Alex Polizzi's Little Black Book of Hotels - 52 Secret Destinations in Great Britain By Alex Polizzi
With hotel reviews so readily available online, it makes you wonder who buys guidebooks any more. So it takes a brave person to bring out a new book of hotel listings, but when it is written by a scion of what is perhaps the most famous hotelkeeping family in the country - the Fortes - then it is definitely worth taking a look at.
The Little Black Book of Hotels is a guide to 52 of Alex Polizzi's personal favourite hotels and bed-and-breakfast establishments. Some are grand, such as Cowley Manor, a 30-bedroom Victorian country house in Gloucestershire, while others are quirky, like the Felin Fach Griffin, a restaurant and pub with seven rooms between the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountains in Powys, mid-Wales.
And it unashamedly includes her mother Olga Polizzi's two hotels: Endsleigh in Devon and Tresanton in Cornwall; as well as Uncle Rocco Forte's three UK properties: the Lowry in Manchester; the Balmoral, Edinburgh; and Brown's, London.
What they all offer is charming but professional service, and the tricky-to-achieve combination of location, decoration and attention to detail, as well as a lack of pretension and a genuine interest in every part of the guest experience.
Having trained at the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, worked at various properties in her family's businesses and presented TV channel Five's The Hotel Inspector, Polizzi should know her stuff. She says that her love of the hotel industry is largely due to her grandfather, Charles Forte, and her passion - and knowledge - of the subject certainly shines through.
Polizzi's very personal introduction to each property provides a flavour of the history of the hotel and a true sense of place, while enticing photographs help to guide you to exactly the kind of establishment you might like to spend some time in.
With four pages devoted to each entry, including useful advice on which bedroom to choose, what to eat if staying in as well as where to eat if you choose to go out, and places of interest to visit near by, you can easily plan a whole weekend away without consulting another publication.
One minor gripe: the book is described in the accompanying press release as "100% independent", and Polizzi says that that she has "often ground my teeth in rage at having to pay for an entry" in a guidebook. However, she then goes on to confirm that each hotel featured has given her a room for a night and a meal, as well as a treatment if one is recommended. So, it's not quite the truly independent guide the publicity would like you to believe.
That aside, for the true hotel enthusiast such as myself, it is a lovely book to curl up with and plan an indulgent weekend away.