The Retreat at Elcot Park hotel review: ‘An off-beat country escape’ | Travel

Taking the kids swimming can be a remarkably pricey enterprise — £9.4 million highly-priced if you are Hector Ross. Not because his kids have extravagant taste in Dryrobes and verruca socks. But since, when he took his son for lessons at a Berkshire state club, his head was turned by the Mercure resort it was a portion of, Elcot Park. So smitten with the 19th-century house was Ross, who utilised to run the Bel & the Dragon chain and assisted to start Beaverbrook, that he badgered the homeowners for 7 yrs till they agreed to promote it to him.

Among badgerings, meanwhile, he snapped up the Mitre future doorway to Hampton Courtroom, gave it a makeover and bought the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge together to declare it open. That was the 1st lodge in his new Signet Collection team (it was our 2020 Most effective Spots to Remain London lodge of the yr).

And what is now the Retreat at Elcot Park, midway among Newbury and antiques-stuffed Hungerford, is the group’s next — whilst ribbon-snipping duties here drop to thespian royalty: Benedict Cumberbatch.

It is all component of the Signet MO: acquire a traditionally substantial doer-upper (Elcot Park the moment belonged to Girl Shelley, mother of the poet Percy) and give it what Ross calls the “defibrillator” remedy. It is been a fairly speedy resuscitation the builders were in and out of the primary making in 11 months, having identified handsome floorboards beneath outdated carpet ornate gilt-framed mirrors driving plasterboard and 1940s fag packets left around from when the dwelling was requisitioned for American pilots.

Yu restaurant

Ross claims that his short to the interior designer, Taylor & Turner, was to “think of your poshest close friend and picture what their parents’ residence may well be like”. I suspect their buddies might be posher than mine: peacocks and parrots function on the hand-painted de Gournay wallpaper in one non-public eating room 125 oyster plates jolly up the walls of yet another. But they’re not so posh they’re strangers to shopping for their individual home furniture — among the the antique dressers and chandeliers are mid-century chairs and globe lights.

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In the 55 bedrooms among (red-brick) aged property and (incredibly Alright) 1990s wing, snazzy styles and material headboards incorporate a contemporary come to feel. And though the much more fun fittings arrive with the pricier rooms — four-posters, roll-top baths, Flight of the Conchords posters — the 7 entry-degree Traditional rooms are generously sized and do greater for bedside plug sockets and USBs. Everybody will get a complimentary glass of wine on arrival, and the three pantries’ snacks and gentle drinks are there for whoever receives at ’em very first.

The hotel has five wheelchair-obtainable rooms and, like the Mitre, seems just after canine and kids. Reception’s hearth bed for the previous is invitingly plumped (I’m practically tempted myself) for the latter there are bunk beds in a few rooms, a spouse and children screening area, a (considerately distant) participate in area and, when the heated outside pool is ready and crammed, a each day inflatables session. Ross decided from calling it “bombing hour” yet, other people will be warned.

That pool, with its cabanas and Whispering Angel wine bar — if it is sunny you’ll want to guide your two-hour slot early — is because of to be completed in time for the Jubilee weekend. So way too are the Orangery eating place (for now a constructing perform in development) the hydropool and sauna (a single solitary and two double Ila treatment rooms and a Matrix gymnasium are open up now) and the magnificence salon, café-deli and wine merchant in the courtyard, wherever Ross designs live songs and farmers’ marketplaces.

A good deal of it feels aimed at effectively-heeled neighbours as substantially as overnighters locals can turn into users with gymnasium, tennis and pool legal rights, and the hope will have to be that they’ll turn into regulars in the dining places. The evening I’m there, the two the pan-Asian Yu, with its oxblood-pink walls and seven-study course tasting menu, and the brasserie-design and style 1772 are complete — and, sure enough, article-pud a great deal of persons head for the vehicle park alternatively than the stairs.

Some of the hotel’s suites come with stand-alone baths

Some of the hotel’s suites arrive with stand-alone baths

Difficult surfaces and high spirits make 1772 a little bit noisy but the ambiance is convivial, served alongside by personable workers in their regulation Vans and waistcoats, and GM Vinny, a Frenchman who’s never ever run a hotel prior to — “I’m Hector’s wild card” — but who has opened international stadiums and was at the time in cost of food for Roman Abramovich. He would seem in his factor with a smaller sized and (presumably) fewer demanding crowd.

Signet’s culinary director Ronnie Kimbugwe promises to be a “country bumpkin — I like greenery, pheasants and muntjac” and people matters all have a position on the 1772 menu. Highlights are the crispy chilli squid and the spatchcock miso hen, both equally imports from the Yu menu. Ross claims they’re not chasing a Michelin star. “I want men and women to don’t forget their steak for a thirty day period, not five many years.” Even now, the ribeye is so fantastic that it provides no problems for my eight-year-aged, irrespective of his missing four leading tooth.

The kitchen has even bigger fish to fry than gummy small children, anyway — prolonged-time period visitors are solid and crew of a specific baking exhibit, in output domestically. No force then, pastry cooks! A soggy bottom-fewer afternoon tea implies they are coping.

The hotel has 16 acres, while it looks like extra — the Sutton estate starts where the croquet lawn ends and breakfast may arrive with views of Belted Galloway cows grazing the meadows. The
North Wessex Downs stretch into the distance and the A4 sneaks previous invisible in among.

Dishes at the 1772 restaurant

Dishes at the 1772 cafe

Ross has large programs to make the most of this key countryside spot: the lodge is a single of five destinations in Berkshire to keep a warm-air balloon licence and there will be bikes for retain the services of, clay-pigeon taking pictures and trout fishing on the chalky River Kennet. Each individual day the resort has ten absolutely free pairs of tickets for close by Highclere to give to guests.

We have other thoughts. We trundle the few of miles down the street to Kintbury to meet up with Steve and Drummer, a young Clydesdale horse with a flavor for cow parsley and a natty string of bobbins alongside either flank. Steve and his spouse Charlotte run the Kennet Horse Boat Firm, 1 of 3 such operators still left in the nation. The bobbins reduce chafing when Drummer goes beneath bridges, pulling the 19-tonne Kennet Valley with outstanding nonchalance. Canal boat trips are soul-soothingly peaceful any time. Exchange the motor with a horse and you enlarge the effect tenfold. As we float alongside, drinks in hand, ears cocked for cuckoos, it is clear why Ross presents visitors this encounter. Character operates its magic, present day daily life recedes. A correct Retreat.

Liz Edwards was a guest of the Retreat at Elcot Park, which has B&B doubles from £180 mains at 1772 from £16 two-hour horse-drawn barge excursion from £200pp (

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