As a professional northerner when a hotel describes itself as 'boutique' it triggers a warning that it is going be A) overpriced and B) a bit up itself. On this occasion, though, I am happy to report that my sage-like intuition was way off the mark and Hotel Felix deserves full credit; it is an intimate and stylish escape that fully earns the right to describe itself as boutique.
Situated little more than a mile and a half northwest of the Cambridge city centre, Hotel Felix is set in its own perfectly manicured grounds just off the Huntingdon Road making it an ideal base to explore the historic city's many museums and places of interest. Walking the 35 minutes into the city could be a bit much for some but there is cycle hire, a regular bus service and the hotel's helpful staff will be only too happy to book taxis should you not have your own transport.
We travelled up from London and had no trouble finding the place – even after some self-inflicted SatNav woes that took us via the eerily-deserted new Eddington district (North West Cambridge Development, a Cambridge University initiative delivering more than 3000 new homes for university staff and for private sale) of new-build apartment blocks. One day I'm sure it will bustle but at present, it is like being on a film set.
Hotel Felix is a luxurious four-star property that stylishly combines its Victorian heritage with chic modern decor and an eclectic hanging of contemporary artwork – all of which is purchasable (you'll find a price list at reception). The hotel is independently-owned and is sister to The Grange in York. Being in private hands has allowed the hotel's individuality to shine through and the character of its owners is evident throughout – this is not your typical copy-paste 'boutique' setup.
Two modern wings are appended to the main house – increasing capacity and accessibility with some spacious, well-appointed ground floor level suites. The modern addition works well and does no damage to the aesthetic of the place.
For this all too brief overnighter, I stayed in a junior suite at the top of the main house. This penthouse is not for those with mobility issues as it is accessible by two flights of stairs.
The rooms at Felix are generous and very well appointed with Hypnos King size beds with crisp white Egyptian cotton sheets and duck down duvets and pillows. This might be a bit of an obstacle to a restful night for people with allergies but I'm not one of them. My head hit the pillow around 10.30pm and that was that till daybreak.
The room was generous enough to accommodate two comfortable armchairs and a coffee table as well as desk. Every room has a smart TV and complimentary WiFi as well as tea and coffee making facilities and a mini bar.
The bathroom is worth mentioning as you could spend your whole stay in there pampering yourself. A double-ended bathtub and walk-in double rainfall shower along with underfloor heating, fluffy white bathrobes and towels and white company toiletries give the whole suite an extra sheen of luxury.
Before dinner in the AA rosette Grafitti restaurant, we were invited for an aperitif in the Orangerie but instead, as it was a warm evening, opted for half an hour in the sun with a gin & tonic on the garden terrace overlooking the hotel's grounds.
Graffiti is championed as one of the top restaurants in Cambridge and it did not disappoint in delivering some really creative and well-composed dishes. We kicked off with delicate starters; warm salad of new season white and green asparagus, crispy hen’s egg with a bursting golden yolk, lemon and Parmesan. I opted for Portland crab and avocado ‘cannelloni’, compressed watermelon, pickled fennel and confit lemon salad with Brown crab mayonnaise. So good was it, I would happily have ordered again and had it for main.
From the selection of mains, my partner went for a lighter pasta dish – Buccatini with king prawns, chilli, white wine and garlic, which as good as it was, was definitely on the generous side. This was followed for dessert by passion fruit tart, dark chocolate sorbet, vanilla mascarpone, honeycomb.
For me, it was a toss-up between the pan-fried calves liver with olive oil mash and the Sicilian stuffed saddle of rabbit accompanied with San Marzano tomatoes, olive crumb, sweet potato fondant and wilted cime di rapa. The rabbit won and was very elegantly presented and had good flavours to it but was a little overdone. It was though, a very good dish and if you are yet to eat rabbit it is well worth trying.
Grafitti as a dining space is as colourful as its menu. In daylight, its floor to ceiling windows bathe the whole space in light. After dark, it changes character and the rich reds of the decor make it a far more intimate and enclosed space.
It is easy to see why Grafitti is held in high regard, and a steady stream of non-resident diners was testimony to its popularity in the area. So, for us, after a quick night cap, we hit the hay.
Things to do
We checked out relatively early on Sunday so we could make the most of the weather and to take in the sights around the city. I've passed through Cambridge but have never stopped to take a look around and having done so I realise it takes a bit more than the few hours we gave it.
First stop after breakfast was Kettle's Yard, which reopened in February 2018 after two years of major works which have brought improved gallery spaces, a fourth-floor education wing, a cafe (always nice) and a new entrance area.
From there we ambled into town and did what most tourists do and headed for Cambridge General Market. It probably wasn't the best idea to have a big breakfast before heading out as the market was a real foodie delight with everything from Mexican and Brazilian street foods to fine cheeses and Italian deli delights. The aromas around the square are amazing and were given an added touch of theatre by a giant dancing vegan chicken serenading people as they wandered by pleading with them not to eat any of her relatives. She had an engaging singing voice but I think her chance of success was very limited.
One thing you should not do when your on a day's sightseeing is to enter a bookshop – especially if you like reading. Ambling up Trinity Street, we came to Heffers Bookshop and lost more than an hour inside. It's a really interesting place and full of the type of content your highstreet Waterstones just does not do.
The Grand Arcade shopping centre is full of the names you'd expect plus a couple of independents but the real interest is in the smaller shops.
Accessibility at Hotel Felix
Rooms in the two modern wings are fully accessible and first floor rooms in the main house are reached by a lift. The Penthouse is not suitable for wheelchairs or people with mobility issues.
To conclude Hotel Felix offers luxury accommodation and fine dining in spacious, relaxing surrounding and provides the perfect place to stay whilst visiting this historic Cambridge.
Hotel Felix Whitehouse Ln, Huntingdon Rd, Girton, Cambridge CB3 0LX One night’s stay at Hotel Felix starts from £190 (B&B basis with free parking and Wi-Fi).
For more information or seasonal discounts / packages please visit the website www.hotelfelix.co.uk
Last modified: June 10, 2021