“There’s something special about working at a place where there’s so much [for guests] to do on site,” said Daisy-Rose Allen, Chewton Glen’s duty manager, as she showed me around the five-star Hampshire hotel’s 130-acre grounds. The beautiful gardens are dotted with lion sculptures celebrating Chewton Glen’s relationship with the wildlife charity the Born Free Foundation.
Saying there’s much to occupy you during a stay here is, however, an understatement. The facilities include a spa with a gym and two swimming pools (plus a summer outdoor pool), tennis courts, a croquet lawn, nine-hole pitch and putt golf course and a nursery garden. There’s even a tree house used by the hotel’s children’s club, not to mention a flock of “teddy bear”-coloured Ryeland sheep.
The accommodation is similarly outstanding. Located in a country pile dating from the 18th century, which was at one point used by the Victorian author Frederick Marryat to write at least part of Children of the New Forest, the spacious rooms are named after characters in Marryat’s books. They are decorated in traditional English style, with my room having a balcony overlooking the grounds, and even a separate television in the bathroom. Chewton Glen also has several ultra-luxurious tree-house suites with hot tubs.
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However, the thing that really struck me was the warmth and attentiveness of the staff. From the people at reception who carried my luggage to my room, to the waiter who guided me through the various dishes on offer in the restaurant (the cheese soufflé is superb), the service was truly memorable. Staff even came out to greet families with drinks, with toys for the children, before these guests had even stepped out of their cars.
A cooking masterclass
As well as the main restaurant, Chewton Glen runs The Kitchen – a more relaxed dining experience, with menus designed by chef James Martin (pictured), famous for presenting the BBC’s Saturday Kitchen. It is also a cookery school, which is how I found myself on a Saturday morning with a group of around ten other participants, learning insider secrets for creating the perfect dinner party.
During the six-hour course, Gerard Molloy, winner of the Irish Young Chef award, took the group through the process of producing a three-course meal, including a duck confit for starters, seafood bouillabaisse for the main course and a classic crème brûlée for desert. Cooking can be thirsty work, so sommelier Natasha Senina explained the right type of wines to pair with our dishes.
While my culinary skills are limited, Molloy’s gregarious personality, patience and willingness to give each member of the group individual attention gave me enough confidence to braise vegetables and blend ingredients, before stuffing red peppers with couscous in order to create an unforgettable dish. Guests are also given copies of the recipes so they can practise what they’ve learned at home.
Roaming the New Forest
Although it is possible to have an excellent time without leaving the hotel, the beach at Highcliffe-on-Sea is just a ten-minute walk via the Chewton Bunny Nature Reserve. The hotel is also located in the heart of the New Forest. As forager Jennifer Williams, who took me on a tour of the area arranged by the hotel, explains, the forest’s name is rather misleading, as it “has some of the oldest trees in Europe”.
But William the Conqueror “liked what he saw, and claimed it as his hunting ground”. The system set up by England’s first Norman monarch, and refined in 1217 by the Charter of the Forest, has limited development in the area over the centuries, protected the environment, and given the famous New Forest ponies somewhere to graze. While the ponies can be seen all year round, Williams recommends visiting in September when wild pigs are released to eat fallen acorns.
The forest is also famous for the diversity of its wildlife. This includes the huge range of plants, some of which “are incredibly tasty”, says Williams. Indeed, the wild fruits are so good that she uses them for her award-winning Naked Jam label, which she sells to various luxury hotels. She also runs foraging tours on the Chewton Glen estate.
From the hotel itself, to the grounds, cookery school and surrounding area, Chewton Glen is more than a boutique hotel. It is an experience.
Matthew received a complimentary stay at Chewton Glen, part of the Iconic Luxury Hotels chain. Prices in the main house start from £500 a night and tree-house suites cost from £1,350 a night. See Chewtonglen.com
Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.
He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.
Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.
As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.
Follow Matthew on Twitter: @DrMatthewPartri
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