This south coast haven hides its virtues like a Victorian bride. All you see from the A337 into Lyndhurst is a French bistro and a few hedges dividing it from the college campus next door. A short drive into the greenery and you’re presented with a country house where a wood-panelled reception gives way to long 70s motel-style corridors.
But it’s at the rear where this former hunting lodge comes into its own. A £6 million upgrade in the mid 90s added a sizeable — and award-winning — oriental spa.
The Park is the latest in a chain which is branching out nationally. Think a notionally up-market Travelodge and you’re just about there.
This one opened in June. Its best asset is its location, bang opposite the Arena stadium, and just a short walk to the city centre, — Selfridges and Harvey Nicks. The night I stayed, Boyzone were playing, so there were quite a few podgy mums chaperoning their tattooed kids.
When Simon Cowell stayed here, he was surrounded by autograph hunters. I had a Big Issue seller. But, each to his own.
A chauffeur dropped Cowell off, but at least I had a concierge take my car away. That helped make me feel just a bit special in what is a hot spot for the well-known and well-heeled: an ornately crafted Victorian boutique hotel in the heart of the city’s jewellery quarter.