Read our hotel and restaurant review of Heckfield Place, a grand and artfully designed hotel in Hampshire offering 46 individually styled bedrooms, a wood-fired restaurant called Hearth and a no-fuss, ingredient-led restaurant called Marle
Looking for Hampshire hotels? Read our Heckfield Place hotel review, a luxury spa hotel in Hampshire.
What is Heckfield Place’s USP?
The UK’s longest-awaited hotel is finally open. Six years on from its originally touted opening date, Heckfield Place in Hampshire launched in late summer 2018 and the consensus is that it was worth the wait. Expect 46 elegant bedrooms and two restaurants directed by chef Skye Gyngell (her restaurant Spring, in Somerset House, is also backed by Heckfield’s owner, Gerald Chan).
Chan wants the place to feel like home rather than a hotel; intimate touches include allowing his private collection of paintings and photography to be hung across the house.
He is also committed to sustainability, so there is not just an onsite biodynamic kitchen garden but also a whole farm to supply the hotel’s two restaurants, Marle and Hearth. In addition, the 400 acres of parkland that surround the hotel are being restored to their 19th century-style glory days.
And the vibe?
Intimate, opulent, charming and one of a kind. For example, the flowers and veg are grown biodynamically, according to phases of the moon, and leaves from the grounds’ ancient trees – parts of an arboretum planted by 19th century horticulturalist William Wildsmith – are left where they lie to create mulch instead of being leaf-blowered away. Collaborations with craftspeople are encouraged and tea is supplied by Henrietta Lovell’s Rare Tea Company. Logs for Hearth, where cooking is only over fire, have been carefully chosen by log-savant Mark Parr, of the London Log Co. Jane Scotter of Fern Verrow, the biodynamic farm in Herefordshire that works in partnership with Gyngell, has been consulting.
The aim is to redefine modern luxury, and woo a chic international crowd, London’s food pilgrims and locals.
Which room should I book at Heckfield Place?
Under interior designer Ben Thompson’s influence, the hotel’s 46 bedrooms are decorated in a palate of soft earthy colours, with exposed plaster and distressed walnut floors interjected with chandeliers, worn Persian carpets and rush mats. Diminutive but cosy rooms along the corridor area are the most affordable but the main house is where it’s at for unadulterated elegance, with six signature rooms (our favourite is The Heath Room, deliciously sumptuous with a sitting room of French hand-painted bird silk panels). Start saving now for a night in the Long Room; this enormous suite, with its own private kitchen, costs £10,000 per night.
What’s good to drink?
The dark blue Moon bar, with its open fire and mirror ball, is overseen by Jonas Stern, whose CV includes Mayfair’s Isabel and Jason Atherton’s Pollen Street Social. Stern has trained up the staff and created nine Moon signature cocktails.
Wine buffs can swoon over the small but punchy wine cellar where head of wine, Louise Gordon, has had carte blanche over her selection. A 1944 Chateau Latour, a prized Sassicaia and a booty of limited-edition organic and biodynamic bottles are among the 320 bins.
And to eat?
Hearth, Heckfield Place’s wood-fired restaurant, hasn’t launched when we visit, so we head to Marle for dinner, open to guests and the public. Gyngell, the culinary director, will be juggling two days in Hampshire and five in town at Spring. Bumping into her at Marle’s entrance, she explains that Heckfield will have a warmer, smokier menu, with more slow cooking than Spring. “We’re in the countryside so the menus are more robust, but still with a lightness of touch.”
Another difference is that, at Heckfield, there’s a 400-acre estate to draw from, and to inspire; the restaurant has a terrific terrace, looking out over sweeping lawns with a glinting fountain and lake stretching beyond. Inside, it’s a dreamy space with shelves of pickles and terracotta pots elbowing wicker chairs and bright flowers. Windows are a focus, too; we’ve never been in a restaurant streaming with so much natural light before.
To kick off proceedings, it’s beetroot, carrots and burrata with datterini tomatoes and black olive dressing. These veg have moved two minutes from field to kitchen and you can tell; a reminder that summer isn’t quite finished, they’re radiant with sunny sweetness.
Gyngell is known for letting her ingredients sing and avoiding fuss and our carpaccio of River Test trout – “the Test is just over there,” points the waitress to a far-off valley – is testament to this ethos. There’s freshness and vibrancy, thanks to pickled tomatillos and smoked creme fraiche. All is washed down with an organic Blank Bottle Jimny Verdelho, Western Cape and Gusbourne Estate’s English Chardonnay, perfectly hitting a bacchanalian spot.
Following fast is turbot with grilled cucumber and bearnaise sauce – lustrous, creamy, and perfectly fleshy. The poached short rib – slow-cooked for 12 hours – with onion rings is equally accomplished.
To finish off, we obliterate a fennel pollen panna cotta and almond tart with plum ice cream, a gleeful marriage of sharp and sweet.
What’s the breakfast like?
Marle is a temple to the joys of breaking fast. Baskets of sourdough, rye toast and pastries are in abundance. Other heroes are the home-made butter, apple buckwheat bread and Heckfield homemade fig leaf yoghurt with granola. I opt for sticky buckwheat crepes with plum jam and whipped butter, though fans of cooked breakfasts should try the home-cured bellow bacon and eggs on sourdough, or bubble and squeak with fried egg and kasundi (a Bengali-Indian relish). Commendably the breakfast menus here change frequently.
Any other food experiences I shouldn’t miss?
Definitely sign up for a farm tour. You can snaffle tips on how to grow veg without using pesticides, stroll the paths by the orchards and greenhouses, meet the bees, snuffling saddleback pigs, laying chickens and feather-footed bantams. To get more hands-on, sign up for a class at The Assembly (think autumn workshops on apple-storing and talks with Gyngell and Fern Verrow’s Jane Scotter).
Is Heckfield Place family-friendly?
Families are welcome to stay in the corridor rooms, but not the main house. As for specific playrooms or children’s menus, the hotel has plans to develop these but hasn’t done so as yet. There are, however, occasional Mud & Guts kids adventure workshops in the schedule.
Would we bring our small people to Heckfield? Probably not, as it’s so geared towards adults at present. If you do bring children with you, make a beeline for Wellington Country Park, the neighbouring estate. It’s a kids’ utopia with dinosaurs, toy trains and zip wires (and riding for older children).
What can I do while I’m there?
A cardio injection can be sated at the gym, but the extensive grounds mean plenty of jogging routes and bike rides – or go further afield across the myriad footpaths and bridle paths that wind into the Hampshire countryside, as well as fly fishing on the Whitewater river. The upper and lower walled garden of wisteria, lavender and English roses make a heady short walk.
For wellness-whippets, there is Little Bothy spa, offering personal training, yoga, ballet and pilates, as well as five treatment rooms to dally in. Best of all is the hotel’s 67-seater private cinema – for talks and films – and a cellar bar.
Winter suits Heckfield. There are seven elegant fireplaces in the main house (even some of the bathrooms have log fires). Go for a long walk then find a spot by one of those fireplaces in the drawing room for afternoon tea (check out our guide to the best afternoon tea recipes here) centred around an insanely beautiful cake each day (in our case an exquisitely presented red velvet cake….).