It is a beautiful spring Sunday morning and I am in a luxury hotel in Hampshire trying to follow the fairly long winded instructions on the in-room iPad on how to make the perfect coffee. A battle is then ensuing as I try to work out if my water is boiling in the world’s quietest kettle (which is also fairly attractive to look at), before then pouring the water through ceramic drippers, soaking, stirring and heating the cup as I go; have they not heard of Nespresso?
The pouting is therefore in full swing as I settle down on the plush sofa with a blanket to read my magazine and listen to the birds, until I take a sip. It is better than Nespresso; it might actually the best coffee I’ve ever had. It’s supplied by a company called Allpress and a quick google to see how I haven’t heard of it and where I can get it from confirms what I already suspect; it’s not available anywhere in the UK except London (and this hotel it appears). Ah well, I settle back down, snuggle up and have another two cups.
History of Heckfield Place
We are staying at Heckfield Place, a luxury hotel in Hampshire I decided to book into after reading an article in one of last years’ Condé Nast Traveller magazines, a publication that is responsible for the presence of most of hotels on my “I must go there” list.
The back story is intriguing; a beautiful Georgian manor built in the mid 18th century that has been famed through the years for some of England’s most beautiful pleasure gardens and the production of all manner of dairy, meat, vegetables and fruit, mostly notably of the exotic variety grown in “hot houses” (a greenhouse or orangery in my terms!). Bits of what was originally a 2,350 acre estate have been sold through the years until the 1980s when it became an events and conference centre, sitting at a still respectable 438 acres that the Heckfield Place of today still retains.
The hotel was bought by an elusive U.S. based billionaire in 2002, where he continued to run it as a conference centre before refurbishing it ready for an unveiling as a luxury hotel in 2012. Things did not go to plan though and for one reason or another, the opening kept being pushed back.
I had seen Heckfield Place pop up a few times across various publications over the years, generally touted as one of the most highly anticipated hotel openings, but sometimes with some speculation as to whether it would actually ever open. To say this hotel was a long time coming is an understatement; it wasn’t until six years after the original opening date that it finally threw open its doors and began welcoming guests in September 2018.
One of the hotel’s main draws is their eco-credentials; the bio-dynamic farm is the centre of the estate and supplies a significant proportion of the produce used in the kitchens. Their journey is not yet complete though and the aim of the game is for the hotel to achieve total self-sustainability.
Arriving at Heckfield Place is everything you would want for a country escape, the approach is via a long sweeping drive before the trees open to reveal a red brick country house with a suite of Land Rovers lined up outside. We are greeted by the friendly porters and a lovely Labrador, in true country style your four legged friends are welcome here as well.
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After our check-in, we are escorted to our room by one of the very friendly receptionists. We have gone for the entry level “Friends” room; this hotel is a tad on the pricy side, most of their room levels are upwards of four figures, with the very top level room hitting an eye watering £10k!
This is no standard entry level room through, the room is around 35 sqm and has an open plan bedroom and cosy living room leading onto a tiny “entrance hall”, with a decent amount of closet space built in. The room is on the ground floor and there are two sets of french doors leading out onto a private terrace with views over the courtyard and old stable block that now houses the Hearth restaurant. On the terrace itself, set in lots of potted greenery, there is a table and chair set, the perfect place to drink your coffee and admire the view.
Our lovely receptionist lady gives us a whistle stop tour of the room, including letting us know that the floor is made of living bamboo and sprayed with water regularly to keep it alive! The style, which I have named “modern farmhouse luxe”, has such a laid back and inviting vibe I do my usual trick of throwing myself down on the super-king size bed to check that its as good or better than my one at home. My bed at home, along with the linens and pillows, was the most researched element of our furniture purchases when we bought our house and even now it makes me happy every time I sink into it at the end of a long day.
There are therefore very few reasons I will ever stay in a bed less comfy than my own and it certainly won’t be on a relaxing weekend break! Luckily, the bed is cloud-like and better than mine. Pillows is something I have always struggled to get right (they seem to lose their “poofiness” really quickly) and these have that all important bounce back quality. I ask the lady who is chatting away with Danny where they are from and make a mental note. The weekend was too relaxing though and I have completely forgotten what she said.
