The Mitre Hotel – a retreat by the river in historic Hampton Court
By Rosalind Milani Gallieni
Whilst the idea of staying in King Henry VIII’s bedroom was a truly exciting prospect, a little pre-trip research revealed that the hotel I was headed to had once been a ‘hostel,’ for guests at Hampton Court Palace. I was pleased to discover that The Mitre is now an elegant boutique hotel, on the banks of the River Thames. Built in 1665 and originally used to house guests of King Charles II, this Grade II-listed property has 36 rooms named after a variety of historical people and references. Every room has a character and theme of its own and no detail is the same in any of the rooms. The only thing that does run through this 17th century building consistently, is that cosy sound of creaking floorboards to give that quintessentially British character.
Set opposite the magnificent Hampton Court Palace, The Mitre now counts as one of the Signet Collection hotels, a group created to collect historical properties in time-honoured locations across the southern part of England.
The Mitre has been colourfully and playfully refurbished by Nicola Harding and throughout, I could see she’d had a great time with the choice of details that pay homage to the reign of King Charles II. Her work in the hotel was apparently also inspired by the surrounding area of Hampton Court and the local communities and craftspeople. The King Henry VIII suite, where I stayed, had a very spacious 4-poster bed fit for a king, with a gleaming hand-forged copper bathtub – so deliciously deep, it was almost like a small en-suite swimming pool, brimming with bubbles. It was the perfect way to escape from the world for a while, and I even brought the hand-made shortbread biscuits in with me, which were hanging on my room door as a sweet welcome.
Dinner in the riverside 1665 restaurant, which I arrived at via a viewing and appreciation of some excellent and rare wines in the wine cellars en-route, was prepared by Gordon Ramsey-trained chef Ronnie Kimbugwe. The menu was a refreshing fish-based journey, deriving from Ronnie’s love of seafood from the days when he lived in Devon. I ordered a tasting of wines to accompany each dish that was served, and the sommelier was a real font of knowledge, educating me about new English wines. The wines were remarkably good, and when it came to the Champagne, he had a brilliant lux Coravin gadget for bubble-lovers, which keeps the Champagne fresh by injecting CO2 into the bottle – not that I could refrain from finishing it!
I made use of the butler service on hand for the top suites, serving cocktails made there and then, using the spirits generously laid out on polished trays in the rooms. After such a delicious dinner, the drinks took on a new meaning in a deep red velvet sofa, with a choice of tipples ranging from King’s Ginger liqueurs, whisky in 70s cut-glass decanters, rum, vodka, or my personal recommendation, home-made sloe gin.
For a welcome breakfast in the morning, I returned to a window table in the Rotunda to see the riverside waking up. The weather being suited to a day on the water, the hotel arranged a delicious picnic for me to take onto their day-boat, moored along the deck beside the hotel. They proceeded to send me off down the river with their own craft beer, called “The Six Wives” in honour of King Henry VIII’s love life.
The philosophy at The Mitre is to blend the old with the new, and the local with the worldly. It would seem that this stunning hotel really does have it all!
The next Signet collection hotel, The Retreat Elcot Park, opens in West Berkshire in the spring. For more information about The Mitre, go to www.mitrehamptoncourt.com.