North End, Hampshire
Planning a romantic getaway? This one ticks all the boxes. A traditional flint cottage for couples with wooden porch, a fireplace, swing and recliner in the garden and sculptures and contemporary art dotted about. Best of all? It’s only 15 mins from the New Forest and about the same to the historic cathedral city of Salisbury.
Near Chiddingfold on the Surrey/Hampshire border
Ideally located for visiting Jane Austen’s house in Chawton (20 minutes) and the naval dockyards at Portsmouth (45 minutes). Keeper’s Cottage is something of a misnomer — this is a country house with six bedrooms and a formal dining room that seats ten. Throw in a hot tub (not literally — that would be reckless) on the decked terrace and your Hampshire jaunts will have the perfect spot to return to each day.
We’ve gone and saved the best till last, as the song has it. No man is an island, and an Englishman’s home is his castle. Combine those two principles, and you’ll be wanting a fortress that is an island and sleeps 18 people. A library, champagne bar, private sun-decks and open-air hot tub seating ten mean you’ll be tempted to deploy the cannons when the boat returns to take you back to reality…
Hampshire is blessed with a great mix of accommodation options, from b&bs up to five-star hotels. But for something completely different, we asked our friends at Oliver’s Travels to come up with something out of the ordinary…
Keens Steakhouse, Midtown
New York is often described as the 20th-century city, and in many ways it is, its glorious modernist architecture by such pioneers as Frank Lloyd Wright seen in the Empire State and Chryslers buildings. But the city really began to become the thriving melting-pot we see today back in the 19th century, and famous Manhattan steakhouse Keens channels that era exquisitely and flawlessly.
You’ll find it on West 36th between Fifth and Sixth in the heart of the Garment District and a short walk from Broadway and Theatreland. Its sumptuous red velvet and dark-wood interior calls to mind the great chophouses of the City of London, and indeed the Old World manners and tradition of Keens is a far cry from sometime brash Manhattan.
First up, its collection of Scotches is sufficient to keep the most querulous Brit happy. But you’d be missing a trick if you didn’t go for the Bloody Mary. I am something of a connoisseur and, alongside those served at the Gilbert Scott Bar at London’s Renaissance Hotel at St Pancras Station, these are the dope. Served in what can’t be far off a pint tankard with half a foot of celery, and enough horseradish and Tabasco to satisfy the diehards, this potion is the perfect aperitif (or hangover cure).
In the restaurant upstairs, you’ll see rafts of clay pipes hanging from the ceiling. There’s 90,000 on site and the story goes that each one belonged to individuals that frequented the place way back when, many noted stage actors of the Victorian era who came here after performances in nearby Theatreland.
The food itself is sublime — go Porterhouse if you dare. Also known as T-bone, this is essentially entrecote served still on the bone, with enough meat to keep a family of four happy. On that note, be warned — portions are huge by London and European standards so have a light lunch ahead of your evening here.
I remained terribly British and went for the fillet. In truth, this was more like a chateaubriand, easily enough for two people so either share or bring a doggie bag. Charred on the outside and lusciously pink inside, cooked to perfection. Quite simply, as good a steak as I have had anywhere in the world.
Those of you who care for mutton should know that Keens is famed for its mutton chop. When you see this enormous saddle of meat with succulent flaps hanging over the sides, it is immediately apparent why sideburns are called muttonchops, a connection I had hitherto failed to understand.
The wine list is superb, with Old and New Worlds equally represented.
I can put it no more simply than this; to visit Manhattan without visiting Keens would be a crime akin to going to Paris and not taking in the Louvre.
Keens, until the next time — we salute you.
Dinner for two with wine, around $200; Keens Steakhouse, 72 W 36th St, New York; 00 (1) 212 947 3636; open until 10.30pm every days
(Sundays 9.30pm) except Christmas Day;