Luxury Hotels: Itís on a cold rainy day that we drive to the Green House Hotel Ė Iím hoping that, as the name suggests, it will be warm inside.
The friendly staff certainly are as we are checked into our spacious room of this luxury hotel, which has a rather prestigious title to live up to.
Being known as Ďthe greenest hotel in the UKí does not come without its expectations, and, as we soon learn, it is something the Green House owners have not gone into with their eyes closed.
The privately owned Grade II-listed Victorian villa has been transformed in a passionate attempt to prove that luxury and eco-consciousness can co-exist.
So my fiance and I are keen to find out if this aim has been realised as we head to the Green House, which is near Bournemouth beach - a two-hour drive from London - for a one-night stay. On the surface, the 32-bedroom hotel and restaurant looks like any other boutique hotel.
Our large double bedroom is beautifully furnished with a reclaimed Victorian roll top bath, a super king bed, a 32-inch LED flat-screen TV (with noise-restricted volume) and an en suite with a natural stone basin and walk-in shower. We also have a stunning view with the sea just in sight - and we are just a few minutesí walk from the centre of town.
However, digging deeper, itís clear that painstaking research has gone into every aspect of the hotelís design to ensure the impact on the environment is minimised.
Solar thermal energy is used, showers pump out fewer litres of water than normal, 100 per cent wool fabrics are featured while the solid hard wood furniture used is either recycled or hand crafted in the UK from fallen trees damaged through storms or disease. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. The 60-cover hotel restaurant in which weíre dining tonight has also been designed with being green in mind. The food served is sourced within 30 miles and is organic or home grown where possible.
Itís a major achievement and Iím keen to try the dishes on offer, so we finish our cocktails in the stylish bar before making our way through to peruse the menu.
I start with the Pumpkin Veloute and Vegetable Bhajee with Corriander Oil, which is simply divine. Presented like a work of art, the flavours are fresh and wholesome.
Across the table, my fiance Rich is delving into a Confit of Creedy Carver Duck, Cherries and Smoked Breast, which, in between mouthfuls, he tells me is melt-in-the-mouth delicious. Off to an impressive start, we order a bottle of white wine.
Against each price on the menu is the bottleís carbon footprint, which gives diners the chance to make up their own minds about how green they want to be Ė although I donít realise this until after Iíve ordered what turns out to be nearly the worst bottle of wine for the environment.
Our main courses arrive. Mine is the vegetarian Roast Beefsteak Mushroom, served with Cocotte Potatoes, Roast Shallot and English Tomatoes. Itís unlike any veggie dish Iíve tried before - the mushroom has the texture of meat and is bursting with flavour while the potatoes are soft and creamy. Rich has opted for the Whole Roast Dover Sole, with Buttered English Samphire, Watercress Salad and Hollandaise Sauce - again, itís a unique combination which pays off handsomely.
We finish our meals with a selection of cheeses - the perfect end to what has been a quality meal, the standard of which matches that of high-end restaurants in London.
As a concept the Green House Hotel seems to be leading the way in terms of eco-tourism - showing that it is possible to combine luxury travel and sustainability.
And, as we check out, I canít help but feel a little bit smug about having a lovely weekend Ė and while helping the environment, although, next time, I think Iíll be more considerate when choosing the wine.
Getting there: Double Rooms start at £115 per room per night (inc breakfast). Three-course meal from £25 pp. To book, visit The Green House Hotelís website www.thegreenhousehotel.com or call 01202 498900.
Carol Driver is a journalist with more than 13 years' experience writing, subbing and editing at national and regional publications and websites in the UK. Carol is currently the group editor at TNT Multimedia, which has magazines in London, Australia and New Zealand. She previously worked at national newspaper website the Mail Online well as writing for a host of other publications. She has also ...(Read More)