The Montpellier Chapter

LOCATION: Montpellier is Cheltenham’s swishest suburb.

LOCATION: Montpellier is Cheltenham’s swishest suburb. It’s the part of Cheltenham which looks exactly as Cheltenham ought, with wedding-cake white villas peeking out from behind leafy hedges. It’s near all the right things for luxury clients; it’s on the right side of town for the racecourse, and it’s merely paces from the Ladies College, and the upmarket shopping street of Montpellier Walk, where the shopfronts of chichi boutiques are bookended by elegant carved caryatids. It’s a bit further from the centre of Cheltenham proper, but this is where you’ll find people in lycra leisurewear pushing prams to the Greggs pie shop – in other words, the bit of Cheltenham that’s like any other town, and therefore the bit you don’t really want to see. FIRST IMPRESSIONS: The hotel’s front façade blends seamlessly into the Montpellier streets – after all, it is a Grade II listed Regency villa. This section is beautifully preserved – the original conservatory, art deco entrance, fire places and ceiling roses have all been conserved - but it’s not the reason that Swire Hotels hired the architecture studio Make, founded by Ken Shuttleworth, the man most famous for his work designing the Gherkin. Behind the butter-wouldn’t melt façade, there’s a swooping new crescent shaped extension, which curves around a glass-walled courtyard, so natural light can penetrate deep into the hotel’s heart. It’s this, along with some understated but boldly modern interior design, that makes the hotel much more than just another historic conversion.THE FACTS: There are 61 rooms. Those in the original villa have aN historic feel, with high ceilings, thick carpets and slate tones. The crescent rooms are fresher, all blond oak, full lenth windows and bathrooms incorporated into the main space. The solid-wood furniture in the rooms, and in the public spaces – which include a lounge and snug library full of books – was specially commssioned from Matthew Hilton, the designer-du-jour for anyone wanting to pick up a modern British classic. Art was specially commissioned from Central St Martin’s College – no identikit Ikea prints here. The restaurant – equally popular with locals and parents visiting their ‘gahls’ at the nearby Ladies College as guests – has had as much thought put into it as the rest of the hotel. The high, white room has an open kitchen at one end, with a wall of striking green tiles surrounding the shining steel workspace. The cuisine – like the rest of the hotel’s design – is modern, fresh and British.

A GOOD BASE FOR: Book early for clients who want to stay during the races or any of Cheltenham’s literature and music festivals – this is an ideal bolt hole for couples or groups alike. Ladies who are all-shopped out – or abandoned by partners spending a day at the races – will love the sumptuous spa, which uses the same Aromatherapy Associates products on offer in the rooms. It’s near enough to the Cotswolds for a trip into the land of honey-coloured houses and high tea.WOW: The service – sometimes a stumbling block for even the highest quality of hotels – is stand-out. The young, relaxed team are nevertheless attentive, helpful and genuinely interested in making your stay as happy as possible.

HOW MUCH: From £125 a night.