Top Tip: I recommend booking through the luxury hotel website, Mr & Mrs Smith. They have a beautifully curated selection of boutique hotels that never fail to disappoint, along with a best price guarantee where they price match and give you a £50 voucher for your next booking on the platform if you find the same stay cheaper anywhere else.
They also offer a Mr & Mrs Smith ” Extra” with every booking; for Heckfield Place, this is currently a free bottle of the sommelier’s choice of English wine in your room.
The countryside feel of the room still has our modern luxuries; there is an Apple TV in the room, which on departure of our hostess, Danny immediately locates Sky Sports on. My travel essential UE Boom speaker is rendered obsolete due to the iPod dock and Bang & Olufsen speakers. There is also an iPad that has everything you would want to know about the estate, including activities and pricing.
In the living room area we have a a fruit basket and a plentiful supply of fresh walnuts left for us with our own nutcracker. I can’t ever remember having a freshly cracked walnut, but they are much better than the ready shelled ones and I eat every single one over the course of our stay. We also have a bottle of Hampshire Coates & Seely pink sparkling wine to enjoy with a handwritten note, courtesy of our booking agent, Mr & Mrs Smith. A printed itinerary gives me an overview of our bookings and activities at the hotel over the next few days. There is also a second handwritten note from the hotel welcoming us which contains the only missed detail of our entire weekend, my name was mis-spelt! Fortunately, I don’t struggle to move past it.
A beautiful oak cabinet sits at the side of the room that houses an impressive complimentary mini bar; salted almonds, cheese and walnut crackers and homemade chocolate chip cookies with an array of cordials in flavours such as lemon verbena and blood orange with rosemary. Spirits, local ales and Pump Street Chocolate are also provided for an additional charge.
The bathroom is on the smaller side but well proportioned, the rain shower is spacious and powerful, however the real joy comes after you exit and wrap yourself in the bathrobe. It was soft, luxurious, lightweight and possibly the most comfortable I have ever been. I didn’t know I could get so excited by a bathrobe and before you think I’m crackers, try one and tell me that with a straight face. They are made by a company called Ploh who mainly provide luxury bathrobes to high end hotel brands, mostly based in Asia such as Aman, Alila and Mandarin Oriental. Even Danny broke the mould and actually had a visible reaction on putting one on, so they immediately made it to first position on our Christmas list.
Update: We are now the proud owners of two Ploh robes. They are every bit as good as I remember them to be and morning times are a total joy! I highly recommend them, an excellent idea for a gift (to yourself).
Generously sized Wildsmith toiletries were also provided, a company born from the gardens of Heckfield Place with a reflective ethos of natural, sustainable and ethical. Their facial skincare has also got some superb reviews from several sources, including my go-to skincare gurus at the Beauty Bible.
Related Post: Luxury Hotel Review of Gleneagles in Scotland
Restaurants & Bars
This is where the estate really comes into it’s own and their journey to self-sustainability is most evident. Skye Gyngell from the famed Petersham Nurseries manages both restaurants on site and virtually everything served has been cultivated from the estate or is sourced from a local supplier. When I say local here, I’m talking Hampshire based, not local in terms of anywhere from the UK! The menu is therefore highly seasonal, so the options I mention below will have changed, unless maybe you are visiting at the same time as us.
In addition, Heckfield Place also serve complimentary tea and cake in the drawing room every day at 4:00pm for an hour a lovely touch!
This restaurant is light, airy and open with a wall of French doors leading out onto a large balcony area overlooking the lake and grounds of the estate. The walls are a muted green with ivy climbing up the pillars and along the ceiling. It feels like you are eating outdoors, which is very welcome in March when there is still a chill in the air!
We had lunch at Marle while we waited for our room to become available (we got there super early) on our first day. The menu is unsurprisingly very vegetable focussed, but never fear if this usually puts you off, fish and meat is plentiful but the vegetables are something else, beautifully prepared and the flavours unrecognisable compared to the produce section at your local supermarket. It reminds me of a luxury version of Riverford, an organic farm that also has a big focus on sustainability and serving beautiful vegetable dishes and whom I currently have fortnightly vegetable deliveries from.
Our waitress is lovely and very patient with me wanting to try a couple of different wines before I choose, there is no standard Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay by the glass here! Danny sticks with a local pale ale and we sit in peace looking out at the beautiful gardens, in what is starting to look like full blown sunshine….
