Focus on Hotel Felix
Where did its name come from? A dog appears on the hotel logo and its statue graces the hotel courtyard. So many ask, 'Is Felix the name of the dog?' The true answer is that the Hotel Felix, which opened in November 2002 in Whitehouse Lane, takes its name from St Felix of Burgundy, the person who introduced Christianity to this region around AD 630 (Felixstowe also takes its name from him). The choice of a name with local associations is symbolic of the determination of the hotel's owner, Jeremy Cassel, to belong to the local community. It's also an auspicious name: in Latin, 'felix' means 'happy' or 'lucky'.
Occupying a former mansion that was built for a surgeon at Addenbrooke's in 1852 and subsequently served as the Country Centre for Cambridgeshire County Council, the hotel displays a classic/contemporary style, in which the character of its original parts has been carefully preserved. With 52 bedrooms and a restaurant seating 45 (with an additional dining room that can be used for private functions or as an 'overflow' for the main restaurant), it is classed as a medium-sized hotel, with a very distinctive character in a city that is not overstocked with really good facilities for visitors.
Shara Ross, the boundlessly energetic General Manager, is passionate about being involved with the local community. She chairs the Cambridge Hoteliers Association and is part of the Cambridge Tourism Partnership, set up last year to manage and develop the visitor industry in the city. Regionally she is part of the Commercial Members Group for the East of England Tourist Board. 'I can go and wave the flag for Cambridge first and the hotel next,' she says. 'The Felix does not aim to be a "destination" hotel, where people would come just for what they find here, but Cambridge is a "destination" city, and we aim to be the hotel of choice for people coming to Cambridge on business or for pleasure.' For business visitors to the University and the Science Park, the hotel has 'wi-fi' connections in every bedroom, as well as in-room safes large enough to take a laptop!
Because the hotel is accessible for the centre of the city, yet enjoys a tranquil atmosphere, it has proved popular with some high-profile visitors. Celebrities who have chosen the Felix include Elaine Paige, Vic Reeves and Nancy Sorrell, Michael Palin, and Alan Whicker, and recently, Her Majesty Shaikha Sabeeka bint Ibrahim al-Khalifa, Queen of Bahrain, and her retinue. But Girton residents shouldn't be intimidated. The Felix restaurant, under the direction of new chef Ian Morgan, offers really good food, including an excellent 'fixed price' lunch menu, that you can enjoy in a relaxed and informal atmosphere. Here the Felix is happy to have retained its country house 'feel', with a terrace overlooking the garden where diners can sit and have a relaxed drink before lunch or dinner, especially on a fine summer's day.
The Felix is also licensed for civil ceremonies, and in keeping with its mission to offer a very personal service, the staff are prepared to meet any unusual requests by the couple. 'Kate Winslett offered bangers and mash at her wedding,' says Shara. 'I'd like to think that if anyone did the same here, I would make sure they were the very best sausages, and the very creamiest mashed potatoes, you could get.' A gazebo has recently been constructed in the garden, and it is hoped that when the necessary licence has been obtained it will be possible to hold outdoor weddings there - one of the very few places in Cambridgeshire where this can happen.
One thing you notice in Hotel Felix is the original artwork that adorns it throughout. Contemporary artists are represented, including Cambridge artist Gail de Cordova, and many works are for sale. But one work of art is NOT for sale: the sculpture of the DOG! Discovered in the grounds during construction work in a very battered state, it has been lovingly restored and now occupies pride of place in the courtyard as the hotel's 'mascot'. It is believed to be a reproduction of a 2nd-century sculpture now in the British Museum, the 'Dog of Alcibiades', a hound thought to be the ancestor of the mastiff. Other Victorian copies of this famous dog exist: a pair adorns the parterre at Basildon Park, Reading, which featured in the latest film of Pride and Prejudice. Which brings us in a roundabout way back to our starting point: Hotel Felix - a thoroughly modern hotel, thoroughly steeped in tradition.
'Focus on Girton' is a series of occasional articles on the public service, commercial, charitable and other organisations of Girton, for the information of local residents. Articles are written independently by members of the Editorial Staff of GPN, with the consent and cooperation of the organisations concerned. The selection of organisations featured in this series is entirely at the discretion of the Editorial Team. The articles do not in themselves represent an endorsement of the products or services of the organisation concerned. No connection exists between the publication of an article and any advertising in the GPN, and the article does not form part of any marketing or other promotional activity on the part of the organisation.