You could hardly wish for a more pleasant spot for dinner al fresco than by the water’s edge of what used to be a moat near the centre of Hereford. This is the Castle House Hotel.
The sun is setting, birds dip in and out and occasionally there’s a splosh in the water caused by a lively fish.
On the next door table is Sir Roy Strong dining with the Dean of Hereford Cathedral.
The Castle House Hotel in Hereford prides itself on being a city centre hotel that ‘feels as if it’s in the country’
Throw in a bottle of Provence rosé and a perfect rack of lamb from the owner’s nearby farm and what more could one ask?
Well, perhaps to repair afterwards to the hotel’s Royal Suite for a night under a canopied four-poster might up the thrill a notch further.
I had not asked for such a sumptuous room, with no fewer than five floor-to-ceiling windows, a brace of TVs, large sofa and two comfy chairs.
Perhaps I am the only one staying on this baking Monday night.
There’s also a decanter of sweet sherry, a throw-back to gentler times, which somehow seems in keeping here.
This is old-fashioned hotel hospitality, with lunch served strictly between noon and 2pm, followed by afternoon tea from 3pm to 5.30pm.
It’s gloriously quiet (no muzak of any kind), with lots of starched white linen tablecloths and waitresses in black.
The hotel occupies a commanding position at the top of Georgian Castle Street, with the cathedral (home to the medieval geographical treasure Mappa Mundi) a couple of hundred yards away.
The Royal Suite at the hotel boasts a giant four poster bed and sherry at the bedside
I have a few important documents (about ten pages) to print out and I ask at reception if I might ping them over in an email, stressing that I want to be charged at least something for the trouble.
‘That will be fine,’ I am told. And I’m not charged a penny.
Before my lamb, I have what’s described as ‘smoked salmon sausage cannelloni with pickled cucumber and caviar’.
It’s an unnecessary throw-back to those nouvelle cuisine days – with the pickled cucumber the size of a pea, plus about six grains of caviar and one tiny piece of rolled-up smoked salmon.
Growing lads who plough the fields and scatter might want a little more quantity to go with the quality.
But thank goodness there are still establishments like this, where if I had worn shorts at dinner I would have felt underdressed despite being overcooked.
Castle House Hotel
Hereford HR1 2NW
castlehse.co.uk, 01432 356321
Doubles from £155 B&B