I have a superb asparagus, mint and pea risotto that would have likely been boring in any other restaurant, but not here. Danny, on the other hand, is a die hard meat guy, so orders a butter soft steak with accompanying sides. I get all excited and even opt for a dessert of blood orange jelly and set cream with rosemary honey which actually doesn’t quite float my boat, I think I got distracted by the amazing sounding flavours and overlooked the fact that I am actually not a fan of jelly or set cream!
Top Tip: À la carte is the only option on the weekend, however there is a set lunch on weekdays priced at £27.50 for two courses and £31.50 for three.
Marle is also where breakfast is served which is entirely à la carte (I personally have mixed feelings on buffets, one of the reasons being I tend to eat too much!).
The menu has the right mix of traditional and slightly more unusual options and is fairly brief, great as I am generally pretty hungry in the morning and need to make a fast choice! To start there are a couple of freshly squeezed juice options (orange and green), a range of freshly made breads served with jams and butters and a pastry selection (try the lemon and apple muffin). There is then several delicious looking fruits and cereals options such as bircher muesli with poached prunes or raspberry ripple yogurt with poached winter rhubarb, honey and granola.
I went for one of the cooked options though, boiled egg with rye toast, sausage and home made mustard, dippy egg being one of my favourites as a child. Danny had a slight heart attack at the lack of Full English though, before opting for scrambled eggs with belly bacon on sourdough. He soon cheered up when he started eating it!
I love this restaurant. Set in the old stable block, with brick walls, flagstone floors and the focal point being the huge open fire where your food is cooked in front of you, the result is warm, cozy and inviting with a distinctly relaxing and less formal feel.
We are handed our menus for the evening, there are no options to choose from as everyone has the same (accommodations can, of course, be made for specific dietary requirements). I used to get a bit pouty when restaurants did this, but over the years I have discovered some amazing dishes and flavours as it can often mean you try things you wouldn’t usually choose yourself. Indeed, one course looks to be pretty much just broccoli which no one would ever choose (would they?!), more on this later.
Wine to Die For
The sommelier comes over and has a lovely chat with us (I love meeting nice people at hotels and restaurants) and helps us pick a wine. I love my wine but am surprisingly uneducated about it, especially as I once had a job that involved me working with it on a day to day basis!
We opt for a white and I basically name my favourite two wines, Viognier and Gavi. With our menu on his mind, he came back with a 2015 California Qupé Marsanne, assuring me I would like it. He was right, it was awesome, I even got the receptionist to write it down for me when we checked out so I could locate it for future drinking time.
The food itself is exceptional, a lot of similarities with Marle as it is focussed on preparing the food the estate (and local suppliers) have produced; simply but packed with flavour. I really love this style of cooking; it makes me relaxed and comfortable like a mega upgraded version of something we would cook at home. I also really enjoy it when restaurants really focus on the vegetables, as they can be really amazing when not just treated as a side dish (Danny completely disagrees with me here, everything needs meat apparently).
The menu starts with fish, then meat (we had lamb), followed by a vegetable course, then cheese and finally a sweet dessert. It was all very good, cooked perfectly and I loved watching them flame grill the lamb on the open fire in front of us.
A Broccoli Flavoured Revelation
However, the stand out dish for me was the vegetable course that on the menu pretty much just said “broccoli”. Well it was just broccoli and it was amazing (even Danny agreed, but also told me I needed to calm down about it). Purple sprouting or tender stem broccoli tastes much better than calabrese (the standard one from supermarkets) and it was accompanied by this anchovy flavoured sauce that set it off beautifully.
It was the only dish that exceeded my expectations and surprised me (to be fair, I think there is only one way to go when presented with broccoli being the main event of a dish on the menu). I’ll stop banging on about broccoli now….the whole dinner was relaxed, the setting gorgeous and the staff friendly and attentive.
Top Tip: Hearth is only open to hotel guests on Friday and Saturday evenings, where sittings must begin between 19:00 and 20:00; it is a five course menu over a two and a half hours.
It is priced at £95 per person, £150 to include three wine parings and £195 for five wine pairings. Hearth also opens for Sunday lunch (again, hotel guests only) for sittings between 12:00pm and 1:00pm for a three course at £65 per person. An additional cheese course can be added for an extra £10.
