It’s been a while since we visited a Milsom’s Hotel. One child later and here we are, back at one of the most successful boutique hotel group’s flagship properties, Maison Talbooth. It’s actually a stroke of luck that this luxurious country house hotel is perpetually booked throughout the summer  months – it’s 12 luxurious bedrooms make it  feel more like a  country home than a hotel and it’s garden, cosy spa, gorgeous outdoor pool (heated to a bath-like temperature of  85 degrees all year round) and pool house complete with roaring fire and honesty bar makes the perfect backdrop to a wedding, hen party and in fact every kind of house party for the discerning.  So, it’s not easy to get a weekend reservation unless you are celebrating something significant! The day before we arrived the whole house had been taken over for an eightieth birthday and I hear that they didn’t go to bed until past 2am!

So, no space until Autumn. Not to worry, we picked my son’s 6th birthday and a beautiful weekend with clear blue skies and crisp autumn days to visit for a Sunday lunch at Le Talbooth and an overnight at Maison Talbooth – a two minute courtesy car ride down the road to the award-winning fine dining restaurant housed in a picture-perfect Tudor building, sitting beside the river Stour in prime, Constable country.  We saw the first frost of the year and it couldn’t have been in a better setting.

This stay saw us in the Keats suite. Each room at Maison is named after a famous poet. Keats really has ‘wow’ factor. Not my first time staying at Maison or at a Milsom’s Hotel but I was seriously impressed. Situated directly on the ground floor, your door opens into what can almost be described as a small, luxury, family apartment. Huge modern bathroom with oversized oval bath and massive 180 degree walk-in shower, children’s room complete with bunk beds, PlayStation, DVD player with vast dvd collection, play kitchen and book shelves full of cool books and beans bags to flop and relax. These people know how to cater to every age group!

Our bedroom felt extremely regal with its super-thick, pile carpet and four poster bed, plush sofa and seating and a contemporary dining table with chairs. The bathroom with huge walk in shower and big round sunken bath, the height of luxury. I thought wrongly, that the suite had been newly refurbished – silly me!- only to find that it that it is earmarked for a refurb soon. I cannot wait to see the result.

Keats also has its own secluded verandah. With the winter night drawing in early, we didn’t get any use, rather snuggling up inside, kids watching a movie and us adults just playing with our phones, the way we do!

Maison Talbooth is part of a small, family-owned group of hotels all based around the same scenic parts of Essex. In fact they own another great contemporary boutique hotel, Milsoms, complete with festive outdoor heated bar, Wünderbar, just two minutes down the road. A relaxed, more modern affair, we had dinner there finding it almost impossible to squeeze in much more food after a decadent lunch at Le Talbooth.

So, what of the food? Sunday lunch at Le Talbooth is a grand, foodie experience. Using the finest local ingredients – Dedham Vale produces some fine beef – watch it being skilfully carved at the table – the lucky kids were extremely impressed. Every dish was faultless and unfussy, letting the produce really speak for itself.

The set Sunday lunch menu is great value at £45 and the extra touches, choice of mouthwatering, smooth truffles with coffee make it feel like a bargain. One of the best things about Le Talbooth is that they are very child-friendly.

Of course, children need to behave but they are rewarded with a children’s menu to rival the adult’s one. No pasta or fish fingers here. Rather smoked salmon, roast Dedham Vale beef and a stunning Eton mess that had my husband salivating. There’s a choice too. Highlights from the adults menu included ‘mini game en croute’, mackerel with beetroot, horseradish and dill and rump of Suffolk lamb. I won’t detail too much because part of the experience is discovering the menu for yourself.

Le Talbooth really is a must. Sitting directly on the river, this Tudor house is as picturesque as it gets.

As night fell, we asked to be picked up by the Hotel Range Rover (a service included – ferrying from hotel to restaurant or hotel to hotel) and went back to Keats to change in to our swimming things. I’d promised a swim and we were certainly full enough to float! The outdoor pool is really there to swim ALL year round and the hot tub was almost too hot. The steam rising from the water, we braved the cold outside for the magical experience of swimming outdoors in winter. So good that we returned the next morning.

Maison Talbooth serves wonderful breakfasts as well as lunches and afternoon teas that people travel far and wide to eat. We ate far too much as the food is just too good. One day, I’d love to hire the entire house for a party but until that time comes, I’m happy with the odd night here and there.

This is gourmet, country house living at its best. A big shout out also goes to the very helpful staff. Milsoms take great care in looking after them and they in turn really look after you. For a cosy winter break, get yourself to Essex!

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