Cannizaro House


I am not a Womble. I’d like to make this entirely clear, just in case any of you were wondering. If I were a Womble, I’d probably fancy myself as the stern and avuncular Great Uncle Bulgaria, but I’m more likely to end up as the ineffectual and slothful Orinoco. In either case, my preferred habitat would be Wimbledon Common, that haven of green space and tranquillity in south-west London, where I could potter around in a restful and undisturbed fashion, where the only sound I heard would be my creator Mike Batt’s irritating yet strangely catchy theme tune. I might not be organised, or work as a team, but I like to think that I, too, would be able to womble free.

Exterior Sunset

However, the existence of the rather splendid Cannizaro House to the south of the Common means that, if I had to put down more permanent roots, I would quite like it to be there. The impressive building was constructed in the early 19th century by the flamboyant Duke of Cannizaro, who had clearly decided that Wimbledon was the perfect place to set up a home-from-home. (The similarities between Italy and SW19 are not immediately apparent, but I’m sure he had his reasons.) Since then, it has hosted a variety of the great and the good, including Wilde, Tennyson and Henry James. And now, the Duchess and I, Orinoco himself.

When we sauntered in on an unusually bright Friday evening, we were greeted charmingly but raised an eyebrow at the bass-heavy sound of ‘chart hits’. The receptionist smiled, “Wedding”. Ah. It comes as little surprise that somewhere as gorgeously ornate as Cannizaro is heavily in demand for society weddings and the conservatory, the Orangerie, had been booked up on the night of our visit. Which was little hardship, as we were dining in the main restaurant, and had heard spectacular things about the food. We were, I think it’s fair to say, excited.

Cannizaro Tim Henman Suite cp

The journey up to the room was a leisurely one, thanks to London’s slowest lift, but we found this a welcome change of pace from the shuddering speed-jolts that can be found at the likes of The Shard, and indeed enjoyed the few moments of rapt contemplation that we had while journeying up the couple of floors to our room. Upon arrival, we were delighted by the crisp, enormous bed (the Duchess promptly annexing her side, as is the dear woman’s wont), the gorgeous views over Cannizaro Park behind, the well-appointed bathroom and, in a splendid touch, a sherry decanter, thoughtfully placed for our refreshment needs.

These needs, for hunger and thirst – terrible things, often very pronounced in my case – were soon met by dinner in the restaurant. I’d actually eaten there a couple of years ago and, it must be said, had been more impressed by the stunning views over the garden than by the food. Now, thankfully, the culinary fireworks matched the panoramas. Under head chef Christian George, the à la carte is modishly short, offering a half-dozen choices per course, all of which are described with one word; ‘Quail’, ‘Pea’ and the like. My quail, a ballotine of the bird bolstered with black pudding and asparagus, was excellent, but the Duchess won both the starter and main course round with her ‘Pea’, which introduced sheep’s curd, ‘pea snow’ and various other bits of trickery to something quite extraordinarily good. She then followed this with a dish of seared yellow fin tuna which stunned me – no tuna aficionado – with its depth of flavour and complexity. It wasn’t just as good a tuna I’d had before at Nobu and the like – it was better. Washed down with a fine bottle of Portuguese red, it was a repast fit for a Duke, or even Oscar Wilde. Our endlessly friendly waitress Poe, a veteran of various Four Seasons hotels, provided the warmth and humour to compliment the fabulous food before us. All in, it was one of the best dinners I’ve had around London for months.

Loggia HiRes

After a restful night’s sleep, followed by an excellent breakfast (full English for me, smoked salmon and scrambled egg for the Duchess – I preferred mine, seizing a small portion of the initiative that I had lost the previous evening), we prepared, reluctantly, to head across the Common once more back to civilisation. As we departed, across the suspiciously clean green spaces (perhaps due to our furry friends and their antics during the night), a little tune came into my throat, and burst out, unannounced. ‘Underground, overground, wombling free…’

The Duchess looked at me, askance. Reader, you would not wish for such a fate. And so I piped down, remained docile and well-behaved and carried on walking, retrieving the odd item of rubbish as I went. Perhaps, when I head to Wimbledon, I do revert to Wombledom after all. I can think of worse things to do.

View Hotel Info, Rates & Availability


Leave A Reply