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The Vicarage Hotel, Cheshire
Richard Miller, Features Writer
Blink and you might miss the handsome and historic Vicarage hotel in deepest Cheshire. After a typically tense motorway journey over the Pennines we whizz past the place at first.

Steps retraced and swiftly checked in, our roomy suite ticks all the boxes: big screen TV, strong wi-fi and fully loaded espresso machine. Fresh milk wouldn’t go amiss.

Those with a disposition to olde worlde features will bask in the tiled bathroom with its roll-top bath and vintage touches. The shower’s top-notch, too.

Mercifully, the ‘quirky décor’ promised on the Vicarage’s website is kept to a minimum. A collection of hats and hockey sticks hangs from a wall; a glass floor overlooks the wine cellar below, but the place feels cosy and homely rather than 'out there' or eccentric.

With a couple of hours to kill we head for an amble around nearby Knutsford and spy the Courthouse restaurant, another looker of a building from the same group who own the Vicarage. This lot know how to pick a property.

At dinner, the relaxed restaurant bustles. A strong squeeze of zesty lemon and thwack of vinegar ensures that a thick mackerel pate, flakes of fish throughout, is spritzy and not claggy. It’s a simple but first-rate starter, and I consider asking for a jar of it to take home.

Paella (the kitchen has put on some fishy Easter specials) is wide of the mark. The tomato-heavy sauce is a surprising addition and the rice, well, ‘unfortunate’. Our accommodating waitress clocked our confusion and happily offered an alternative.

Sticking to the staples proves more fruitful. An excellent chunk of aged sirloin is dense with farmyard flavour and cooked bang-on rare; its peppercorn sauce has true punch. Eton Mess is a proper job of a classic dessert.

Three cask beers are decent, the best being a pint from local Tatton brewery, and an ample wine list throws up some well-priced bottles.

Our billowy bed’s a belter and despite the proximity to a relatively busy road sleep comes easily. Being able to open the window fully is a refreshing change from many of the chain hotels and means the room never feels stuffy.

The well-drilled and attentive front-of-house team ensure breakfast in the conservatory is the right balance of laid back but sprightly. From a welcomingly concise menu we enjoy good smoked salmon with just-right scrambled eggs, and a sausage sarnie worth getting excited about. According to the menu these meaty bangers come from a fella called Glynn. I have no idea who Glynn is but he’s proficient with the porky stuff.

The bottom line: characterful hotel and restaurant with the atmosphere of a lively village pub.

www.thevicaragecheshire.com
Double rooms start at £152 for Bed and Breakfast.

Richard writes about restaurants here and is also on Twitter.

The Vicarage Hotel, Cheshire, 11th April 2018, 9:16 AM