A short break in Cheltenham - stay at The George and eat at The Tavern

'If this is frills-free, I can’t quite see what I’m lacking'

'If this is frills-free, I can’t quite see what I’m lacking' - Credit: culthotels.com

Katie, Ruby and Ian Jarvis stay at the George, Cheltenham, a no-frills hotel with pretty much all the thrills you need.

Cheltenham: the George hotel; the Tavern. 

I tell you, it’s a return to my old stomping ground. The (free) weekly newspaper I worked for had offices just down the road, where the bijou car park almost certainly inspired the game of Tetris. 

‘You could get a bus through there,’ ad-rep Clyde (let’s call him) once scoffed at me, as I navigated a Marina – borrowed from my dad – through said-car park, in a scene only ever successfully recreated by the captain of the Ever Given in the Suez. 

Clyde (let’s still call him) confidently grabbed my car keys (‘No task for a woman’) and proceeded to bash my dad’s car into three others. He silently handed me back the keys and strode off to be macho elsewhere. 

We never spoke of this incident again. 

The blue-brick bathroom

The blue-brick bathroom - Credit: culthotels.com

Still, I can talk. Once, desperate for a front-page, I miscalculated the latest Cheltenham Job Centre figures and – presumably to their bafflement – wrote a spurious lead about how badly (or well, can’t recall) they were doing. I included the figures I’d used, thus ensuring readers were baffled, too. The editor, who couldn’t add up, happily published this story, which hung around for one of the most enduring weeks of my life. 

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Enough of those halcyon days. 

I can’t remember what the George was like back then. But now it’s gorgeous. I mean, really gorgeous. And I’m not just saying that. All solid, sedate grey-y blues lightened by floor-to-ceiling windows at the front; stylish, cool, historic. (Think Kate Moss, had she but been born in 1840 and was wearing spectacularly well.) 

The staff are delightful, too. From booking in (Me: We might have a few dietary requirements. I mean, ve-e-e-ery few. Hardly worth mentioning, really. *Babbles* ianisglutenfreeandimsortofvegan), to the lovely Thibault, who greets us warmly and agrees to speak French to me (though even he can shed little light on the whereabouts of my aunt’s feather). 

Ruby enjoys her stay at the George

Ruby enjoys her stay at the George - Credit: Katie Jarvis

Ruby, the cerebrally-challenged (Ian is in fierce denial, because she can balance a biscuit on her nose) spaniel, is beyond thrilled to find a deep-pile dog-bed, a pack of Lily’s Kitchen treats, and her own bowl ready and waiting, falsely raising her expectations for the rest of eternity. 

The concept at the George is design-led, value-driven

The concept at the George is design-led, value-driven - Credit: culthotels.com

I’m beyond thrilled at the bookshelf in our huge room (with the best bathroom I’ve seen in a long time: blue-brick, huge shower, particularly excellent toiletries): Muriel Spark, CP Snow, Norman Mailer, Graham Greene, et al. (Only lacking, one might observe, the seminal Minchinhampton and Nailsworth Voices by Katie Jarvis.) Someone has phenomenal taste. 

It’s a Cult Hotel (a nod to its owner’s, Julian Dunkerton’s, first Cult Clothing venture, which he founded aged 19): the concept being design-led, value-driven. I mean, seriously, I’ve seen Travelodges vying for a similarly-priced market. There’s automatic check-in, a snack pantry open day and night. It might be me but, if this is frills-free, I can’t quite see what I’m lacking. 

The snack pantry at the George is open day and night

The snack pantry is open day and night - Credit: simonbrownphotography.com

We walk Ruby in the small park a few steps from the rear of the George (past the small, admittedly, car park where Ian has managed to grab a space for our EV; mainly by lurking suspiciously for a good half hour). Then the three of us head off for the Tavern (a Lucky Onion pub), a stone’s throw (NB stones are much preferred by Ruby to sticks) for a fab meal. (Gf roast cashew-nut hummus, pickled chilli, herbs, dukkah and pitta; burger; and yummy chocolate pud for Ian. Vegan Isle of Wight tomato and whipped feta, green salad with grilled baguette; autumn squash risotto, pine nuts and crispy sage; fruit crumble for me. Clandestine delicacies for Rubes as Ian doesn’t approve of feeding from the table.) 

The George's diner

The George's diner - Credit: simonbrownphotography.com

Ian’s delighted they serve Dunkertons cider (well, der). As he weaves his way to the loo, I remind him of the previous week, when he walked into his own reflection in a mirror in a London gents. 

‘Did it not strike you that the chap walking towards you was your very doppelganger?’ I ask, curiously. *Thinks: Must send him ’10 things you might not know about antimatter’* 

On the upside, he doesn’t walk into a wall this time. On the downwards: ‘I just didn’t realise it was a step,’ he says, reasonably. 

‘Full sprawl in full view?’ 

‘Only briefly,’ he says, on a sort of five-second-rule-and-it-hasn’t-happened basis. 

Breakfast next day is interesting. I’d kind of expected a young London crowd – not sure why. Instead, we join a busy (but huge) room of everyone-under-the-sun. Loved-up couples; a stony-faced pair sitting side by side, never speaking; several people even older than us (always a thrill). Etc. 

The George: stylish, cool, historic

The George: stylish, cool, historic - Credit: culthotels.com

And for a no-frills hotel, the offerings are fulsome – including vegan quinoa croissants for me, and a full gf English for Ian. 

I like the little I know of Julian Dunkerton. I also really like the little I know of Jade Holland Cooper. But I couldn’t be less biased when I say: rescuing a beloved old building like the George; turning into an affordable, stylish visitor-base; catering to all needs without fuss; putting their (considerable) might behind the Cotswolds… 

What's not to like. 

The George is in St George’s Road, Cheltenham, GL50 3DZ, a two-minute walk from the Tavern in Royal Well Place: culthotels.com; thetaverncheltenham.com 

READ MORE: Exploring Cheltenham's stylish Montpellier quarter