The Sun House
On our wanders through the gardens of Heckfield Place, we came across the Sun House in the walled garden. It has been rebuilt to replace the original sun house that was there when William Wordsmith was head gardener and is a beautiful space that can be used for private gatherings. There are also plans to open on weekends during the summer months as a beautiful location to enjoy lunch and dinner.
I had a bit of a shock when I first sat down in Moon Bar and opened the cocktail menu, the first one on the list was £250! My reaction was clearly noticeable as the barman smiled and told me not very many people order that one and to keep looking down the list. Luckily, after that, the prices went back down to the (higher side of) normal and I relaxed a bit.
The bar is small and cozy with midnight blue walls, two large windows looking out to the front of the property and a log fire. A disco ball hangs from the ceiling and reflects the light thrown from the mirrored bar area, all giving it a very glamourous, speak easy vibe. Danny and I perched here and tried four of the cocktails (half of each) that were all completely original and totally delicious. Just don’t drink too much and order the very tempting looking £250 one!
There is lots to do on the Heckfield Place estate, including The Assembly, a year round schedule of diverse events ranging from movies shown in the hotel’s very own screening room, to mini farmers markets of produce from the estate and workshops designed to coach skills on anything from photography to gin tasting to the art of rush weaving. I would have loved to do a wine tasting while we were there, but unfortunately the dates did not coincide; they are led by both the resident sommelier and sometimes industry experts in the 280 bin wine cellar.
Little Bothy Spa
The Little Bothy currently comprises of five treatment rooms and a relaxation area. It offers a small range of massages, scrubs and facials using the Wildsmith skin products inspired by the estate. Little Bothy is due to become Big Bothy within the next couple of years, which will also include a pool.
There is a fully equipped fitness studio overlooking the walled garden that is operated by Bodyism, the London based holistic wellness brand. Personal training is on offer with an hour setting you back £100. Private yoga and pilates classes can also be arranged.
There is a weekly schedule of group fitness classes such as yoga, boxing and circuits, check the daily schedule of activities left in your room. They need to be be booked via reception and cost £16.50.
The below ground 67 seat cinema is open to all, operating a range of screenings throughout the year. It is certainly the poshest cinema I have ever seen with spacious tan leather armchairs, drinks holders and side lights. It even has it’s own bar!
If you do one thing at Heckfield Place, go for a stroll in the grounds. They comprise of three main areas; the Walled Garden, the Pleasure Grounds and Home Farm. Ask at the front desk for a map of walks of varying distances and make sure you at least take a stroll around the lakes, watch out for the swing that I spent a lovely hour reliving my childhood from!
Home Farm is where the fruit, vegetables, flowers and honey that is used at Heckfield Place is produced and is one of the easier walks through some lovely country scenery. Take advantage of the hotel’s Hunter boots and Barbour jackets located in the Boot Room. There is also a daily tour of the estate with one of the gardeners, call to book your place.
Final Thoughts: Heckfield Place, A Hampshire Luxury Hotel
I am picky, high maintenance and a bit tight when it comes to luxury hotels and experiences; travel is my true passion and where I chose to spend my money.
While I certainly don’t mind shelling out to (mostly) do it on the luxurious side, I put a lot of research into the places I book and I have high expectations, which as you would anticipate, rise as the costs do. While I almost always thoroughly enjoy spending time in beautiful places, I have always found areas of improvement in even the best hotels I have stayed in (the critic in me!) and always mentally check if I feel the experience was worth the cost. The more I spend, the more time I dedicate to this little exercise which is fun (for me!) but can occasionally lead to disappointment!
Heckfield Place is the only hotel I have ever walked away from and knew without even thinking about it that it was completely worth it (and it was a pricy weekend). It was just that good.
The balance in everything was so amazingly perfect and their attention to detail was to the highest standard I have ever seen, covering things even I would never have thought of. It is because of this, Danny and I both declared this the best hotel we have ever stayed in, which is a massive deal for someone who spends as much time as we do chasing the perfect one.
To every hotel I have yet to stay in, this is the measure.
– You can book Heckfield Place through Mr & Mrs Smith, a website of beautifully curated boutique hotels.
– You can check out my full list of tried, tested and recommended Travel Resources here.
Address: Hook, Hampshire, RG27 0LD
Phone: 0118 932 6868