Driving up the twisty, foliage festooned driveway of the estate that was once owned by Britain’s very own Ex Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, the grand and imposing architectural masterpiece that is Hampton Manor took me almost by surprise as it suddenly loomed into view in all its resplendent glory. This was a fittingly impressive preview of what was to be an awe-inspiring, two-day foodie staycation break.
Hampton Manor delivers the best of both history and modernity: managing to be steeped in its heritage, with a nod to contemporary sensibility. The rooms seamlessly fuse period features with modern design, each of them individually styled. We stayed in the Henrietta Maria suite; with a dark green forest inspired decor, resplendent with an oversized bathtub and magnificent, sweeping windows looking out onto the estate, which all create a fantastical, cocooned feel to the room.
The hotel’s sweeping staircase, complete with magnificent chandelier, all made me feel like I was part of the cream of British society of a bygone era each time I walked up and down the stairs. Fittingly, the staircase leads to the Parlour, which felt like the heartbeat of Hampton Manor with its muted calming decor; a mix of soft lavender, gentle floral motifs, greys, creams and soft lighting. It also has it’s vinyl record player where you can bring and play your own music and be resident DJ for part of your evening’s activities. It’s the perfect spot for indulging pre drinks aperitifs and masterfully mixed cocktails made by the hotel’s resident forager and mixologist, who uses ingredients grown on the estate to inspire his inimitable cocktails.
This sense of provenance spills into the Peels, which is the Hotel’s main restaurant. I can attest to just how deserving it is of its Michelin star credentials after experiencing the world class 4-course tasting menu, complete with wine pairings for each course. The creamed cabbage with exmoor caviar starter was a tantalising preamble to the razor thin perfectly roasted and delicately seasoned potato stack, all of which is grown on the estate’s garden. The grouse with mushrooms, brown sauce and barley that followed had a more-ish richness and earthiness that left me wanting more. This smorgasbord was completed by an utterly delectable raspberries and cream pudding brimming with a tantalising freshness. Excellent vegetarian and pescatrian options are also served at Peel’s where the food served is seasonal and organic.
Breakfast was also a splendid affair, served in the Nytimber House – a bright, light filled, glass roofed atrium complete with majestic chandelier, flowers, foliage and finery. Breakfast never felt so glamorous. The first meal of the day here is a masterclass in classics; from continental breakfast, to locally produced yogurt with fresh fruit combos, traditional english breakfast to the mouth watering perfectly poached eggs with salmon, there is something for every palate.
The atrium is also where afternoon tea is served, or you have the winsome option of collecting a picnic basket to have anywhere on the estate – which is exactly what I did. With 45 acres of land I had enough space to find a spot to call my own and have my very own ‘Lady of the Manor Moment’. And let me tell you, the basket did not disappoint. This was not your average picnic basket. It was a delightful spread of freshly made sausage rolls; glorious glazed pastry and all, crumbly warm scones – straight from the oven – served with the creamiest clotted cream and jam. The soft, extra chocolatey brownie had some serious competition from the oh-so-pretty raspberry tart with its perfect flaky pastry. All of this thoughtfully provided with a picnic blanket and champagne to make for a truly memorable experience, and the inevitable snooze under the sun on the lawn. Absolute bliss!
I was barely over the gloriously snooze-inducing indulgence of the afternoon tea and then it was time for wine tasting and a tour of the charming Walled Garden which was built in 1891 and has evolved into a carefully tended space where the estate’s organic produce is grown. I was impressed by both the wines and the tasting class hosted by James; who owns the estate together with his wife, with its emphasis on sourcing wines that are sustainable and also have to pass rigorous quality controls in order to be stocked at Hampton Manor. The commitment to quality and environmental responsibility runs consistently throughout the Hampton Manor experience.
Adjacent to the walled garden is the Smoke, Hampton Manor’s rustic restaurant where; you guessed it, everything is cooked over fire pits. The candle light, the roaring fires and melt- in- your mouth meat and vegetable dishes with accompanying wine all come together to make for a truly memorable evening. The setting is communal and convivial, with the ‘s’mores -for -afters’ by the fireside topping up a pretty perfect evening.
Even with its undeniable grandeur and stateliness Hampton Manor provides the sort of comfort that will make you unwind almost as soon as you step in. It’s the winning combination of the care provided by the delightful staff, the world class wine and cocktails, the charming afternoon tea, the sprawling grounds and the stunning attention to detail at Hampton Manor that have me convinced – there has never been a better time for a restorative foodie UK staycation.