BLACK AND WHITE: Hospitality bosses Nick Taplin and Marco Pierre White with food from breakfast, lunch and dinner
Grand wining and dining in great rooms
A short drive from Nailsea sits Cadbury House with its sweeping views across the Gordano valley, this is a gem of a hotel with something old and something new magically melded together.
It is no wonder it has just been voted top wedding venue of the year 2019 at the Bristol & Somerset Wedding Awards.
Despite the chill outside the hotel was as warm as toast and tastefully dressed for Christmas when my husband and I arrived for a two-night stay.
Check-in was a little factious due to the rural broadband terminal making a tardy connection with my credit card but receptionist Slava Hatton could not have been more helpful.
Our fourth floor, room was lush although the floor to ceiling mirrors and lack of a door on bathroom led to an awful lot of shared full frontals on this break.
This is the third hotel we have stayed in during the past fortnight and while trying not to compare to the Wetherspoon at Northolt or the Intercontinental at 02 we did encounter some design flaws in the modern wing of this gothic building.
For instance a huge steam iron takes up most of the wardrobe space. However, the decor is fab-u-lous from silk curtains to black and white wall etchings and rainbow rugs.
I was once told Cadbury House is not somewhere you go for a fortnight’s holiday. It is more a short break; big function sleepover and I tend to agree although I would decant there for six months if they would have me.
Fish ‘n’ chip dinner and bottle of red wine in bar area rather than anything formal was our choice on the first night and a long chat with restaurant manager Krisztian Komar, who unfortunately was leaving that day for a new job in Vienna.
Later that night we get the munchies so call at reception on route back to our room to plead for our signature Hilton chocolate chip cookie which we had declined earlier - yummy.
Our room is directly above the smoker’s balcony and we are momentarily disturbed by some late-night chatting before nodding off in our comfy big bed.
Morning one and basin fails to drain. No reply from housekeeping or front desk on phone so clean teeth in bath. Caught cookie-man/receptionist Slava outside in corridor and with a push and twist he sorts plughole.
Embarrassingly husband offers him dirty towel to dry his hands!
Breakfast is a-maz-Ing. Everything you could want is included in the help-your-self buffet from full English, to cold continental plus pastries and fruit. Juices are limited to cranberry (sweetened), apple, orange and grapefruit but when I requested pineapple was immediately offered a small bottle from bar.
Decided to get awkward and asked for fresh yak milk but couldn’t keep a straight face when an alternative almond milk was offered. Love the restaurant staff.
I gave the conveyor toast machine a wide berth after setting fire to the one at Greenwich and was surprised how many fellow brexiteers (surely that should say breakfasteers) were in dining room.
We return to our room at 10am and it was slick ‘n’ span after visit from housekeeping.
Cookie-man/receptionist/plumber Slava replenished our water bottles and we sent off to the on-site health club for some exercise.
While I splashed (can’t call what I do swimming) husband wearing bright white virginal trainers headed for the gym.
Unfortunately, and for one day only the men’s and ladies changing rooms were swapped for ‘essential’ maintenance, so I had to ignore the urinals and get used to a new layout. Happily, the men also enjoy ‘secret’ steam and sauna cubicles in their changing rooms.
Tried out the relaxing space and in the dark with twinkling ceiling lights all that could be heard was the whistling snores of a fast asleep, full bodied male (thought that was more polite than saying fat).
This room has the slight odour of a school PE changing room – on a previous visit it had the aroma of sweet Incense but presume too many sweaty bodies have since visited.
Didn't venture outside to the hot tub as no flip-flops.
The first time I tried a sauna was in the early 1970s at Handy Cross, High Wycombe. A huge Swedish woman called Helga was in charge and she was laughing that English people wanted to wear polyester swimwear into the hot house and told us Swedes enjoyed basking in the heat in their birthday suits.
We are still reluctant to wear nothing but a smile and a towel around our waists haha.
Had a lovely light lunch beautifully presented upstairs at Bardolino’s bistro. Asked about disabled access - there is a lift if you ask the right member of staff who knows the door code, but it is a bit of a route march to find.
Cadbury House attracts Hello! type celebs and premier league footballers. I was in the hot tub once when a five-strong team of footballers all modelled on Adonis got in beside me. I thought I had died and gone to heaven, joy of joy.
My family has been coming to Cadbury House since the 1980s although the history of the Congresbury hotel dates back much further.
Yes, we remember the kidney-shaped swimming pool and hedonistic night life.We have also been to weddings, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day events and even a girls-only fundraising night with Chippendale-style striptease, Christmas parties and corporate away days.
Biggest and best of all memories were the milestone birthday parties...and there have been many.
Like all favourite venues personnel front and back-of-house change, the original gothic building has doubled in size and with all the changes perhaps the hosting dynamics?
When deciding to do an up-to-date review my husband and I went in eyes wide open and like a secret shopper duo.
It didn’t disappoint – in fact it exceeded our expectations.
The kitchen has upped its game and now employs the best bunch of chefs in the south west – equal to the five-star food at the 02 Intercontinental and the 1 AA Rosette rated Compleat Angler at Marlow.
Okay The Greenwood Hotel couldn’t compete as its menu is more fodder as opposed to fine cuisine but it was a Grade II listed building and the helpful Wetherspoon staff were all five star.
Now we get to the real reason we were at Cadbury House. Marco Pierre White was hosting a dinner with Q&A in The Great Hall.
I know this sounds like a contradiction in terms, but Marco was absolutely charming despite having been on the waggon for a few weeks and not drinking.
In a chance meeting in the lift earlier he confided in me he was still smoking but no alcohol. Give up one vice at a time was my advice to him.
Marco said 'God bless' so I presumed he had signed up for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings which follow a 12-step programme with Christian roots.
At the dinner he answered all the pre-submitted questions honestly and sincerely and paid tribute to late fellow chef Gary Rhodes to respectful applause.
Marco said his first-choice career was to be a gamekeeper and he talked of the pressures especially for youngsters starting out, how he prefers classically cooked dishes (his bible is the Great Chefs of France by Quentin Crewe and Anthony Blake) and although he didn’t mention Heston Blumenthal by name poured scorn on a poached salmon with liquorice recipe promoted by the avant-garde cook.
Marco did name-drop saying he once cooked breakfast for French singer and 1960s heartthrob Sacha Distel and that his most expensive meal out was shared with Piers Morgan when the bill came to £28,000, later to much laughter he amended that to lira!
The $64 question ‘do you actually use Knorr stock cubes’ prompted a quick as a flash reply ‘always’.
Service was impeccable for the melt-in-the-mouth four-course meal served to nearly 200 people with green pea soup followed by cold meats, beetroot and cheese, then creamy polenta – posh mashed potato – and mushrooms as the vegetarian option or Moorland lamb for the carnivores.
As a special dispensation as I don’t like chocolate. I savoured a strawberry alternative.
Britain’s Got Talent 2018 semi-finalist Dennis DeMille (one half of The Ratpackers duo with Marvin Muoneke) provided the subtle sounds for the evening and did a meet and greet while Marco posed for numerous photo opportunities.
It was a surprisingly great, great evening in the aptly named Great Room even better than I could have imagined, thank you everyone.
To book at event, meal and/or overnight stay at Cadbury click to HERE.
A NIGHT WITH MARCO: And friends including Britain’s Got Talent 2018 semi-finalist Dennis DeMille, fine food and wine, disco and dancing. Also pictured is a quick peek at our junior suite where we stayed for two wonderful December 2019 nights