The first time we visited the Compleat Angler we expected it to be stuffed to the gills with antique furniture and Art Nouveau fixtures and fittings.
It has some nice wood panelling and ornate stained glass windows but its decor is more faded House & Gardens than stately home grandeur.
The real gem of this hotel is the setting on the river bank, close to Marlow Lock and the weir, opposite All Saints church, nestling beneath the 19th suspension bridge and downriver from another historic town, Henley-on-Thames.
We are drawn to the place and keep going back and when we do we seem to continuously bump into other familiar faces also on a return visit.
This is because the hotel it is just lovely, very comfortable and the food is fantastic.
From breakfast to afternoon tea, from dinner in Bowaters to room service nothing disappoints.
Bowaters isn’t too fine dining or fussy, the portions are just right and there is always lots of choice.
There is an alternative restaurant at the Compleat Angler called Aubergine which boasts award-winning European cuisine and says ‘guests can be assured of a gastronomic experience in calming surroundings’, we will get around to trying it out.
Apart from its setting the other thing which sets the Compleat Angler in a class of its own is its staff.
They are always friendly and professional and they make you feel special, as does the boss Gaius Wyncoll who was celebrating his 40th birthday during our stay.
When we first booked we thought all our fellow guests would all be upper crust gentry but in this age of austerity the hotel seems to attract its share of the corporate class especially midweek.
These get mixed with some society weddings guests and those on walking holidays although the odd person does give the impression they have just stepped off the pages of a PG Wodehouse book.
The bar prices like many hotels these days are pretty steep - £36 for an ordinary bottle of Sauvignon Blanc but it does come with its own ice-bucket!
On Thursday evening we ate in the Bowaters restaurant named after Sir Ian and Lady Bowater, who owned the hotel from 1932-1980, there were six starters on the menu.
We chose the cream of Jerusalem artichoke soup and the terrine of John Ross JR smoked salmon, the latter is served on Melba toast with watercress sauce and both were delicious.
My husband plumped for the vegetarian option for his main course, a ravioli of woodland mushrooms in a Sakura cress and tarragon sauce and I opted for the pot-roast breast of guinea fowl with confit potato, braised Savoy cabbage with pancetta, celeriac and parsley mash and Madeira jus.
Mine was a work of art and he licked his platter clean.
The cost for two courses is a reasonable £32 per person but as we were booked for DBB we found that £17.50 was added to our final bill plus the discretionary 12.5 per cent service charge.
Not sure how this works but think the side dishes are charged as extras although I didn’t think we had ordered any?
There were five desserts plus a selection of British cheeses which come with a supplement charge of £5.
As we were stuffed and couldn’t eat another thing we retired to the lounge but unfortunately my ice-bucket and alcohol got lost on route so we retired to bed minus a nightcap.
As Elite Club members (we stay often) we usually get upgraded to an executive room which comes with a bath – and if you are lucky a separate shower.
Although the rooms are smaller we prefer the older wing especially the double-aspect rooms with river views – it is also a short stumble upstairs from the bar which is great late at night.
Exciting plans are afoot to build 31 new bedrooms, upgraded function and meeting facilities and a new reception area although there is no start date for the work to begin and some ‘locals’ opposed the proposals fearing flooding and traffic congestion.
Providing the cupboards and wine cellar is well stocked I would happily be stranded by high water or a highway/waterway barrier at the Compleat Angler for many more nights.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC