University Arms, an Autograph Collection Hotel Cambridge, United Kingdom
Although there’s been an inn on this site for centuries, the current incarnation has only been open since August 2018. It’s a mix of the traditional trappings one associates with this old-world university town and a modern eye for design and storytelling. We rather liked the fetching porters’ uniforms inspired by Winston Churchill’s pinstriped boiler suit, the Ralph Lauren chandelier made from riding stirrups in the library and the recording of Alan Bennett’s The Wind in the Willows that plays in the loos (make of that what you will).
Clearly proud of its connection to the university, the hotel has a mission for guests to leave more enlightened. Each suite is named after a famous Cambridge graduate. We stayed in the Hawking suite, which came complete with a portrait of the great man and a selection of his books. Not short on creature comforts, it had a gorgeous Regency-style bathroom with freestanding clawfoot bath, two-man rain shower, heated floors and mirror, all made exclusively for the hotel by D R Harris & Co of St James’s, Piccadilly. It would have been easy to while away an afternoon reading, occasionally peeking out of the window to observe the goings-on in Parker’s Piece, but the temptation to head out on one of the hotel’s complimentary bicycles was too great.
The university-inspired design details extended into the bar (as publishers, we couldn’t help but notice the wallpaper, based on end-papers from a book). Here, we plumped for the house speciality – a Cambridge-gin margarita – beautifully presented in a vintage-looking champagne coupe. Dinner was served in the 200-seat dining room, which replicates a university banquet hall, with large medieval-style chandeliers, college coats of arms on the windows and a hearty modern British menu. Our verdict? It graduates with first-class honours.