The Four Seasons Hampshire has to be the most relaxed five star hotel I’ve ever experienced. The non-stuffy staff, including the reception and valet parking team you first meet, are attired in trendy Shoreditch-style tweeds and could easily be mistaken for guests, while the sweet and toy dispensers handily placed beside the check-in desk, tell you just how family-friendly they are here.
On the busy Guy Fawkes weekend the extensive grounds and public areas of the hotel were teeming with children and fur babies; for dogs, of all shapes and sizes, are almost as enthusiastically welcomed here as their owners. The concierge will even arrange a dog-sitter whenever you want to enjoy areas of the hotel, such as the restaurant and spa, that your four-legged companion isn’t permitted to venture into.
Drawing up to the substantial, bright red brick Georgian mansion, you might be forgiven for thinking the hotel to be a smart new build. There are some original period features to be found inside, however, not least the drawing room with its ornate fireplace. Meanwhile, the rest of the property and estate is far more a celebration of 21st century country living, from a state-of-the-art equestrian centre where guests, including the children, can either learn or practise riding, to a spa housed in the unrecognisable 18th century stable block, complete with a large swimming pool within a light, conservatory-style structure that will have the little ones amused for hours.
For those with an interest in English literature or period dramas, the Jane Austen House Museum and Highclere Castle, the iconic location of the hit television series Downton Abbey, are both accessible places for a day-trip, but frankly you aren’t going to be stuck for something to do if you never leave the estate. For my part, a bracing walk was the perfect preamble to an hour-long warming body massage; the treatment room mood-lit red as my therapist brought my chilled limbs back to life with hot stones and oil scented with clove and eucalyptus that seemed to capture all that was good about the season.
Other less energetic elements of a stay at Four Seasons Hampshire includes taking afternoon tea in the sprawling pastel-coloured library (minus the heavy mahogany bookcases you might imagine) or sampling one of the artisan cocktails at the hip bar attached to the recently updated dining room, Wild Carrot. Named after the wildflower that is plentiful throughout the estate and designed by the acclaimed Martin Brudnizki, the newly relaunched restaurant, with its impressive open kitchen presided over by Adam Fargin, is reminiscent of a steak house, a move that’s in-keeping with the heritage of the Four Seasons group and refreshingly informal.
Wild Carrot’s menu is packed with crowd-pleasing dishes with a keen emphasis on gourmet ingredients. My Asian-inspired native Blue lobster salad with green mango, peanuts, crispy basmati rice, lobster mayonnaise and coriander pesto proved an exciting way to open, matched by a Dover sole with crab cannelloni, hand-crafted from a fine squid ink pasta and finished with an anise sabayon, fennel and courgette ribbons. Desserts were a little less inspiring and more reminiscent of the top tier on an afternoon tea stand; my pistachio tart being an unnatural shade of green which lacked the intense, exotic nut flavour I was expecting.
What I most enjoyed about our stay was the presidential-size suite, complete with a living area, a marble bathroom, two water closets, two super-size televisions, one seriously humongous bed, countless fluffy pillows and a dining table where, after a heavenly night’s sleep, we enjoyed a cooked breakfast immaculately served on starched linens. If you can’t be bothered to fill out the breakfast card and hang it on the door before you head for the hills, any room service meal can now be ordered from the new Four Seasons app; another example of the group’s innovative world-class service. Loyal Four Seasons customers (and nearly all of them are) will find the app, accessing all the hotel’s services available at the touch of a button, not only helpful for getting the most out of their vacation but for planning the next one.
Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire, Dogmersfield Park, Chalky Ln, Hook RG27 8TD. For more information and bookings please visit the website.