Offer your lover a romantic weekend away in Reading and they’ll laugh. This commuter-belt town a half-hour train ride from London doesn’t make it into the top 10 lists for short haul getaways. But trust us, the Forbury Roseate is a hidden gem.
The Forbury Roseate may well be “the UK’s sexiest townhouse hotel”. Built by the council in 1911, it is next door to the town’s impressive courthouse and overlooks the historic Forbury Gardens. Many of the building’s original architectural features have been sensitively restored, and they are complemented by a bold use of colour, original artworks, and dramatic textiles. If this hotel was in London or Paris, you’d have to book months in advance, but as it’s in Reading you at least have the chance of a spontaneous stay.
If you’re time poor but want a stylish city escape, the Forbury Roseate is it. Leaving London or Bristol on a Friday night after work, you can be checking in in an hour. The romantic hotel, fine restaurant, and even a tiny cinema are all in one place. You can be totally lazy and still give your date a night out to remember!
The Forbury is a boutique hotel with just 23 rooms and suites, each one of which is individual. The designer has a real eye for colour and texture, juxtaposing some dramatically printed wallpapers and textiles with more muted colours.
The furniture too is a mixture of retro and contemporary pieces, eclectic but striking. Regular rooms have king sized beds, Egyptian cotton sheets, underfloor heating, and Molton Brown cosmetics.
For the real wow factor, opt for one of the Forbury’s suites. Treat yourself to a four poster bed, free standing copper bath, or even your own steam room. The suites are absolutely huge, and the historic architectural accents include Edwardian fireplaces, wood panelling, and huge sash windows.
When was the last time you stayed in a boutique hotel with its own cinema? Well, the Forbury Roseate has one which seats 30 people and they have a regular programme of classic films. You can also book it for private hire. There are is a variety of meeting and events rooms on the ground floor, and an attractive courtyard garden at the back of the hotel.
Food and drink
A new Head Chef started at the Forbury’s Cerise restaurant this spring, and the word on the street is that he’s not only going to regain the hotel’s rosettes but that he’s also positioning Cerise for a Michelin star. We tried the seasonal seven course tasting menu (an incredibly reasonable £70, plus £40 for wine flights) and it absolutely blew us away.
Highlights of the menu the night we dined included blue cheese ice cream with smoked salmon and rhubarb, the most beautifully seared scallops paired with a scallop tartare, and a dessert where the colours, textures, and flavours seemed to bounce off one another. There was bitterly dark chocolate, matcha tea, and something intensely citrusy.
The Forbury takes its name from the Forbury Gardens, which are right across the street. Once part of the Reading Abbey grounds (the abbey now lies in ruins at the end of the street), this was where the Royalists built their garrison during the Civil War. The Victorians converted the site into a pleasure garden, complete with bandstand, and on a summer’s day you can still sit and listen to the brass bands play. It’s an idyllic spot in spite of being right in the centre of the town.
A 10 minute walk from the hotel brings you to the River Thames. The Thames Path stretches the entire length of the river, and from Reading you can easily walk through the meadows to Sonning (home of George and Amal Clooney) or to Henley. There are plenty of canal boats moored along the way, and Whittington’s Tea Barge serves afternoon tea.
Is WiFi available?
WiFi is available for free throughout the hotel.
Rooms at The Forbury start from £145 per night, rising to £219 for dinner, bed, and breakfast for two.
Value for money
The Forbury offers excellent value for money, both in the room rates and in the restaurant. Room prices fall further at the weekends, which is great as it’s exactly when you’d most want to visit.
Reading is on the direct line from London Paddington, and the fast train takes less than 30 minutes. It is then a 5 minute walk from the station to the hotel. By road, Reading is off the M4. Roads in the town centre can be congested but the hotel does have a small amount of private parking.