What is a Top 50 Boutique Hotel?

By Chris Lowe | 16/11/2021

Photo by Quark Studio

If you are reading this, you are probably one of two people: either in search of an amazing hotel to stay in the UK as part of a special occasion or a hotel operator that believes they have what it takes to be named as one of the Top 50 Boutique Hotels. That being said, we will endeavour to cover both questions, so please read on!

So, what is a boutique hotel and how do you define one from a normal hotel?

The term boutique is used to refer to many things, hotels occasionally being one. All usually share some common elements. They tend to be smaller, fashionable, offering a premium and more unique experience, therefore these tend to be independent businesses rather than part of a branded chain.

In the world of hotels, a boutique hotel is all of the above.

A guide to what we look for:

  • Size, not too big to be lost, not too small to be cramped.
  • Food and drink of a quality that our Top 50 Gastropub chefs would want to eat and our Top 50 Cocktail Bars would nod their approval to.
  • Design and quality of all the hotel facilities.
  • Unique offering which works with its location.

Does size matter and is size about its rooms or the space it occupies?

Boutique hotels tend to be smaller than the large managed chains, but sometimes can be spread across many acres of land, so small is perhaps better quantified by the number of rooms. For Top 50 Boutique Hotels, we suggest the hotels are between 5 and 50 rooms. We are not strict on this however and have some flexibility as size is only one element and we wouldn’t want to ignore a beautifully unique hotel with an incredible experience being offered alongside exquisite food and drink just because it has 51 rooms! But in the list you won’t find anything that is larger than 99 rooms and only a few with more than 50, most will sit comfortably in 5 to 50 rooms.

What is a bigger factor is the hotels in this list are considered fashionable and offer a very premium experience, unique in its offer as opposed to a more branded corporate approach - like many of the large managed hotel chains, which require consistency across their vast estates. Instead, we celebrate their uniqueness!

Is the food and drink on offer part of what makes a boutique hotel?

Of course, food and drink, even very good food and drink isn’t unique to boutique hotels but food and drink is integral to being a Top 50 Boutique Hotel. Those listed or wanting to be included need to have more than just a breakfast offer to distinguish it from the very good bed and breakfast establishments we have in the UK.

The food and drink on offer needs to be of a very high quality and available beyond just breakfast.  In fact many of the boutique hotels in this list are classed as some of the best restaurants and gastropubs in the UK with world class chefs in their kitchens. The drinks on offer and their expertise within wine and cocktails are also first class. By scrolling through this list you will find hospitality businesses that offer experiences in dining equal to their rooms on offer. If you are lucky enough to stay at one of the hotels on Top 50 Boutique Hotels, you can be reassured that for a short stay there would be no need to leave to find another restaurant or bar, in fact you would probably find it hard to top the hotels’ menus for both food and drink in the area.

What about the rooms and other facilities?

You’ll see some incredible design in and out of rooms throughout the Top 50 Boutique Hotels. Like beauty, design is in the eye of the beholder and therefore ‘good’ design may not be to everyone’s taste. But each would have considered design to add to the ambience created and elicit preconceived reactions from their guests.

Facilities are however far easier to quantify. But there is no hard and fast rule to the facilities on offer to be included in Top 50 Boutique Hotels list. Several boutique hotels have spas. Some of our list have some of the best spa facilities in the country even. Likewise, the same can be said about on-site gyms and swimming pools – a few do have these luxuries, and they add to the experience but these aren’t deemed as something that defines a boutique hotel.

Is location important?

A Top 50 Boutique Hotel must be within the United Kingdom. One of our main goals for Top 50’s (this includes Top 50 Boutique Hotels, Top 50 Cocktail Bars and Top 50 Gastropubs) is to help all of us who live here discover new places to eat, drink and sleep. But on top of that, we hope that our economy can grow through global tourism and by helping to direct visitors to some of the best places to experience the UK’s food, drink and hospitality they will spread the word to the benefit of all UK business’s.

With that in mind, location is important. With some of the most dramatic rural landscapes and cosmopolitan cities, we are not short of places to visit. Each location offers its own unique opportunities and we would expect the Boutique Hotels to work with this rather than against offering facilities that make the experiences better or easier. If your location is one that is heavily frequented by cyclists, we would hope for adequate storage and maintenance facilities – essentially something that raises the Boutique Hotel above all else searched for in the area by that specific customer.

To conclude…

What makes a hotel boutique, there are several factors but primarily its uniqueness and quality. However, what makes a Top 50 Boutique Hotel is the ability to marry the unique within a location you want to visit in a package that oozes quality and style. In order to make the list though, you must be recognised by your industry peers for this – this isn’t a club you can buy your way into or fake it, you must be consistently delivering and improving so that you become the envy of the industry setting trends for others to follow so much so that, they eventually vote for you to be recognised as a Top 50 Boutique Hotel.