Arguably the best-known centuries-old English country house luxury hotel (Cliveden and The Grove fit into a more palatial category) is Chewton Glen Hampshire, on the edge of the gorgeous New Forest. The forest, established as a royal hunting preserve in 1079, has over 3,000 wild ponies roaming free. The house itself dates from about 1732. Here is its front door. Look to the upper left, to the first floor, English-style, balcony. That is the private terrace of room three, the Marryat Suite, says the gal.
At one point the hotel was owned by George Marryat, whose brother Captain Frederick Marryat wrote the 1847 classic, The Children of the New Forest. Many of the total-70 rooms, which include suites and the six justifiably lauded treehouse double-suites, are named. The Marryat Suite has just been redone by Anita Rosato. I love what she has done in the bedroom. The same deep chocolate and champagne pattern on the wallpaper is repeated, embroidered, on full length taupe curtains.
The bathroom is deep burgundy marble, with an electric towel rail and both basins have electric magnifying lights – and the shower has two sets of two shower heads. Andrew Stembridge, the legendary, if still youthful, hotelier who oversees this hotel, is really thoughtful. You want to host a cocktail for up to 50? Perfect, the suite’s terrace, as mentioned above, is certainly big enough, with commanding views over a croquet lawn. Yes, you can partake of many English sports here: tennis indoor and outdoor, and there is nine-hole golf.
While you are here in England, of course you must at least taste tea. The salon of the Marryat Suite has a whole selection of teas, and espresso if you must. The suite also has a taxidermist’s delight: a stuffed pheasant, with glass-bed eyes, seems to hold court from his stand on a side table, and a big old fireplace is stuffed with logs. There are lots of books to read, including a copy of Simon Gudgeon’s Sculptures by the Lake.
Even on a Sunday night the restaurant, Vetiver, is full. It has five adjoining rooms, including a snug wine-cellar room, but, especially on a summer night I really like the glassed-in conservatory. It is elegantly casual. Crisp and highly starched white linens go with purple drinking tumblers that just about match the purple ties and cufflinks that the male servers, in black suits and white shirts, wear – love the girls’ beautifully cut shifts with purple pocket edges. I start with lots of colour, multicoloured heirloom tomatoes from the hotel’s own extensive vegetable and herb gardens.
The daily Bulletin newspaper tells me what produce, and what variety, is ripe for picking right now – the walled vegetable garden has 200 assorted trees and bushes, as well as about 15 bee colonies. I read how the weather will be for the next three days, and the spa and fitness programmes. But first I must do justice to an all-time English favourite, fish and chips. Here, at this luxury New Forest hotel, it is superb. Thank goodness they did not give me any more of those yummy chips…