Palé Hall, Bala, UK
When ex-chief executive Alan Harper and his former head teacher wife Angela set out to North Wales on the hunt for their next family home, they not only walked away the owners of a grand Grade II-listed Victorian mansion, but they signed themselves up to become first time hoteliers to boot.
Always on the lookout for an exciting project and never one to miss an opportunity, Mr Harper, who had just been approached by Michelin star chef Michael Caines to invest in his upcoming project in Devon, cooked up a plan to invite Caines to partner with them instead.
The result is a country house hotel that has hit the ground running thanks to Caines’ industry know-how, both inside and outside the kitchen; handpicked staff, many who have worked with the chef previously, are on the ball, the service is spot on and the atmosphere is inviting and intimate.
Tapping into her interior design skills, Mrs Harper has dressed the impressive original details of the building, such as the handsome wood panelling, ornate cornices and an exquisite stained glass ceiling, with a mishmash of antique furnishings and bold Zoffany wallpapers, that honour the grandeur of the house, while creating a sense of occasion.
The perfect background then, to savour the food which, overseen by Caines, has been expertly executed by head chef, Gareth Stevenson. Expect some of Caines’ greatest hits, from the delicious roast wood pigeon to the pan-fried scallops, interspersed with a series of offerings from Stevenson, that highlight the master chef’s reputation for modern European fare using fresh, seasonal ingredients.
End your evening with a postprandial cocktail in front of the roaring fire in the plush drawing room and shake off any after effects the next day with a brisk walk along the nearby River Dee.