAT IS THE HOTEL LIKE?
The Great House in Sonning, (a particularly quiet village), is a recently renovated Grade II-listed Elizabethan Coaching Inn, that is now one part buzzy ‘see-and-be-seen’, and one part haven of relaxation. Here’s a look inside our room…
Our room, number 12, is where newlyweds are usually hosted, given the huge roll top bath and giant bed. It overlooks the river and takes in a spectacular sunset view. I’d recommend a river view room for these reasons, although do check if there is a party or wedding going on, as it may be a little noisy if you prefer keeping a window open.
Relax. And meanwhile, downstairs…
The bedrooms are spread over a variety of outbuildings as well as the main house, which sits atop the Coppa Club, (above) which is the hotel bar/living room/restaurant. There is a melee of seating options, including round tables, booths, cosy corners, velvet sofas and a terrace with honeyblossom dangling over the trellis top, giving it a holiday vibe when the sun is out.
The lawn area has a bar and BBQ area, which comes to life at the weekends, and deckchairs adorn the lawn all the way down to the river path gate, where the riverside is just a stone’s throw away.
WHAT IS THERE TO DO?
In Sonning, you don’t have to ‘do’ anything (like, spa) to relax. You can just sit, drink, eat or walk, or just find a nice spot to indulge in reading that book you never got around to finishing. I finally finished Techbitch while there, which is such a great read about the magazine industry in the digital era, and how they can work together. There are actually piles of books all over the hotel, which I didn’t get around to discovering whether they are for display or usage – but either way, seems like my kind of place. Reinforced when I found a copy of Vogue… and the Beano, in our room.
My Saltwater sandals come EVERYWHERE with me!
If venturing out of the hotel, the riverbank is literally just outside for the taking. You can walk for miles in either direction, either towards Henley or Reading, but having a destination isn’t madatory – aimless wandering is practically encouraged. Sonning lock is the perfect place for a cup of tea and slice of cake, and for watching swans puff up their chests to impress each other: it’s all about the simple pleasures, which might take a while for someone, especially for a city kid, like me, to adjust to.
WHAT IS THERE TO EAT?
Making an entrance at the Coppa Club is a treat for the senses. My eyes darted around, making a mental note to buy all of these decorative items for my own home. Duck egg blue everything, velvet and leather Chesterfield sofas, honeycomb cage lighting – yes, yes, yes!
I would recommend sitting in one of the booths for dinner, and ordering lots of the sharing plates. My favourite was the deep fried truffle gnocchi. I wasn’t overly keen on the main dishes we ordered – I think that deli and gastro items are what the Coppa Club does best. So maybe, alongside your tiger prawns and hummus, go for a pizza or hamburger, and wash down with one of the well chosen pale rose wines.
WHAT MAKES THIS HOTEL SPECIAL?
My favourite time in a hotel has to be the ‘just before dinner’ time, when you can sit in a sunny corner by an open window and read – as well the anticipation of waking up to a tasty hotel breakfast, of course. On my travels, I’ve found there isn’t much more satisfying than sitting with sunlight drifting in through an open window and a light breeze blowing the linen. The beds and armchairs at The Great House provide the ideal setting for this moment.
Outside of the comfort of your bedroom, you’ll find all sorts of merrymakers at The Great House; from groups of country-home dwelling cosmopolitan city slickers relaxing at their local, to local families enjoying sharing platters as an early dinner, cyclists stopping off for a pint or two, and couples seeking a weekend bolthole from which to explore walks along the canal and plenty of good grub.
The overall vibe is equally buzzy and chilled, so you can choose to dip in and out, depending on your mood. Sitting out on the terrace, soaking up the atmosphere, feels satisfying, as is knowing you can roll out of bed until 1130am for breakfast.
I would have liked to stay for another night, so we could have properly relaxed into the easygoing pace, Maybe had a day out in via canal boat to Henley and returned to the hotel for more reading and eating. So, until next time, Great House – keep the gnocchi on the menu, and I’ll be back with a stack of books, soon.