Reviewed by Emma Legge
Cannizaro House, 'more than just a hotel' according to their brochure. They also claim that it's the perfect place to come to when you're looking for a little glamour and sophistication.
Well, seeing as this was the first time in 2 years that I was to have a night away without children and the very first time that I was leaving my 13 month old daughter , then I was certainly hoping that this was all true!
It was a three hour drive to Cannizaro House and we decided to make it our base for two days of London sightseeing, so arrived at 12pm. Our first impression was certainly WOW, the 18th century building is impressive to look at, it's not huge, in fact there's something very homely about this 4 star boutique hotel, but it's exquisite grounds followed by just as impressive interiors doesn't fail to impress from the start. We were warmly welcomed by Dulce, the on-duty manager who was not only extremely professional but so friendly that our stay got off to a perfect start. We were directed into the bar area whilst Dulce enquired whether our room was ready. She informed us it was and also gave us her card should we need her – a very lovely touch. It was delightful that we were able to unpack and explore our beautiful bedroom before setting out for the day.
The room was big, it had to be… to accommodate the sumptuous queen sized bed and after sharing my bed with at least one child for the past 10 years I can't tell you what a treat that was! We also had elegant furniture of two chairs, a two seater sofa, two tables plus a dressing table yet the room still seemed spacious. The room, compared to the hotel was very plain, no pictures or bold colours but it was elegant and there was a nice mix of the old and the new in its style. We located our coffee tray in the large wardrobe that was in the separate entrance to the room. In there, was also a safe, iron, ironing board and fridge. There was complimentary tea, coffee, bottled water and, rather to our surprise and delight, a decanter of brandy, this continuing the extravagant and opulent feel of the hotel. The bathroom was of a more standard size but was equipped with high quality fixtures including a rather fabulous shower and along with the complementary robes (for the duration of our stay) all added to the fine standard of the hotel. There was a good selection of high class magazines provided, golf, interiors, cars and such like along with a good information booklet. It was in here that we learned that our room would be 'turned down' for the night at 6pm. This meant the closing of the blinds and homemade cookies in the shape of the Cannizaro bunny, being left for us!
Having visited Wimbledon before, we very easily navigated our way over the common and through the village to Wimbledon Park Station. It was almost half an hour's walk but in stunning sunshine with equally stunning views of London, it made for a very pleasant walk downhill… rest assured we got a bus back up the hill! So for reader's information, we got the day saver off peak zone 1-4 tickets at £8 each which included buses too, it's worth noting though that these can't be bought on the bus – hence us walking to the station! On our return, we got the train to Southfields and caught the 493 bus to Wimbledon Village.
Our dinner reservation was at 8pm although Dulce had advised us that we were welcome to arrive as and when suited us. This really did continue with the relaxed feel of the hotel. We had been advised the week before our stay that the restaurant would be closed due to a structural problem so would be dining in the newly opened Orangerie. I was initially very impressed that they had thought to forewarn us of this, however, what we weren't told is that we would be served the Orangerie's menu and not the restaurant's. We arrived and were seated at the food bar, rather than an intimate table for two, whilst surprised by this, I could see that we would be able to watch the chefs prepare our food. This though, at first seemed a little too informal given that we were dressed up and even more so when we were handed the menu's and informed that there was a lovely sandwich on offer – my dress really wasn't a 'sandwich' type of dress! We could easily have let this put us off completely and in fact, one couple who had been seated next to us at 'the bar' did indeed leave saying they would come back another night to the restaurant and they hadn't been informed of the different menu.
I thank our lucky stars that we stayed – what a culinary surprise and dining experience we were in for!
The gentleman who waited on us, who I assume was the restaurant manager for the night, introduced us to our chefs Ianto and Andy and advised us that they would answer any queries we had. We chose our drinks, Adam had a Porter but I requested the new Gin Menu, having seen it on their Facebook page I knew it was a must to try! I chose Caorunn served with red apple and tonic, it was a beautiful long drink that went perfectly with the food.
