Much has been written about the highly-anticipated Heckfield Place Hotel in Hampshire, which finally opened its doors late last summer after many years of painstaking but very loving and obviously very worthwhile renovation.
And it’s certainly been worth the wait! The bar has been raised for luxury hotels – not just in the UK, but in my mind in Europe as a whole.
More than just a country house hotel, it is a true country estate being run with a 360 degree vision on what is needed to sustain and maintain a self-sufficient stand-alone estate.
Under the direction of the lovely Olivia Richli as GM, it is not only a joy to see one of the world’s most professional and able GMs come back ‘home’ after over more than 20 years abroad, but also to have a woman at the helm of such a unique resort!
As to be expected, she has trained her team to not only deliver an outstanding service with attention to detail being next to none, but to also transmit a genuine sense of place and hospitality, which make you feel at home the minute you walk through the doors.
I will resist the temptation of swooning over the beautiful interiors, as others have covered these extensively. However every single detail blew my mind away, as everything seems to be regionally sourced & produced with old handicraft skills -from wicker beadheads to woollen blankets, the pottery used for the bathroom amenities, the wood so prominent throughout, the wrought iron, the rugs and and and… one thing that impressed me most was the extraordinary smells these natural materials produce, and which permeate through the entire house – adding to the sensation of being in a true country house. And of course the most beautiful fact was that not a single piece of plastic was to be found ANYWHERE!!!! Not in the mini-bar, not in the bathroom, not in the restaurant, the bar – nowhere!
There is a jigsaw puzzle, also made of wood, available for all guests to add a few pieces to (in my case I confess to being a total jigsaw junkie) – and I was hardly able to be torn away from the table! Heckfield uses tailor-made puzzles created from photos – a different jigsaw for every season.
After a round of delicious cocktails, made from, of course, local Gin, we had the joy of looking forward to an outstanding dinner at Marle run by another outstanding and inspirational woman, Skye Gyngell, also known for the wonderful (and also plastic-free) restaurant Spring at Somerset House in London- what a treat!!!! Needless to say every single dish was outstanding both in presentation, taste and combination of produce, many of which are freshly sourced from Heckfield’s own farm.
And the Farm is another asset of the estate which had my sustainable soul singing. Not only is there the most extraordinary walled kitchen garden, which also serves as a lunch place in the summer months, there is also an entire farm, with chicken, sheep and endless rows of greenhouses, as well as fields full of produce and flowers. Skye herself is very involved and collaborates closely with the Farm Manager as to what is grown and when – a true gem.
Of course there are also all the other un-sexy but highly necessary sustainable installations, such as a woodchip burner for hot water and a full recycling plant, with a food digester to be installed soon. But I will spare you the details!
And last but not least – the trees! We were fortunate enough to be given a tour of the estate’s unique set of treesby one of Heckfield’s own arborists. I had never come across a hotel with with their own arborists before, but having seen the unique collection of absolutely breathtaking trees on the estate I am certainly a convert to this idea. Sadly I do not remember each of the species we were shown but did nearly have to be dragged away by force from one of the most beautiful red beech trees I have ever come across – huge, wise, majestic and oozing a spirit of everything that is good in nature.
Hugging him/ her definitely has given me enough ‘joie de vivre’ for a good while, but I will need to go back soon for another instalment- and I certainly recommend anyone else does too – if only to have lunch!!!