Andy Mossack gets up close and personal with the Thames as he stays riverside at The Swan.
Streatley and Goring – Thames-facing sisters – may well have continued their lives as sleepy Berkshire villages, but George Michael put a stop to that. As soon as he took residence in his impressive mansion by Goring Lock, he put the villages firmly on the tourist radar and even following his passing, his former home remains a place where curious fans still come to linger.
The villages are the epitome of English countryside well-to-do; the obligatory ancient church, a dog-friendly coaching inn, a few thatched roofs and a high street butcher offering fresh pheasant. You get the picture.
Amongst all this finery sits The Swan, taking up a very generous slice of riverside real estate surrounded by the rolling hills of the Berkshire countryside. This is one of two hotel properties (the other is also Thames-side at Sonning) that come from the same stable as the Coppa Club empire, a very impressive restaurant brand helmed by entrepreneur Hugh Osmond. Now in nine locations, Coppa Club’s growing appeal is its genius concept. Akin to a private member’s club but without any joining fees. Riverside sites with excellent all-day dining in a relaxed clubhouse setting that can be a hipster hang out, a place to work remotely or a family-style restaurant. There’s plenty of comfy couches, more than a few nooks with roaring fires, well-drilled front of house teams and, of course, food and drink always available all day long.
Having recently enjoyed an excellent meal at the new Putney restaurant, I was keen to see how the Coppa Club concept worked in a hotel environment.
The Swan didn’t disappoint in the slightest. In fact, it exceeded my expectations, and honestly, that doesn’t happen too many times.
From its opening in 1698 by Francis Swan, a colourful history ensued passing through many hands, including cabaret artiste Danny la Rue, before being acquired by Osmond in 2013 and undergoing a six-year renovation. With her new sweeping lawns, riverside gardens and spruced up interiors, as well as a Coppa Club restaurant on site, this grand old lady has a smile back on her face after many years of neglect. There’s a full air-conditioned gym open from 6am to 10pm every day and you can indulge your inner riverside wellness with activities available throughout the year including paddle-boarding, wild swimming, mindfulness, yoga and running clinics.
My gabled large double room with river view on the first floor was an impressive space accommodating the king bed with ease and still leaving plenty of room for a comfy settee and worktable. I loved the vintage dial phone on the bedside table and the bladeless Dyson fan was a clue as to how warm the room might get in summer with no air-conditioning. The bathroom was equally spacious with a giant bath, separate rainforest shower and luxurious fig and vanilla Natural Spa Factory toiletries.
Behind floor to ceiling patio glass, a generous balcony offered up gorgeous views of the river in both directions, almost within touching distance. It was January and a little too cold for sitting outside, but I could see myself sitting out there in summer with a large glass of Pimm’s idly watching the boats glide by.
Much as I loved gazing out at the water, my Coppa Club dinner beckoned, and I could access the restaurant directly from inside the hotel. It was set out on two levels. On the higher were couches and armchairs to laze around while dining tables overlooked the lower section which was essentially a giant glass conservatory that could open up as an outdoor dining space in summer.
From my top tier table, I could see plenty of local families on a night out – the pizza ovens were obviously doing good business.
We kicked off with a startlingly good club Caesar salad for me (£10) crisp lettuce leaves, diced coppa, radishes, avocado and croutons all in a very tasty Caesar dressing. I added some grilled halloumi too (£4). An absolute triumph for me, a generous bowl, big chunks of avo and the halloumi lightly grilled as it should be. Mrs M managed to tear herself away from the temptation of seared King prawns with lemon, garlic and chilli (£9.50) and plumped instead for a sprouting broccoli salad (£7.50) with grains, crunchy toasted hazelnuts, pomegranate and an absolute belter of a tahini dressing. “That deserved an ovation” she murmured after downing the last forkful
In spite of the honest apology at the top of the menu of a “reduced menu due to the challenges the hospitality sector is currently facing” our main choices still caused something of a debate. For a reduced menu, this still had plenty of choices on offer. A Devon crab linguini (£16) was discussed, as was sea-reared plancha-grilled trout (£18) among others.
However, for some strange reason, we both went for Coppa burgers (£14) stacked with mature Cheddar, tomato, lettuce and a burger sauce with fries on the side. It is something of a Coppa staple and sometimes I can’t resist the simple comforting pleasure of a proper posh burger. Trust me when I tell you they didn’t disappoint in the slightest. I considered myself highly comforted
We decided to have coffee and share a slice of flourless chocolate cake with coconut yoghurt (£8.50) in the library area. A lovely quiet room lined with books and a fire crackling at one end. It was the perfect spot to sit and drool together over a slice of pure dark 85% chocolate heaven. The perfect end to an exceptional dinner; not rushed, with attentive service and delicious plates of food.
After a very peaceful night, the morning broke with the sound of birdsong and, completing the picture-postcard effect, a fine mist on the river.
We were back in the Coppa Club for breakfast and this time had the full tableau of the River Thames for company as we sat by floor to ceiling glass. As hotel guests, we had breakfast included and as expected, this was the full hipster. Just-baked artisan pastries, crushed avocado lime and chilli on sourdough with poached eggs, buckwheat and rye pancakes with maple syrup and/or a veggie garden or meat skillet-fried breakfast with all the bits and pieces. Giant mugs of tea and coffee in all their forms of course.
We walked it all off along the Thames path passing by some staggering properties and more than a few birders out for some morning spotting.
The Swan is a beautiful place to spend a long riverside weekend, and with the Coppa Club looking after you as far as being fed and watered is concerned, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything better. Highly recommended.
All food images (C) Andy Mossack
Tell me more about The Swan at Streatley
The Swan At Streatley High Street Streatley-on-Thames RG8 9HR
T: 01491 878800 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Small Double Room from £80 per night. Medium Double Rooms from £100 per night. Large Doubles with River View from £120 per night. Dogs are welcome in the ground floor guestrooms.