Barbados, The House
The lowdown Situated on the platinum-lined, luxurious west coast of Barbados, overlooking the crystal clear Caribbean sea, is the newly refurbished boutique hotel The House. If like me you love personal touches and want a tailor-made experience out of your holiday (and the odd sighting of Rihanna and Simon Cowell), this home away from home resort should be on your must-visit list. Firstly, it's adults only - I never realised until I was there quite how noisy overexcited children can be - secondly, it has a private villa feel to it (hence why it's called The House) - there is no normal reception desk and instead all staff are trained in every part of the hotel's operations, the lounge is filled with oversized comfy white sofas and as there are only 34 rooms, the place never feels too busy. Thirdly, everything about your stay is about you - the mini bar is filled according to what your tipple of choice and sweet cravings are (they give you a welcome call one week before your arrival to ask you) and you are treated to a much-needed, relaxing 30- minute complimentary jet lag massage on arrival (apparently I have the worst knots in my back the masseuse has ever come across - thank you London!) The place is chic and understated, luxurious but not contrived and whilst it is beyond peaceful, it boasts more character than I have ever come across in a hotel, which I put it down to the staff (known as the hotel 'ambassadors') - they are super friendly with a cheeky sense of humour, remember your name and even what you like to drink.
The rooms Better referred to as suites with sofas and all the trimmings, each room boasts a minimalist neutral decor with enough cushions, rugs and handcrafted Bajan artwork to give a nice homely feel which other Caribbean hotels often lack. Everything is the height of modern luxury - the bed linen is made of Egyptian cotton (trust me, you can tell), the radio is in fact an iPod docking station, the coffee machine is an actual espresso machine (not just a kettle) and the bathroom's marble twin sinks are lined with complimentary Elemis products. Oh and not forgetting the incredible power shower that has so many jets and heads that it requires an engineering degree to operate. The top rate rooms also boast a private roof deck, a plunge pool or a sea-view balcony depending on what you are after.
Eating and drinking Whilst the bar is 24 hours and the Bajans do a mean Rum Punch, it's the food that is really worth writing home about. Breakfast comes with a glass of champagne (the way every day should start!) and guests can choose from the traditional English fry-up or the healthier options of cereal and fresh fruit. For lunch, The House's new menu is just as impressive - it took me 20 minutes to order as there were so many good options, although the spicy beef tacos with a side of avocado was my favourite. Each day, complimentary afternoon tea and yummy evening canapes are served and staff will often surprise you with homemade sorbets and fresh fruit at your sun lounger. Beach dining in a candlelit cabana is available for the romantics and the renowned Daphne’s, the modern Italian counterpart to the famous Chelsea eatery in London, is right next door. We were lucky enough to try the chef's tasting menu - it's Italian but not as you know it. You can't leave without trying the fresh scallops wrapped in Parma ham, the penne pasta with lobster and the home-made asparagus ravioli (the chef's mother's recipe from Italy).
Out and about Although the hotel is right on the white sandy beach and the sun loungers are really comfortable, you have to get out and about to get the full Barbados experience. The House actually offers free watersports daily and even if you don't want to get in the water, the boat trip is worth it alone. I tried my hand at waterskiing (and epically failed) and swimming with gigantic turtles. Free water taxis are available too to take you between the other west coast hotels - it's great if you want a change of scenery and to use the other resorts’ facilities. The Colony Hotel has stunning gardens, a poolside bar (you don't even have to leave the water to order) and a great lunch menu (the salads are amazing). We also recommend a catamaran cruise – five hours out ar sea where you can snorkel, bask / burn in the boiling sun to some Reggae and drink as much rum as you can. What's not to love? Also, Hunte's Gardens is an island favourite – it’s a recreated Caribbean jungle and a haven of tranquility that you have to see to believe. Whilst there, make sure you visit the untouched east coast of the island too - it's called the Cornwall of Barbados as the rocky, choppy sea is loved by surfers. For fellow shoppers, the new Lime Grove is heaven. From Louis Vuitton to Cartier and a shop which sells Maje and Isabel Marant (I got far too excited about this), it's the island’s brand new shopping mall that is sure to put a dent in the credit card (holiday spending doesn't count, right?). It even has an outdoor cocktail bar that according to locals is the place to "lime" (chill and drink) on Friday and Saturday nights. Afterwards you can saunter over to Priva nightclub for the Bajan house party experience. However it appears locals don't go out until 2am so factor in an afternoon power nap to keep up.
The details Seven nights in Barbados with Virgin Holidays, including scheduled flights with Virgin Atlantic from London Gatwick direct to Barbados, accommodation at The House by Elegant Hotels on a breakfast included basis with transfers included starts from £1,489. Price is based on 2 adults travelling and sharing a standard room, and includes all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Prices are based on departures on 01 May 2013. To book visit virginholidays.co.uk, or call 0844 557 3859.