Out of Kensington: Hambleton Hall, Leicestershire

For a weekend away, many consider the Cotswolds as “The Place to go” – however, just 90 miles out of London, but in a northerly direction up the A1, is Hambleton Hall. This distinctive Victorian mansion, near Oakham in the East Midlands county of Rutland, is the perfect starting point for long walks around Rutland Water or to take part in water-based leisure activities.  Hambleton, built in 1881, was originally a hunting box* and provided an ideal base for local hunts and for their social activities.

In 1979 Tim and Stefa Hart bought Hambleton Hall to create a boutique hotel. Upon arrival via a sweeping drive, a roaring fire greets you. Outside, the Great Outdoors beckons.  Most visitors come for the country air or to get some exercise. There is a swimming pool in the gardens and Rutland Water, being the largest artificial reservoir in Europe, offers plenty of other activities, such as sailing, kayaking, canoeing or windsurfing. Game shooting, riding, fox hunting or watching birds from the 31 hides is also available. Well behaved dogs are welcome and rows of Le Chameau wellingtons are available for long walks around Rutland Water.

Back inside, food and wine play a large part in the Hambleton Hall experience. Aaron Patterson is a Michelin-starred chef who originally trained at Hambleton Hall and then, after a stint at Le Manoir under Raymond Blanc, returned in 1992 as Hambleton Hall’s Director and Head Chef. The food is beautifully presented and very original – as an example we had tian of crab and cucumber, flavoured with lemongrass and ginger; rice-less squid risotto with chorizo sausage; loin of fallow venison with celeriac and chocolate and roast duck with cucumber, plums and black beans.  The menu changes daily and most of the ingredients are sourced locally, or are grown in their own kitchen garden. The innovation and taste of their meals proves yet again that restaurants outside London can easily hold their own against those in the capital.

Tim and his sommelier, Dominique Baduel, offer various wine-pairing events during the course of the year.  Dominique showed us a new acquisition that they were trialing – a type of syringe (called Corovin) where a thin needle pulls the wine out of the cork without the need to take the cork out of the bottle. The cork will then reseal the hole, meaning that expensive wines can be offered by the glass.

The 17 bedrooms are individually and traditionally decorated and all overlook the gardens and Rutland Water. The gardens are beautiful and in April tulips provide a carpet of colour. One of the highlights is to have lunch on the terrace, amid the floral display, watching the various activities on the lake.  Using Hambleton Hall as your base, there is plenty to see – Belvoir and Rockingham Castles, Burghley and Boughton House, Elton Hall and Althorp are within reasonable distance. The market towns of Uppingham, Stamford and Oakham are also a draw, offering antiques, art galleries and small independent shops. Tim also runs the Hambleton Bakery in the next door village of Exton – a very popular destination where traditional breads, fruit loaves, muffins and cakes are made on the premises.

Hambleton Hall provides a real break away with plenty to do and see in wonderful surroundings. Having many friends and relatives in Leicestershire we know it’s a favoured destination for those looking for something special and we thought it might be the same for the residents of Kensington!

Lucy and Stephen were guests of Tim and Stefa Hart
Hambleton Hall, Oakham, Leicestershire, LE15 8TH
www.hambletonhall.com 01572 756991

Images and copyright: Lucy Elliott www.lucyelliottphotography.com

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