There are few places we’d rather be in autumn than The Cotswolds, England’s celeb-magnet countryside retreat. But a recent Chicago trip took us to what is surely the best Stateside approximation of the experience: the historic Deer Path Inn. Dating to 1929, it was recently given, if we might say so ourselves, quite a smart makeover – without disturbing a whit of its essential Anglo charms.
Indeed, this is a hotel that takes its proper Englishness very seriously. Located in uber-posh Lake Forest, and just a quick train ride to downtown Windy City, you can veritably shut out the outside world for a few days here, and pretend you’re staying perhaps in Chipping Norton or Stow-on-Wold. Even the music programming (bless) is all Renaissance over Rihanna.
Here are ten brilliant reasons to go this fall/winter.
One of those impossibly charming little towns, it also happens to be one of the richest in America. There’s an old-timey-seeming train station and a terribly inviting downtown, with elegant little shops lining the century-old Market Square. Bliss.
Dating to 1929, the spot-on Tudor style building in which the Deer Path is housed will make you think you’ve stepped into a nobleman’s estate sometime during the reign of Henry VIII. Ask for a room looking out over the garden, so you don’t actually even have to see any cars from your window during your stay.
The Anglo Soundtrack
Face it, nothing spoils the mood of a historic hotel quite like hearing Katy Perry tunes blasting from the sound system (And we’re pretty sure she wasn’t around in 1929.) Here, the music fits the aesthetic in the most elegant way possible, making for a genuinely atmospheric stay.
In a nod to standards of contemporary comfort, this is where the most concessions to modernism were undertaken. And so the rooms are plush but stylishly refined (the Manor House Suites are vigorously recommended), with immersive artwork, elegant antique-styled beds, Frette linens, gorgeous stone bathrooms, and chicly subdued color schemes. Best feature? Rather than the same old cliched mini-bar, there is a classy little bar station with a cultivated spirits selection – perfect for a late night Grand Marnier.
A Proper (But Chic) Afternoon Tea
It took awhile, but cosmopolitan Americans are just now catching on to what the English knew all along: nothing makes an autumn Sunday like a leisurely, fancy afternoon tea. The Deer Path does it trad but modern, with au courant savories like smoked salmon pinwheel, shrimp and lobster salad croissant, and, for that global/Eastern touch, the Deer Path Inn Maki. They’ve got their own 1929 Blend tea; but we loved the Cherry Fig, the Pomegranate Dragon Fruit and the Chinese Snow Buds (all curated by Master of Tea, one Malcolm Ferris-Lay). The scones, especially, are to die for. And it’s all taken in a chic garden-view sunroom / conservatory with strikingly pattered flooring and stylishly contemporary table settings. (It feels a bit like being at Selfridge’s…)
The White Hart Pub / The Bar
Sometimes you just needs a good “bangers and mash.” And The Bar, where the scene gets a bit more buzzy, does one of the best versions this side of the Atlantic. But it also serves up some serious sushi – perhaps a Nigiri platter or king crab maki paired with a Pure Dawn Sake? The subterranean room is done up in cool, contemporary-clubby style, with a coffered ceiling, lots of dark leather – and a private wine room. Next room over is the more cozy White Hart Pub, great for a cider fish n chips, Welsh lamb stew and a couple of pints while you take in a Liverpool F.C. or London Arsenal match.
The English Room
Naturally, they would have a restaurant called The English Room. And while the main dining room, with its beamed ceiling, oil paintings and medieval-ish chandeliers, is a bit more minding-of-your-manners, one can also choose to dine in the casual conservatory or garden. Start with a classic English pea soup, and either stick to the Anglo theme with the almond crusted Dover sole, or cross the Channel for the utterly sublime foie gras in cherry port reduction. The also really know their wines.
Lorded over by a majestic and watchful-eyed buck sculpture, this is where fashionable ladies (and gents) come to lunch away the afternoon, especially at the weekend. There’s a graceful fireplace for chillier weather.
Some of our favorite hotels have mascots: The Jefferson in DC has Monti the beagle, Le Bristol in Paris has its two Burmese cats Fa-raon and Kléopatre. But the Deer Path has a…squirrel. The inimitable Mr. Nutkin doesn’t actually reside indoors, of course. But he lives on the grounds and shows up for regular feedings and Instagram ops. Don’t check out without having met the little guy.
Pair With Your Favourite British Band
Play to the theme by booking in to The Deer Path to coincide with a Chicago tour appearance by your favorite British music artists. May we suggest? Slowdive play the Vic Theatre November 5; Modern English are at the Empty Bottle November 7; and the inimitable (Steven Patrick) Morrissey will be at the Riviera Theater November 25.