Bray, England: Monkey Island Estate is a far cry from the '90s video game

Nothing has ever changed my expectations quite like Monkey Island – nothing has ever set quite so high a bar. I'm thinking about this as I check into an estate on the outskirts of London with, coincidentally, an identical name. But while the polite – borderline formal – lady at check-in explains where my room is, my mind drifts back to the 1990s and the happy days I spent playing that computer game with idiotic pirate-in-training Guybrush Threepwood.

The days and weeks I spent with him on Monkey Island could hardly be more different from the ones I will now spend on Monkey Island. Back then, I was a fat 12-year-old, eyes locked on the screen of my Commodore Amiga 500. Today I am pretending that I am the sort of person who belongs at this grand estate sitting on an eyot (the proper name for an island in the River Thames) just outside the village of Bray.

The Monkey Island Estate has been here in one form or another since the 1700s, though it's been a hotel on and off for the past 200 years. Today, the grand white mansion on a pretty little isle looks very much like a finished article, even though work is under way  – a cottage on the mainland will be upgraded to include a small swimming pool and gym. Despite this being more than a year behind schedule, it's easy to be impressed by this place. By the neat gardens, by the dedication to maintaining the original building's Grade I listed status, and even by the restaurant, which finds itself under pressure to be excellent, without seeming too outstanding.

This may seem like an odd predicament, but it's easier to understand when you know that the Monkey Island Estate is a pleasant stroll from the picturesque village of Bray. If that name is familiar at all, it's because, despite having a population of less than 5000, Bray is home to two three-Michelin-star restaurants, half of Britain's total. These are the Roux brothers' classically French Waterside Inn and Heston Blumenthal's insane Willy Wonkian dreamscape, The Fat Duck. In addition to the former "best restaurant in the world", Blumenthal also owns The Hind's Head, a gastropub that has a Michelin star in its own right, and The Crown at Bray, which may look like a regular rural boozer from the outside, but is also no slouch when it comes to a bit of pub grub.

In such a neighbourhood, it's perhaps understandable why the Monkey Island Estate's restaurant wanted to complement rather than compete with the locals.

Speaking of braying – as well as the village, the Monkey Island Estate is also close to Windsor Castle and Eton College, the upper-class boarding school that generates prime ministers at a regular rate, including the incumbent Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.

Rather than dwell on that strange institution's alumni, I go back to faking that I could cut it in such circles. I'm sure Guybrush Threepwood would have approved, especially when I head to the property's barge-based spa.

My time on the estate ends in the spa with a floating massage, a treatment that requires me to lie on something like a waterbed while a therapist, apparently capable of magic, leads me to the border of the Land of Nod. The third game in the Lucas Arts series was called Escape From Monkey Island, but lying there in a pure state of bliss, I think I'd rather stay a bit longer.


Jamie Lafferty was a guest of Monkey Island Estate.




Etihad, Emirates/Qantas and Qatar fly to London, via hubs in the Persian Gulf, from Melbourne and Sydney. See;


Monkey Island Estate has doubles from $400. The hotel can help with reservations at Bray's exclusive restaurants. See