WE REVIEW THE FOUR SEASONS, HAMPSHIRE
A luxury retreat just an hour from London…
It had been a busy week at work, the roads out of London were packed with rush-hour traffic, and two over-tired children squabbled in the back over access rights to the iPad. To say we were frazzled when we arrived in Hook was something of an understatement but as we spied the Georgian manor house of the Four Seasons from the top of the long winding driveway, our tiredness turned to excitement, our six-year-old squealing with delight.
The doorman was on hand to unload our case and park our car and we were whisked away into the grand reception room. Everything is finely-tuned, ultra-professional and yet you are greeted like a very welcome friend. The kids were invited to dive in to a toy chest to pick a teddy, and we were then taken up to our beautiful suite – to more squeals of delight as the kids saw that their names had been written on the mirror, and personalised plates full of sweet treats had been left, one with happy birthday written on it for me. It’s these small touches that really set the scene – you are not a faceless hotel guest but part of a big house party.
We headed down to the Wild Carrot restaurant – a stylish space that is also family-friendly without feeling over-run with hyperactive kids. We tried two incredible risottos to start – mine with saffron and orange, my husband tried the bone marrow, then on to mains: a lovely Wellington of Salisbury venison haunch, and braised veal cheek. The children’s menu covers all the usual favourites, although my nine-year-old was more impressed by the grown-up choices, as the dishes they tried had been done in quite a plain style to keep most tastes happy. An enthusiastic sommelier was on hand who perfectly matched our glasses of wine to our dinner choices. There’s also a bar, which we tried the second night – curling up by the fire with board games and delicious burgers (and much-welcome cocktails after our days’ activities).
It was an early start the next morning – although I could have happily stayed in the vast cocoon of a bed until much later – with the children desperate to go and see the games room. After rounds of table tennis and air hockey, we managed to prize them away into the glorious 500 acres of grounds for the low ropes adventure course (there is a high ropes version for over 10s), then on to try the archery and some skating (there was a seasonal rink, open until end of Feb). We also picked up some bikes to explore the grounds, and you can also book for clay-pigeon shooting, falconry, fishing and horse-riding. We also fitted in trips to the new indoor children’s pool, Sharkie’s Reef. This is an ingenious new addition and solves the typical problem in many luxury hotels whereby to give adults a chance to swim in peace there are often restricted hours for kids. Here they have a great pool all to themselves all day long. When an additional new pool opens at the end of March, adults will be happy too. There’s also a lush sauna and steam room for a child-free escape.
The next day we kept breakfast brief – we hadn’t previously heard of the Hampshire Farmers Market lunch at the hotel but it is apparently legendary – when we told various friends where we were going, there eyes rolled heavenwards and told us to make sure we took our appetites. Locals book for the occasion (there were a couple of birthdays being celebrated) and there is a cold buffet set-up for starters with delicious salads, cold meats, amazing smoked salmon and trout, giant prawns, then an incredible carvery, and, if you can fit anymore in, a fabulous selection of sweet stuff including macarons and mini lemon meringue pies. Oh, and there is cheese, too. Check out the incredible menu here.
We really didn’t want to leave afterwards – okay, we were too full to move – but it was more that we had grown accustomed to this pampering and being so well-looked after.
“It was better than Disney,” declared my eldest son afterwards. We asked him to qualify this (having gone, at considerable expense, to the Florida theme park). “Well, there are so many activities, and no queues and the pool is amazing. But okay, it doesn’t have the rides.”
It is certainly nearer. And an easy 45-minute drive home. But such luxury doesn’t come cheap. You get what you pay for in terms of quality – and there are plenty of activities to keep you occupied there for free such as the pool, cycling and a kids club, but other activities are extra. This is treat territory – that said, it is my birthday every year…
Prices: Mews rooms from £375 per night.
Low ropes course £25 per person
Hampshire Farmers Market Buffet Sunday lunch: £65 per person including a glass of Champagne, £22 5 to 11 year olds,under 4s dine free.