I seem to remember hearing this was about to open some time ago…
Yes. The Hampshire country house hotel is famous for being ‘the UK’s most delayed hotel’. It was granted planning permission for refurbishment in 2009 and was supposed to be open in time for the 2012 London Olympics, making it about six years late. Suddenly Southern Rail does not seem so bad after all.
Why are we talking about it now?
It’s finally opened its doors to the public.
Are you sure?
Your scepticism is understandable. The hotel has been “opening within the next 12 months” for half a decade. But yes, it is. We’ve phoned them up and everything.
Why has it been so delayed?
That’s a bit of a mystery. With a remit to be a ‘world-beating’ hotel, the project to overhaul the 46-bedroom property and the 40-acre estate that surrounds it was as ambitious as it was expensive. But Heckfield Place was apparently pretty much good to go as early as 2012. It’s understood that the delay is being attributed to “continual changes to the original plans”.
Sounds like a frustrating situation for staff…
Indeed. The hiatus has seen a number of high profile people walk away from the project, including two executive chefs (Chris Staines and Barnaby Jones) and two general managers. Food critic Tom Parker Bowles was at one point brought on board as ‘food curator’ but is no longer involved.
So who is actually opening it, then?
Olivia Richli is general manager and Skye Gyngell of Spring fame oversees the food offering as culinary director of the estate. The latter has been linked with Heckfield Place since the early days of the project.
What’s it like?
Very nice, as you’d hope given the nine years that have elapsed since the project was first mooted. Heckfield Place is the first major solo commission for interior designer Ben Thompson, and features natural tones, salvaged stone and walnut floors. The rooms are positioned to follow the trajectory of the sun and the grounds include a kitchen garden, an orchard, woodlands, and two lakes.
What about the restaurants?
Gyngell will oversee two restaurants. Marle is open to all and serves a menu that is broadly comparable to the one offered at the chef’s Spring restaurant at London’s Somerset House. The open fire cooking-focused Hearth is more ambitious and expensive and - unusually - is only open to hotel guests