Inside Malvern Hotel, Joan Collins loves ‘Best View in England’ and Afternoon Tea in the Clouds
Hidden among the Malvern Hills, above the clouds is the historic Cottage in the Wood hotel. It’s like a country house straight out of an Agatha Christie novel, gleaming white among the green wildlife of the Worcestershire landscape.
It’s the breathtaking scenery that grabs you first – unbroken through rugged Worcestershire to the Severn Valley and the Cotswolds. It has earned the hotel accolades for having the “best view in England”, and I would second it as you feel heaven sent.
It’s no wonder celebrities from Joan Collins to Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, Maggie Thatcher, Felicity Kendall and many more have flocked to this leading lady of the Malvern hotel scene over the decades.
READ MORE: First look inside luxury Malvern hotel with ‘best view in England’ after £2million vintage revamp
This is where you can enjoy afternoon tea in a dreamy setting above the clouds in the 1919 art deco restaurant where dynasty diva Joan Collins ate while taking in this view, without no doubt fabulously styled.
Next door, the lounge bar offers plush velvet sofas to sink into and a decadence that reminds me of all those Poirot episodes I love so much. The only crime here would be not killing time relaxing among the 32 rooms split between the main house, the coach house, and the more comfortable rooms in the cottage.
How much do the rooms cost at Cottage in the Wood?
Formerly part of the Blackmore Park Estate, it opened as a hotel in 1919. More than a century later it still has its Georgian facade, but recently underwent a £2million revamp. Owners Nick and Julia Davies opted for a vintage look with modern touches, like a huge portrait of local composer Elgar in the lobby.
There are personal touches, too, like the upscale ‘Best’ rooms, from around £220 a night, each having an old-fashioned record player with LPs to play whenever you want while in you lounging in the roll-top tub. Even the cheapest ‘comfortable room’ option with breakfast from £119 a night is a sumptuous bargain.
The day I visited, there was an open-top Morgan vintage car parade, and I felt like I had been transported to a time of jazz, flapper girls, and country charm. It’s actually about a group of French car enthusiasts staying at the famous car factory nearby.
Afternoon tea in the clouds
Executive chef Rob Mason tells me he makes an afternoon tea based on “everything he likes to eat” at the hotel’s 1919 Restaurant. It’s a hearty three levels of food joy that presents itself – from a hot sausage roll to delicate and distinctive sandwiches, cakes and scones.
The starter sandwiches contain fine ingredients like smoked salmon and cream cheese. I particularly liked the tasty mix of aged cheddar cheese, spring onions and chives, and there’s also egg and watercress in this afternoon tea which costs £22 pp (or £33 with a a glass of champagne).
Rob says the secret ingredient to his scones and creamy panna cotta is buttermilk, both of which have a creamy, exceptional flavor. The cute macaroon muffin and spiced carrot cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting keeps me busy, but the highlight is an amazing chocolate tart with marsala wine that is crumbly and rich.
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“There’s no point in making a crazy sandwich at an afternoon tea because a lot of people won’t want that,” Rob added. “They want the comfort of a sweet and savory mix done right.”
It is a refined cuisine, well done with the added bonus of its magnificent location. Snacking while sitting down to watch ‘the best view in England’ above the clouds seems too naughty for such a heavenly treat.
It’s not just the afternoon tea served at this award-winning restaurant. After winning the Taste of Worcestershire award at the region’s 2021 Tourism Awards, Rob has also launched a seven-course tasting menu. It contains the best seasonal ingredients from a county famous for its asparagus, pears and plums.
A view for all seasons at the Cottage in the Wood hotel
Sian Alexander has worked at Cottage in the Wood for 20 years and says she “never gets bored of the view”. Now a front desk manager, Sian has worked in most departments, from housekeeping to the restaurant.
“The view is different every day and we’re so high up that you can see the weather coming if it’s raining – it’s spectacular,” Sian explained. “Sometimes we can be above the clouds and I’m driving in fog but when I get to the hotel I’m up above.
“This view can never be ruined because nothing will ever be big enough to affect it. Each season brings its own beauty, I especially love the cold, cool mornings in winter.”
Celebrities staying at the Malvern Hotel
Sian has hosted guests from all over the world, including many celebrities. She doesn’t remember them all but quickly lists famous names like Edward Fox, Nigel Havers, Joan Collins and Felicity Kendall.
Even the most famous of locals – composer Sir Edward Elgar – stayed here in the Roaring Twenties. Author CS Lewis also checked in.
Joan Collins dined at the restaurant and Charlie Watts had a quieter time away from the Rolling Stones rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. Maggie Thatcher would stay on regularly after retiring as Prime Minister and in her final years as Baroness.
The Cottage in the Wood, Holywell Rd, Malvern Wells, Malvern, WR14 4LG 01684 588860.