The word ‘deconstructed’ has been used in many different contexts recently. Not too long ago, every chef thought they could level up a dessert by deconstructing it. They were, for the most part, wrong. While that trend is on the wane, a similar movement for deconstructed hotels is just getting started. The Tawny claims to be the first such example in the UK. But unlike one chef, who thought his diners would prefer their cheesecake served across several courses, The Tawny Hotel, as we found out during our review, is both a very good idea and very well executed.
Situated in the heart of rural Staffordshire (around three hours from London), The Tawny’s style was borne out of necessity rather than choice. The hotel sits inside Consall Hall Estate, a 70-acre plot with a history dating back to the 13th century. Along with the hotel’s creation, the estate’s lush gardens have been restored to their former glory. But that restoration, along with the hotel’s construction, had to be done under the watchful eye of Historic England, a body that protects the country’s most culturally significant sites.
The result is a hotel like nothing else. There are 55 accommodations across the site, but you would be hard pushed to locate them all. Each blends sympathetically into the stunning surroundings, giving each guest a sense of freedom to explore the many winding paths. This is the English countryside at its very best and, despite being dangerously exposed to the UK’s idea of summer, The Tawny feels seriously luxurious.
The Tawny offers a variety of different accommodations, starting with cozy Shepherds Huts all the way up to spacious Retreats. The best views, however, are reserved for the Hillside Treehouses. These timber-framed cabins have all the hallmarks of their namesake. The exterior walls are made of natural, seemingly untreated wood, which will blend into the scenery more and more as it ages.
While it may look rough on the outside, inside it feels exactly as a hotel suite should: luxurious, stylish and homely. Each interior has been individually designed, but all follow the same theme of modern furnishings, contemporary art, a plush bed and, not to forget, a bathtub in the living room.
You will, however, spend most of your time on the balcony, which offers a truly stunning view across the landscape. There’s enough space to enjoy one of the hotel’s one-on-one yoga sessions (thoroughly recommended), and a sizable outdoor bathtub to rest sore muscles afterward.
Facing west, each Hillside Treehouse is treated to a daily sunset view, which can also be enjoyed inside through the floor-to-ceiling windows if the weather is against you. And there is plenty of reason to stay inside as well. Room service will deliver a fine pizza to your door on demand, and a minibar comes included in your rate and is refilled daily. There’s a big TV and a cupboard full of board games – ideal for a rainy day, of which there are plenty in this part of the world.
Very little of the old Consall Manor remains. In its place, the hotel has built a striking owl-shaped structure that resides over the gardens from its highest point. Its glass façade shimmers from every angle and, despite its modernistic design, it fits elegantly into its surroundings as if it has always been there. Inside, you’ll find something equally impressive: The Plumicorn Restaurant.
The Plumicorn (named after the tuft of an owl’s head) is the jewel in the hotel’s crown. Head chef Chris Alexander has created a hugely impressive menu that makes best use of local and seasonal ingredients. He utilizes long-established relationships with local suppliers to source the best meat, fish and vegetables before transforming them into inventive, yet recognizable, fine dining dishes. If available on the day you go, the chic lobster tail served with truffle pommes anna and a bisque croquette is a must.
The quality of the food is only part of The Plumicorn’s appeal as the dining room itself is something to savor, too. With only a dozen tables, the restaurant is as intimate as it gets. However, with a wall of glass overlooking the gardens, biophilic walls and a stupendously high ceiling, each diner feels as if they have this hallowed space all to themselves.
There is also an option to book a chef’s table. While this means you miss out on the views, you at least get to see Alexander and his team of talented chefs at work.
Just being at The Tawny feels like a restorative forest bathing retreat (and there are forest bathing experiences on the way), but if you need something more tactile, there is a charming treatment room located close to the Hillside Treehouses. Housed in a miniature thatched-roof cottage, it is a modest offering compared to the grand efforts made at The Plumicorn, but as with everything on the grounds, precedence was given to the local environment ahead of profits.
Still, the spa offers a range of treatments including facials and hot stone massages, all using GAIA products. The hot stone massage was as good as any and with the windows open, the sound of birdsong and the wind through the trees provided a relaxing natural soundtrack.
Back at the head of the site, you’ll find a heated swimming pool. Sitting just a few feet below the restaurant, it offers the same wonderful views while you swim. If you’re lucky enough to get some sunshine while you’re there, the pool area offers sunshine all afternoon in the summer months.
The hotel encourages guests to get out and explore every pathway on the grounds, but for those less interested in walking, it has a fleet of electric buggies that can whizz you to the key areas. But if you’re willing to get your shoes a little muddy, there is much to be discovered. Winding paths drift in and out of dense woodland. When the local aristocrats aren’t shooting pheasants in a neighboring estate, there is blissful silence.
When head gardener Jonathan Race isn’t planting native trees or bee-friendly wildflowers, he hosts a fascinating private garden tour for inquisitive guests. Jonathan has spearheaded the garden’s rejuvenation, crafting his vision from that originally envisioned by the estate’s former owner, William Podmore.
Take the immersion further with a visit to neighboring Consall Nature Park. Although there is no direct access from the hotel’s grounds (fence hopping is discouraged), it is little more than a three-minute drive away.
Hillside Treehouses are available from £400 ($485) per night in low season and £500 ($605) per night in high season including breakfast. Contact +44 1538 787664, thetawny.co.uk