Scott Manson discovers why a newly renovated hotel, close to Hampton Court Palace, is the perfect place for a relaxing weekend….
Hampton is one of those handsome suburban towns that England’s south east does so well. Ideally proportioned, next to a broad sweep of the River Thames and blessed with deer-filled parks and pageantry aplenty, it’s also home to an unusually high number of quality restaurants and gastropubs, serving the many visitors who come to the area to enjoy the delights of Hampton Court Palace, the former home of Henry VIII.
This many-turreted masterpiece serves as the backdrop to one of the area’s loveliest new boutique boltholes – the Kings Arms Hotel. Situated between Bushy Park and the palace, it has a fantastic restaurant overseen by Michelin-starred chef Mark Kempson, which is worth a visit for the food alone. Throw in well-appointed rooms and staff for whom nothing is too much trouble, and you have the ideal place for a weekend break.
Built in 1709, the hotel borders the Palace’s famous maze, and a recent refurb has brought it bang up-to-date with all 14 bedrooms renovated to create a feature of the unique proportions expected with such a mature property. It’s terrifically well thought through, from the colour schemes selected – deep greens, soft pinks – to the choice of fixtures and fittings. Indeed, one of the key features when renovating the hotel and restaurant was championing British and locally sourced materials.
Many of the suppliers are local to the property, including fabrics from the British manufacturer Angel & Boho, and Green Arden – who created the pretty private terrace at the front of the restaurant. Elsewhere, there are handmade mosaic tiles, antique marble tables, period seating and, in the bar area, some lovely stained glass windows, while the cosy restaurant has a refurbished wooden fireplace, which was a welcome sight when we visited on a chilly autumn day.
Our room was cute, quiet and, crucially, had a supremely comfy bed. It was also just a few seconds walk upstairs from the restaurant – The Six – which meant that no matter how many postprandial drinks we enjoyed, our route to a good night’s sleep was still a simple one.
Happily plotted up in a corner booth of the dining room, we settled in for chef Mark Kempson’s crowd-pleasing menu. Mark’s career has spanned over 20 years, beginning in a small Hampshire hotel, moving on to the two Michelin-starred The Vineyard in Berkshire, to eventually head up his own restaurant, Kitchen W8, where he also secured a Michelin star.
The menu at The Six (named in honour of Henry VIII’s wives) takes a ‘‘best of British’’ approach, offering ambitious, but not overly cheffy, options from a kitchen that clearly knows its stuff. To start, we enjoyed a more-ish Sussex ham fritter, served with broccoli and sage puree, plus some punchy Colston Bassett blue cheese. A generous portion of crispy spiced whitebait was also a welcome accompaniment.
For mains, a chunk of line-caught cod, which came with fashionably scorched gem lettuce and smoked bacon, got the seal of approval from my dining partner. My aged Dexter beef sirloin, meanwhile, was a beautiful cut of meat, with a slight caramelised crust giving way to mid-rare tenderness and deep flavour. A side order of truffled mashed potato raised the fine dining feel a notch further, helped along by a bottle of peppery Australian shiraz recommended by the waiter.
Perhaps it was the lovely wine, perhaps it was the double height mattress on our bed, but I had a brilliant night’s sleep at this hotel. So if you’re planning a visit to the grand palace of our former king, make a night of it by staying at the Kings Arms. It may not have a royal warrant, but it certainly gets our seal of approval.
For further information, visit www.kingsarmshamptoncourt.com.