Good things come to those who wait, and Heckfield Place is not only good — extremely good — but very much worth the wait (all ten years of it). Because this is not just another country house hotel.
From the luxury of the furnishings to the splendour of the original Georgian features, the house itself is a dream, full of light and space but without the grandeur that can make a place feel stuffy.
We arrived in time for complimentary afternoon tea, laid out in the lounge as you might do at home: giant rustic triangular scones, citrus jam, salted or clotted cream and a homemade cake. Simple — and simply delicious. We helped ourselves, sank back into the sofa that was so deep our feet didn’t reach the floor and leafed through an oversized coffee table book about the Bloomsbury Set as light flooded through the large picture windows.
Our room was in The Corridors — these are long and winding but beautifully lit, with painted panelling and Persian rugs lending an eclectic touch. As well as our bedroom, there’s a proper lounge (not just a couple of chairs) and a blend of sustainability and luxury. Floor mats and headboards woven from natural grasses that have to be watered to keep them alive, while iPads hold hotel information and everything in the minibar in its gorgeously designed cabinet is complimentary (except alcohol).
The bathroom, complete with double sinks, free-standing bath, huge walk-in shower, and William Wildsmith toiletries, was equally inviting. The larger Master rooms in the main house are magnificent, with spectacular marble bathrooms, beautiful antique furniture, and views over the 400 acres of grounds.
Skye Gyngell, formerly of Petersham in Richmond and latterly Spring at Somerset House is culinary director and brings much of her signature style to Heckfield, making abundant use of Heckfield’s own farm which runs on biodynamic principles; menus here are designed around what grows.
This is farm-to-fork dining — all herbs and vegetables are grown on site (as are the hotel’s flowers and plants), eggs are laid on site and so on. The cosy and intimate Moon Bar even uses fresh ingredients from farm to accent the cocktails (make mine a quince martini).There are two restaurants: bright and spacious Marle has a conservatory and large terrace for sunny days while Hearth, open only at weekends and only to residents, is brick-walled with dishes cooked over open flames.
Dinner at Marle featured a dreamy creamy cauliflower and gorgonzola soup, trout with red cabbage, labneh and harissa and crispy potatoes with black garlic vinaigrette, which might just be the best side dish I’ve had this year. Breakfast in the sunlit conservatory was as good: vibrant smoothies, yoghurt with rhubarb compote bubble & squeak with a tangy tomato relish and bright yellow creamy scrambled eggs set us up for the day.
We donned Hunter wellies for a ride in the hotel Land Rover for a tour of Home Farm and greenhouses; indoors the screening room is Hampshire’s answer to the Everyman. What are you waiting for?