Friday Favorites: The Smartest Country Hotel in England
A Georgian peach
Guests of Heckfield Place will live out their Jane Austen fantasies in this lovingly restored Georgian family home set on 400 acres of lush gardens, woodlands, and meadows in North Hampshire. At this gracious 45-bedroom country residence—which dates back to 1790—just about everything is rooted in the estate’s rich soil, including the biodynamic Home Farm, walled gardens, and 500-tree orchard that enrich the hotel’s cuisine. Two distinct dining experiences curated by Chef Skye Gyngell await, as well as the Moon Bar for a late-night rendezvous over creative cocktails. Guests can cozy up to a bottle of wine from the extensive cellar, cue up a film in the 67-seat screen room, or enjoy solitude at the Bothy Spa. Nearby, there’s antiques shopping in Hartley Wintney village, rowing on the Whitewater River, and quintessential British pastimes such as cycling, horseback riding, and clay pigeon shooting. Okay, you modern day country squires—time to dig out those tweeds!
A more in-depth look:
Skye Gyngell is at the helm of Heckfield's restaurants. Marle is so in tune with nature that it’s named after a particularly fertile type of soil, and if an ingredient on the menu hasn’t come from the estate’s own farm, orchard or gardens, it’ll be from a hyper-local supplier (self-sustainability is the estate’s aim). Enjoy dishes such as turbot with béarnaise, and some star sides like crispy potatoes with black garlic. For breakfast choose from buckwheat pancakes with plum jam and whipped butter, tea-smoked eel with poached eggs, beetroot, carrot and fennel, and bubble and squeak with a fried egg and kasundi. The second restaurant, Hearth—in a former stable with arched windows, flagstone floors, exposed bricks, sheepskin-draped Ercol chairs and beamed ceilings—is only open to Heckfield residents, on certain nights of the week. The five-course flame-grilled tasting menu is cooked before you on an open fire.
Seasonal restaurant the Sun House is in a light-flooded glasshouse that hugs the walls of the estate’s upper walled garden. Open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout the summer, it showcases the estate’s first-rate vegetables, fruits and herbs, all grown on Heckfield’s biodynamic farm and plucked from the soil at the most opportune moment.
We’re over the moon about The Moon Bar with its atmospheric midnight-blue walls, leather seats, marble fireplace, and an over-sized disco ball. Even the menu has a lovely cutwork cover of the constellation that was shining the night the hotel opened. The cocktail list includes a £250 combination of 40-year-old cognac, champagne and Moon Perfume, a special essence made with flowers from the gardens. There’s also a 1,200-bottle-strong cellar.
The Little Bothy—a series of five treatment rooms and a relaxation space—is already in operation, with the Big Bothy scheduled to arrive at any moment. Bodyism trainers are on hand for exercise inspiration, as well as nutritional advice. Yoga and Pilates classes are held regularly.
The Assembly is a year-round program of events at the hotel with a different topic each month. Most take place in the subterranean screening room, which, helpfully, has its own bar; some events are held in the woodlands or at the farm, and others take the shape of a dinner or a talk in the drawing room.