October 07 2010
Cambridge has long lacked a hotel worthy of honours. Perhaps it is the availability of cheap college rooms during the long vac, surely the best time to visit. Now the deficiency has been rusticated thanks to the recent matriculation of the Varsity Hotel right in the city centre. So central is it – just off Bridge Street – that the Steakhouse, Jacuzzi, and many of the 48 guest rooms overlook the River Cam.
From St John’s Suite on the sixth floor we could just about see the Master of Magdalene at his prayers, which must be a comfort to him. One can also enjoy a 270-degree panorama (third picture) that encompasses Trinity, King’s and the whole beloved towerscape. So it is well worth rising to a Master’s Suite or a Senior Fellow’s Suite for maximum appreciation of Cambridge’s riposte to the dreaming spires.
The Varsity doesn’t do the full hotel thing. Boutique chic here means that there is no bar, which makes the omission of a minibar a step too minimal for my thirst. (Oddly enough, though, one can have a beauty treatment or massage in-room.) Guests must step outside to reach the hotel’s restaurant next door. Ditto the Conran-designed gym (second picture), and the spa run by Aveda (always a good thing).
Cheerful hotel manager Roberto and his enthusiastic young staff live in hope of listed building consent to punch a door between the adjoining structures. Parking can be tricky but guests tend to arrive by train and cab or use park and ride. But once there, sublime Cambridge takes over. The next time we check in, it could be in a punt.
From £145, which includes use of the gym, steam room, sauna and Jacuzzi. Full English breakfast buffet, £12.50 per person.