A typical English gent, and his lady of course, would start the day with a tea tray. About 70 years ago someone invented a Teasmade, an electric contraption with a square teapot, the gal was told. At the time you had set, you were woken up by the sound of boiling water pouring into said teapot (hope you had remembered to put in the tea) and you had your cuppa. Then people realized it was actually much easier to get up and make tea in the kitchen – unless, of course, you are staying at a truly posh luxury hotel. At Chewton Glen Hampshire, a diplomatic sort of fellow who could have been a top solicitor knocked on the door at the exact hour, and brought in a tray, with the requested newspaper in a fabric-handled strong brown paper bag.
After that, a typical day at this idyllic spot, in 130 acres of gently-rolling park and farmland, might start with a good work out in the gym, or a cycle ride, or a jog over to see the tennis courts (two indoor, two out) and the driving range. Others might opt for the pools, one inside, one out, and heated. The indoor pool is classic, ozone-treated with high-high ceiling painted as the sky, and a central clear-storey beams in masses of light. After some laps, I head next door, to the circular conservatory that holds an 11-station vitality pool.
And then it is time for breakfast. Oh what a view, to look out over a paved area that last night saw guests of the long shiny hair, size-zero body and six inch heel variety, elegantly drinking Taittinger, the house champagne – the hotel has been a dedicated Relais & Châteaux member for decades. Breakfast is buffet, with à la carte main items. I am tempted by such English specialities as kedgeree, a kind of risotto with bits of smoked haddock and egg, but the buffet is just too good. A fish fanatic could satiate on the amount of smoked salmon spread out.
I find what is honestly one of the best home-made yoghurts anywhere in the world. Tiny pots reveal only that they are made by someone called Hot Jam Lady – yes, she also produces the preserves that are here in big open pots. She lives locally, and I would love to know more about her. I also try a big bowl of chalky-white Greek yoghurt, with enormous prunes and figs and hulled-and-cut strawberries. One section of one table has a selection of colourful utensils for kids. This is a big weekend destination for London-based Range Rover-driving yummy mummies and their little darlings.
Cleverly, they never seem to intrude. Kids have set hours in the pools, and, all hours, there are plenty of physical things for them to do. I head for the spa, for its ten o’clock opening. Already nearly 20 ladies, some of the 500-plus ‘local members’, are in the pool for aqua-exercise, and the gym is full. Anna puts me through an oxygen revitaliser, yet another brilliant treatment from Linda Meredith, who is to faces what Bastien Gonzalez is to feet – based in London, Linda now has several outlets in Spain, and her products not only smell divine but do seem to work.
I mentioned that Andrew Stembridge oversees this gorgeous luxury country house hotel. He also does the same at Cliveden, similarly owned by Ian Livingstone and his brother Richard. As a result, Andrew Stembridge has a newly-elevated GM here, Mark Bevan. It is only as I leave that I realize our farewell photo, as I drive away, would suitably fit in Hello! magazine’s weddings pages…