Hotelier Interview: Julian Dunkerton of No. 131 and The Lucky Onion Group.

The Lucky Onion Group – comprising of No. 131 The Promenade, No. 38 The Park and The Wheatsheaf Inn – have all been designed and decorated with love and care. From sumptuous free-standing baths in the bedrooms, to the softest mohair throws on the beds: every item has been sourced from British suppliers and producers and is of the highest quality.

The attention to detail doesn’t stop at design and décor: No.131 and The Wheatsheaf Inn both boast phenomenal kitchens whose menus showcase quality, locally-sourced ingredients and simple yet delicious rustic food. Combine this with their warm and convivial atmospheres and you have the very best of British hospitality. These are spaces where modernity seamlessly melds with tradition and where elegant, refined luxury is palpable without being ostentatious.

Wheatsheaf Boutique Hotel

Julian’s story:

I travel a lot myself and always hunt out the most interesting, exclusive and really different hotels. I like seeing things in other parts of the world and bringing them to my locality and this area was really lacking in this kind of place – this kind of ambiance, décor, independence, attention to detail and, in particular, this love of food. I like beautiful properties and I love brilliant food and it just wasn’t here, so I thought – how can I deliver something special for Cheltenham?

The property had sat empty for a very long time and was such a beautiful property that I felt I had to bring it back to life. You get an emotional attachment to a good building and it’s important to us that all of our properties deliver that excitement. Our décor is about using the best materials and beautiful furnishings – to offer an understated, cool design as opposed to opulence. The aesthetic of quality things is enough – you don’t have to have gold and bling, like a luxury hotel might have had historically. Here it’s about independence of spirit – it’s a much more informal atmosphere and the staff are attentive without being in your face. It doesn’t matter who you are – whether you’re a film star or a businessman – you come here and you feel relaxed.

No. 131 The Promenade Boutique Hotel

The bar has a great atmosphere and we have a huge choice of alcohols – if you want a gin, we probably have 20 /25 to choose from of all ages and varieties. For us, a drink should be an experience – a cocktail should be wonderful. The food is also fantastic – I’m a complete foodie and our Director of Food, Ronnie Bonetti, is delivering amazing food, beautifully presented but without the pretentiousness. We’re about wonderful, locally sourced ingredients delivered in a way that makes you feel comfortable in your surroundings.

My favourite place in the hotel is a wonderful table just off the bar – it’s at exactly the right height for me, surrounded by wines, cabinets and cheeses with the nice buzz from the bar nearby. I love it and you can find me there regularly, I live very locally so I frequent all my establishments – which is why I started them up, really!

No. 38 The Park Boutique Hotel

What’s special about us is our love for our properties – it’s a love affair with all of them and, if you love them, then you care for them. I eat and drink here a lot, so if something isn’t right I pick up on it. That’s the beauty of an owner-run place and that’s when you know it’s loved – when the owner is alongside you experiencing it! You’ve got to have a sense of pride and there aren’t many places like us with this level of detail, quality of food and ambiance outside of London. Once people have stayed here, they tend to talk about it and word of mouth is a very powerful thing.

Book The Wheatsheaf Inn now

Book No. 131 The Promenade now

Book No. 38 The Park now

Liz Wootton
Liz fancies herself as a somewhat intrepid explorer and has travelled across Asia, the Americas, New Zealand and Europe (although she’s still entirely lost without Google Maps…). With a passion for exercise, a sincere love of food and a penchant for adopting the local animals, you’ll most likely find her hiking up a mountain, tucking into some local delicacies or feeding carrots to a windswept pony.