With international leisure travel pretty much verboten this year, I was keen to rediscover what the UK has to offer its own in terms of luxury hospitality.
Let’s face it, our country is no longer held up for its customer service, so I was unsure anywhere that wasn’t a heavily-financed London establishment on our sceptred isle would be able to keep up with foreign competition.
Enter The 25, which snagged the 2020 Visit England B&B of the Year award and has been voted the world’s best B&B two years running by Tripadvisor in its annual Travellers’ Choice Awards (this year and last).
The 25 has been voted the world’s best B&B two years running by Tripadvisor in its annual Travellers’ Choice Awards – and has a clean sweep of five-star reviews
Run by Andy and Julian Banner-Price, The 25 is now a six-bedroom establishment (reduced from 10 bedrooms when they took it over five years ago) with each room or suite decorated differently and distinctly
William writes of The 25’s decor: ‘I can’t pretend it was to my taste, or anywhere near it.’ Pictured is the Torre Suite
The thing is, the label ‘world’s best’ always raises a suspicious eyebrow.
For the cynical, it’s a moniker that primes the recipient for a fall…
The bed and breakfast sits on a fairly nondescript avenue in… Torquay.
Conventionally, very little about Torquay says ‘world’s best’ unless you want a prime choice of littoral tattoo parlours, beer-battered coach parties and coffee shops that close too early.
The Broadsands Room comes with an ensuite that features a stunning claw-foot bathtub
William’s room was the Shoalstone Suite, which has ‘glittered feature walls’ and ‘a catalogue of amenities’
ARRIVING IN STYLE
My drive to the world’s best B&B was made very comfortable thanks to Virtuo, which is regenerating the rental car industry. I collected a thoroughly sanitised Mercedes A-Class from a nearby contact-free collection point to my house. No paper-work, no-hassle, and competitively priced.
A Virtuo Mercedes A-Class
But, according to a staggering 771 – and counting – ‘excellent’ reviews on Tripadvisor, I was in for a reality check.
Run by Andy and Julian Banner-Price, The 25 is now a six-bedroom establishment (reduced from 10 bedrooms when they took it over five years ago) with each room or suite decorated differently and distinctly.
I can’t pretend it was to my taste, or anywhere near it.
Though I’m sure the chaps would probably think my own soft furnishing preferences and choice of wall art a tad dull.
They’re certainly worlds removed from glittered feature walls and an un-dressed mannequin lamp that gave me a body-confidence issue by checkout.
Come sunset my room was ablaze with neon blue hues which, coupled with the complimentary Elemis toiletries in the bathroom, made me feel like I was on a BA night flight bound for Tokyo.
Alas, when I woke, I was still in Torquay.
Once I looked beyond the décor and surface decoration it was quite obvious these hoteliers have gone not just the extra mile but an extra 26 miles to give a service most five-star London hotels fail to offer.
The attention to detail was pathologically perfect.
The tiling in the bathroom is a love-letter to geometry – everything lines up in each spotless nook and sterilised cranny.
The bedding is pressed to within an inch of its life and the towels fluffier than Joan Collins’s best party wig.
‘The attention to detail was pathologically perfect,’ enthuses William. ‘The bedding is pressed to within an inch of its life.’ Pictured is the Shoalstone Suite
‘An un-dressed mannequin lamp [pictured] gave me a body-confidence issue by checkout,’ says William
Each room has a catalogue of amenities such as iPads, Amazon Alexas, smart TVs with Netflix, hair straighteners, blackout curtains, high-speed Wi-Fi (I got a 72MB download speed), air conditioning, Dyson fans, heated mist-free bathroom mirrors, to name only some.
My own suite – the Shoalstone – had a choice of three televisions, including one in the shower.
I can’t forget to mention the daily carousel of delicious homemade treats. My visit began with the immediate offering of Andy’s fudge.
‘The tiling in the bathroom is a love-letter to geometry,’ writes William of his Shoalstone ensuite (pictured). ‘Everything lines up in each spotless nook and sterilised cranny’
In-room amenities include iPads, Amazon Alexas, smart TVs with Netflix, hair straighteners, blackout curtains, high-speed Wi-Fi and heated mist-free bathroom mirrors. Pictured is the Shoalstone Suite
‘Come sunset my room was ablaze with neon blue hues, which made me feel like I was on a BA night flight’
Breakfast is served downstairs in a room decorated more in-line with a conventional Torquay guest house, although oddly I did start to miss busts of sunglass-wearing zebras and hidden strip lighting.
Ordering from the à la carte menu (the buffet’s rightly off due to the ol’ corona) I chose two poached eggs on toast, and coffee – deceptively simple and so often served incorrectly.
The Colombian filter coffee (my favourite – Americanos are worse than dishwater) came in a silver pot with just enough for three cups.
The crustless toast had gone to the same Swiss finishing school as the bathroom tiling – each slice and egg a perfect, happy twin of its partner. Poirot, the crime hero created by Torquay’s most famous writer, would have greatly approved.
The 25’s breakfasts are geometrically eye-catching, as the image on the left reveals. On the right – The 25’s Viennese Whirls
William is hugely impressed with the breakfast (not shown), which is served ‘downstairs in a room decorated more in-line with a conventional Torquay guest house’ (publicity image supplied by The 25)
You would think the B&B employed an army of staff to maintain the immaculate housekeeping and be across renovations and touch-ups. But, no – everything is done by the gentlemen themselves, with no help at all.
They cook, they clean, they iron, they paint, they design, they build. They’re the two-man answer to the boys from Queer Eye with an added spritz of Alex Polizzi.
As I bid farewell to Andy and Julian I was presented with a goodie bag of snacks and sustenance to keep me going on my journey east. The only other hotel I’ve had anything similar to this was at a boutique hotel in St Tropez. A final, thoughtful, parting touch from the gentlemen, who plan to run online courses next year to share their winning philosophy and techniques.
The dynamic B&B duo: Married couple Andy (left) and Julian Banner-Price
There is no army of staff keeping The 25 spick and span – Andy and Julian do everything themselves
The Goodrington Room has ‘a luscious teal and mulberry colour scheme, over-sized lamps and a seating area’, says The 25’s website
In the Oddicombe Room ‘a giant orange gerbera makes a bold statement as a contemporary feature wall in this quiet rear-facing room’, say Andy and Julian
Back in London I couldn’t help but feel pleasantly surprised I’d been converted to the charms of the famous B&B.
Perhaps the clues were there before I arrived – with two weeks to go until my stay I was sent a list of recommended restaurants in the area and was told they would take care of a reservation if I’d like to pick an establishment and time. How many other B&Bs offer such an efficient concierge service?
Isn’t it rather wonderful to think that, despite the grim experiences we have all repeatedly had with British hospitality, there is a shining, sequinned beacon of perfection, modestly soaring above the competition?
It’s just a shame it’s in Torquay.
Watch this space for the story behind The 25’s incredible success…
The 25 Boutique B&B is open throughout October, Fridays and Saturdays only in November, is closed in December – and will reopen on January 29, 2021.
For hassle-free car rental visit Virtuo.