However, when it came to the menu, I was completely confused, there were just so many sharing boards and antipasti, and as we had been expecting a three course A la' Carte menu, we just didn't know where to start. I will admit to feeling bewildered and a little disappointed.
What I hadn't bargained for was Ianto and Andy who expertly and passionately guided us through the menu and bewitched us completely with the amazing choice of Mediterranean artisan cuisine.
My husband, Adam, has always loved this style of food and his eyes lit up like it was Christmas with the amazing choice and really couldn't decide what to have, so Ianto offered to create a selection of his personal recommendations:
Olives Nocerella del Belice
Marinated Boquerones Anchovies
Salted Marcona Almonds
with a Mixed Salami Board… and that was all just to start!
As we sat at the bar watching Ianto slice and prepare our selection, he knowledgeably chatted to us about all the foods, where they came from and how they're preserved and stored. His passion for the ingredients was obvious and made the food all the more interesting for it. Adam felt like he was getting a culinary masterclass of his dreams! While Ianto left us tucking into this amazing selection, we got chatting to the other chef, Andy. Again, it was obvious how much he was enjoying working in the more informal setting of the Orangerie and he explained the training they went through even just to be able to slice the exquisite meats. Whilst still eating the devine antipasti dishes, my personal favourite being the almonds, Ianto presented us with a board of Brindisa Iberico Bellota Ham. Now, at £22 for 50g, this was certainly not a cheap course to try – however, as Adam and I often eat Mediterranean foods, we really were in culinary heaven!
On top of the usual Orangerie menu, there were some additional cooked courses, all to be cooked in the Orangerie itself in front of us. Having eaten all those 'starters' we were unsure of what to order, but Ianto suggested that he cook us smaller versions of the main courses. Adam chose the Pearl Barley Risotto cooked with wild mushrooms, pancetta and Porter, the same Porter he was drinking. The minute that Adam tasted his dish, he grinned like the Cheshire cat! Indeed, he loved it so much that he talked to Ianto in depth about how it' was made, he watched it created and pearl barley is now on this week's shopping list! I chose Beef, turnips and carrots served with the most exquisite walnut pesto – now I really must have a go at recreating that pesto, it was simply delicious!
Andy took over the preparation of our dessert choices – he created Adam a selection of all five cheeses on offer, served with breads and fig jam and a really quite amazing honey infused with truffle shavings and for myself, a delightful Espresso Tiramisu with mascarpone and coffee beans. All the time Andy talked to us, not only about the foods but about his passion for them and his career so far. It all really did just make for the most fascinating dining experience we've had – and to the couple who left at the start of our night, I urge them to return and give the Orangerie its chance, they really won't be disappointed!
After a blissfully peaceful sleep in our gigantic bed, we finished off our idyllic stay with a lovely breakfast. We were directed to The Queen Elizabeth room which although not busy, there were so few smaller tables, that Adam and I were seated at a table for ten – for just the two of us! This really wasn't a problem, except with hindsight, I think it would have been nice to have been seated in the Orangerie or on the terrace instead. The breakfast choice was excellent, with all tastes and preferences catered for. Adam and I both chose the full English, the food was great fresh quality and there was also a lovely choice of fresh fruits and fruit juices.
All in all, this was a luxurious place to stay, it's not, however, a place you go to if you simply want a base to sightsee with no intentions to enjoy the surroundings you're staying in. If you're going to pay the money to stay in this charming hotel, then I strongly recommend that you plan into your visit at least one meal while you're there. My only regret is that we didn't have a chance to try their afternoon teas – I wonder if Adam will take me back for my birthday?!
I desperately want to give Cannizaro top marks, however I do feel that the stay could have been made faultless had we just been given advanced warning on the different menu BUT I really must stress that it was all down to the extreme professionalism of all the serving staff and our two wonderful chefs that turned it into our best night out yet!
4.5 out of 5 for the stunning, romantic, relaxing and very nearly perfect Cannizaro House!
For more information on offers and breaks, book a room or reserve a table visit www.cannizarohouse.com