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Out of Kensington: Hartwell Hotel & Spa

Sitting in 90 acres of sweeping fields, landscaped gardens, ha ha’s and a lake is the beautiful Hartwell House – an Historic House Hotel, one of only three in the UK, owned by the National Trust.

Just an hours car journey from London this historic house, built in the seventeenth century, now provides a true respite from the rush of London life. In the past carriages would have bought you to the huge wooden front door via the mile long avenue of Lime trees. Today you approach via a sweeping drive to be met by a statue of Frederick, Prince of Wales. The door opens and you are immediately in the Jacobean Great Hall – where high ceilings, works of art, antiques, traditional furnishings and a large wood burning fire place greet you.

Over the years, various architectural additions have been made resulting in architectural styles such as Jacobean, Gothic revival, Victorian and Georgian interiors. The gardens, in the style of Capability Brown, have also received various designs. As an example, and in addition to the ha ha’s, there are statues, gazeebos, follies – and the mid-section of the bridge originally formed part of Kew Bridge.

Leading to the rooms in the main house is a fine example of a Jacobean staircase complete with statues. Rooms are large with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the countryside and gardens. Our room, The Queen’s Bedroom comes complete with four poster bed, his and hers walk-in wardrobe, floor to ceiling windows, artwork, antiques, multiple sofas and armchairs. This room originally belonged to Queen Josephine when she and King Louis where exciled from France and lived at Hartwell House from 1809 – 1814.

Hartwell House is clearly a popular destination for both residents and non-residents – many were enjoying formal Afternoon Tea, and the restaurant at dinner was full with couples, groups and those attending a corporate event. Chef Daniel Richardson is locally known as the chef who bought Aylesbury Duck back on the menu – traditionally quite a difficult bird to cook and one which takes skill, especially as it is quite a fatty bird. Sadly, not being in season on our visit, we were still able to chose from an extensive menu: Pan friend scallops with apple and fennel salad, accompanied by cauliflower and lime leaves; Veloute and pan friend fillet of Hallibut with crushed potatoes, artichokes, saute leeks and crab sauce or Beetroot macaroon with goats cheese mouse as examples. Deserts were equally exotically named.

Walking around the grounds on a beautiful Autumn’s afternoon is a real treat. If walking does not give you enough excerise, there are tennis courts and a croquet lawn. The converted former stables provide elegant space for a gymnasium, large swimming pool, together with sauna, spa and beauty rooms. Again non-residents are very welcome with day spa packages being popular and a smart cafe/restaurant is on-site overlooking the pool area.

Hartwell House is well situated being close to London and Oxford and is ideal for overnight or longer stays, combining with other attractions in the area. It provides a relaxing break from London in old traditional surroundings, comfortable and classy with no bling in sight!
Lucy and Stephen were guests of Hartwell House

Hartwell House Hotel & Spa, Oxford Road, Nr Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire HP17 8NR
www.hartwell-house.com 01296 747444

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Images: Copyright:  Lucy Elliott www.lucyelliottphotography.com

Children learn ‘Petite Etiquette’ at The Kensington Hotel

The Kensington Hotel is a smart hotel, but one known to be child-friendly which is a great bonus when taking kids out. And what better than after a session at the Science Museum or ice skating at the Natural History Museum than to have a nice cosy afternoon tea at the Kensington Hotel, in the knowledge that your kids will know how, and indeed, will, behave.

So no more squirming with embarrassment whilst little Jonny plays merry havoc. If you are having little success teaching your own kids, then why not hand them over to Jean Broke-Smith (of Ladette to Lady TV fame) who, for an hour, will teach your children everything they will need to know (certainly until they get to adult hood). The courses, run at the Kensington Hotel, are designed to be fun and helpful to children. To know what it appropriate behaviour in a 5* hotel, and what isn’t. Of course an additional benefit is that (in theory at least) these new found skills can be transferred back at home.

So what does Jean teach children between 5 and 10? Well the basics such as how to sit at the table, not to have elbows on the table, how to say please and thank you, how not to speak with your mouthful or wave the cutlery around. How to hold a tea cup (full of hot chocolate with a tempting marshmallow in the bottom which was a little too much of a temptation for some of the kids trying out this session). Don’t get up from the table for a little wander around and don’t play with your games/phone at the table. All this sounds a lot for some of the really tiny ones there – for India (aged 5) some of this might have been a bit over her head – but she certainly knows how to hold a cup of hot chocolate! The sessions are free and are being held at the Kensington Hotel, SW7 on Saturday 12 and 19th November, followed by some more in April.

At the end of the session the children were asked if they had any questions. One bright spark (aged about 6) asked how you said thank you if you were in France and you did not speak French. “You could ask Mummy” was one response from the older sister – another response from the teacher herself, was not to worry, generally most people understood the word ‘thank you’ in whatever country you were in. The children were then shown how to leave a napkin on a seat when going to the loo, and how to leave it on the table once they had finished. So the departing scene was of 5 children very seriously folding up their napkins placing them neatly back on the table. They had finished. The hot chocolate, the sandwiches, the scones and the cakes. They might have finished and the food disappeared. But the manners will stay with them for life.

For more information on ‘Petite Etiquette’ call 020 7589 6300

Images: Copyright Lucy Elliott/The Kensington Magazine

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