Staycation Special: Coppa Club, Sonning on Thames
Despite only being a short trip from Reading train station, Sonning really feels like a cosy Cotswold retreat. The kind of place where strangers say ‘hello’ and not just because they are annoyed you haven’t realised that a till is free at Primark. Rock up on a late Friday afternoon with your beau and check in to your gorgeous room at The Great House. The hotel occupies various buildings ranging from period properties to new-build country manors. Recently refurbished to the highest standard (an excellent mix of country-rustic and modern) and with rooms big enough to comfortably roll around on the floor a few times, it ticks all the boxes for ‘romantic mini-break’.
The Coppa Club serves as an all day restaurant and social hub. Upon entering into the lounge, there are locals enjoying wine and weekend papers whilst their dog sleepily eyes up other dogs across the room. Bulbs within Kilner jars give the lengthy bar an ambient glow and invites you in from the lounge to the dining area. Spacious and well-lit, the dining area consists of cosy leather booths for groups and intimate tables for couples. It’s location right next to the Thames means canal boats can moor right outside and Rosie and Jim can pop in for a quick drink to get away from that annoying Duck.
If you Google the word ‘Sonning,’ you will see that Mr and Mrs Clooney have recently joined the neighbourhood watch. Try to spot them whilst you take a pre-dinner promenade around the charming village. Situated on the Thames, it is proper chocolate box middle England stuff. The Bull Inn is a lovely little country pub, flanked by a church, and with ample outdoor space for a swift pint with the regulars. The chances are you haven’t left London for theatre, but that’s catered for too at the restored 18th Century flour mill naturally titled ‘The Mill’. Head back to your room to freshen up, before your dinner reservations in the Coppa Club.
Taking inspiration from Italian cuisine the menu is steered towards seasonal, fresh and simple cooking. While you wait at the bar for your table, order a half pint of the outstanding Curious I.P.A. to accompany the Sticky Chorizo Sausages. Served in a honey, mustard and paprika glaze these little smoky devils should be the default bar snack whether you are in Barcelona or Berkshire. Once you are seated in the dining area, the sharing plates are the classics of traditional Italian eateries, with fresh fish and cured meats making appearances. Opt for the perfectly seasoned Fresh Crab Bruschetta served with a mint, chilli and lemon yoghurt to accompany your glass of white. Order the Fritto Misto – it is exceptional. The fried seafood dish can often taste like the contents of a rock pool have been dumped into a deep fat fryer then kicked across the floor, but fortunately Coppa Club avoid this trope and perfectly serve up a mixture of scallops, prawns, squid and soft white fish. No grease, a good crunch and a homemade tangy tartare sauce on the side.
When it comes to the main course authentic pizza and pasta dishes are available, but if you’re on a hot date then you definitely want to be ordering from the grill. The Lamb Chops or “Scorched Fingers” are uniquely served with the length of the rib still intact. Delicious grilled meat with minty salsa Verde can be eaten politely with your knife and fork, but go all caveman to enjoy the succulent meat still on the bone. The Sea Trout, which is cooked so beautifully that you could suck it like a Quaver rather than chew, falls apart in soft silky waves. The sides of rustic pan roasted potatoes with garlic and Parmesan along with a portion of seasonal veg will accompany the dishes perfectly, thank you very much.
Obviously you will have room for pudding, and even if you don’t, one look at the menu will soon change your mind. Thank you Great British Bake Off / celiac hipsters for showing us that cakes don’t always need flour: the flour less chocolate and almond cake with orange crème fraiche hits the spot perfectly, and the sticky hazelnut and date pavlova smothered in Frangelico cream and espresso syrup is a delightful pick-me up prior to heading back to your hotel room hand in hand.
THE ORDER PART TWO
Pack some comfortable shoes and enjoy a tranquil morning stroll along the river before breakfast. Returning to the scene of the crime from the previous eve, try to bag a table on the terrace to enjoy the morning sun over the Thames. Breakfast options range from the healthy (smoothies and porridge with muddled fruit), to the indulgent Steak and Eggs. You won’t go wrong with the ‘Smashed’ Avocado, mixed with chilli, lime and coriander, served on toast with poached eggs. It’s definitely what all Mexican people have for breakfast (in Haggerston). If you are feeling ‘PWOPA NAWTY’ then treat yourself to the Full English Skillet Breakfast. Leave the Nutri-Bullet at home and get reacquainted with your old friends bacon, sausage, baked beans and black pudding that honestly tastes better than the black pudding you are thinking of right now. Ignore that and order it. Or the aforementioned eggs.
Was expecting to see George Clooney handing out Nespresso cartridges at breakfast. He wasn’t. Gutted.
4 – Countryside is sexy. Think Poldark and Pride and Prejudice. Aawww look at the swans!