Heckfield Place, Hampshire, UK

Interiors-Instagram went wild for it – and for good reason. It’s all in Very Good Taste.

It is impossible not to be seduced by the grand old bones and elegant interiors which are a bit country-house, bit rustic, bit earthy. Is it confused? Or over-designed? I didn’t think so.

I found Heckfield Place to be utterly enchanting and very hard to fault. Squishy, feather-filled sofas. Big, meadowy flower arrangements. A mostly quiet but occasionally head turning art collection. You can take an art tour, or guide yourself using the in-room iPad filled with information on each of the 350 works on loan from Heckfield’s billionaire owner, Gerald Chan.

The hotel opening was delayed for years while Chan sought the perfect interior style for Heckfield. The solution clearly came in the form of designer Ben Thompson, a protege of my fave Ilse Crawford (of Ett Hem in Stockholm). I’d go as far to say the design team have set a new aesthetic benchmark for the contemporary country house hotel – an image that was last shaken up by Beaverbrook when it opened.

We pulled up at the gatehouse to be welcomed by name. We’d given our car registration number in advance but it still felt a little bit magic. All staff addressed us by name, from the welcome drinks and orientation tour to ordering drinks later. Guest recognition has such a huge impact on the experience and perception of luxury – hoteliers, take note!

The staff wear slightly strange pagan-looking outfits, but everyone we encountered struck a nice casual-intelligent tone. Helpful but no sense of servitude, which I personally dislike. The bad reviews tend to complain about the service, but I couldn’t fault it. We went just after Covid when they were limiting the number of bookings, so that might have made a difference to the efficiency of the staff.

The hotel, both restaurants, wine cellar and spa are all female-led and I can’t help but wonder if this contributes to the balance of lightness and purpose throughout. With thoughtful details and personal touches at every turn (cardboard keycards embossed with guest’s initials, personalised programme of daily events), this is a unique brand of luxury that is unstuffy but refined and completely in sync with its surroundings. It’s a special occasion price point, but there’s a feel of generousness here which leads me to tentatively suggest that value exceeds cost.

There’s not loads to do, mind. There are tours of the biodynamic farm and kitchen garden, and guests can swim in the lake when it warm. The estate’s most ancient trees are marked on guest maps, which is a nice touch. There’s a cinema with a schedule of new-release films. Afternoon tea each day is included in the room rate, which, with scones as big as my head, felt like an activity in itself. And there’s Bothy Spa now, which was unfinished when I visited. But mostly, doing nothing at all is the order of the day here.

We booked a room in the entry-level Friends category and were assigned an accessible room on the ground floor. Although neither of us lives with a disability, it’s worth noting that this is one of the most beautiful accessible rooms I have ever seen. I’m passionate about dignified design (I wrote about it for a brand magazine, see here) and this is a really wonderful example of such. The bathroom has solid oak handrails that are perfectly congruous with the rest of the design, completely level thresholds and wide spaces around the bed and furniture. I’d question the chunky sisal rugs and ridiculously skinny buttons on remotes if I were consulting on it.

The bedroom interiors champion British crafts and luxury materials. The headboard and mats are made from English rushes. Bedding is Italian linen, and the Smart TV is Bang & Olufsen. Light switches offer various settings to suit the mood or time of day. There are garden flowers, short reads curated by Daunt Books and artwork from the owner’s private collection. The writing desk is home to a stack of monogrammed writing cards and papers.

Talking about letter-writing, the drinks cabinet is really worth writing home about. I think about it more than is probably normal. It’s a bespoke cabinet filled with cordials (made from garden bits, of course), bottled water, salty almonds and sweet snacks – all complimentary. Instead of the usual Nespresso machine, there’s a ceramic coffee dripper, filters, stoneware mugs and a black tea kettle. This has an electric stand fitted into a drawer that is SO PLEASING to use! All the requisite scoops and spoons live in a leather-lined draw. On the coffee table was a paper bag of orchard plums, plates, napkins and a paring knife. How lovely.

Our marble-clad bathroom had a rain shower and products from the hotel’s own Wildsmith Skin range, developed with botanicals inspired by the arboretum and named after former estate gardener William Wildsmith. Full-length chenille robes are plush and snugly. Female sanitary products are provided in wooden boxes – something that Hotel Palette has passionately campaigned to see provided more widely, read more here.

The two restaurants at Heckfield are run by culinary director Skye Gyngell of Spring at Somerset House and Petersham Nurseries (where she won a Michelin star). Marle has a relatively short menu which is probably down to its farm-to-fork approach. Much of the produce served here is from the estate farm, orchards and kitchen garden. While Marle has become a destination restaurant popular with locals for its pre-screening dinner menu, Hearth restaurant is resident-only. Located in a former stable, it offers a set menu of dishes that are cooked over an open fire.

Moon Bar is the perfect place for a nightcap with its giant disco ball and funk and soul playlist. The unique menu of craft cocktails included a silky smooth Beech Leaf Martini, Thyme Negroni and Saffron Sour.

Breakfast is a la carte and served in Marle, which felt completely transformed from the intimacy of dinner the night before into a cheerful, sunny space. Small dishes are served in courses and barista-style coffee was excellent.

Bottom Line

Expensive but worth it, for us. Would be keen to go back to experience another room category and see the spa.

Heckfield Place Park, Hook, Hampshire, UK
From £350