The last couple of years have brought change upon change for Hampton Manor.
This a place which, if you’d asked us two years ago, we’d have said didn’t need to change a thing.
The Manor had plenty going for it already. A restaurant that dropped Hampton in Arden firmly on the destination dining map. Bedrooms pairing cosiness with opulence, grounds offering wintry walks and striking views. A bright red blaze of Japanese acer trees in the grounds. Beautiful cocktails. Warm welcomes. Deep duvets.
Reassuringly, some of the bigger changes turn out to be more enhancements than changes of direction – more of the same things the Manor was already splendid at, just dialled up.
There’s a Michelin star, for starters, won in 2016 and held on to in 2017. And coming hot on its heels a rebrand: Hampton Manor’s now officially a Restaurant With Rooms, acknowledging the big draw their dining’s been for several years now and giving Peel’s Restaurant the due it deserves. There’s a new focus on natural wines in the restaurant, and the added allure of that Michelin star keeping a reservation at Peel’s in even higher demand than pre-star, judging by the zero empty tables during our dinner.
And there are some new design flourishes, the entrance hall and lobby a wealth of craftmanship: velvet-clad, oak-framed sofas mixed with mid-century furniture, William Morris prints on the walls and hand-thrown ceramics studding the tables and window ledges. Following a refurbishment the suites are scattered with rich jewel colours: forest green headboards with peacocks and hares twining across them, deep armchairs and Scandi-luxe sofas.
The Manor’s history’s as colourful as our suite, peppered with the big personalities and public figures the present-day rooms are named for. The Sir Robert Peel suite, ours for the weekend, is a high-ceilinged, bay-windowed thing of beauty. Recent additions are all pointed towards unfussy luxury: a record player and a stack of vinyl, a sleek little coffee-grinder by the kettle for freshly-ground Java in the morning, sky-high thread count on the bed linen.
Some things at Hampton Manor haven’t changed, though. Among those: the cosiness. Hampton Manor’s still good at nooks. We sit in reading alcoves – one kitted out with design books and a mid-century rocking chair – cushioned window seats, fireplace-facing sofas. We eat lunch in Fred’s Bar, so compact and cocoon-like that from the farthest point in the room you can still hear the fireplace gently crackling. The fact we don’t exploit half the nooks the manor has to offer is down to their quantity, not our lack of effort. Even Peel’s Restaurant itself looks like a tucked-away secret, with under 30 covers, and the same dark-wood, velvety-dense furnishings scattered throughout the rest of the Manor.
The restaurant’s newfound starriness hasn’t brought about any stuffiness: if there’s a pattern to the service, from waiters to sommelier, it’s big, convivial enthusiasm. And the tasting menus speak to the same level of enthusiasm happening behind the scenes: highlights of the four course menu include a small dish of beetroot with Bosworth ash (that manages to feel like eighty different textures on the tongue, sharp and rich at the same time) and a Wagyu beef dish molasses-rich with black garlic.
But it’s a sign of the Manor’s strength at the simple stuff that we find ourselves almost as spellbound by the bread-basket and butter, as we are dedicated to clearing our plates of every black garlic smear. And that’s true of the hotel at large: the grandness comes with an attention to detail about the small things.
Man cannot live by enormous chandeliers and Gothic Tudor wood panelling alone, but the Manor’s got you covered for the everyday comforts as well as the Michelin-starred intricacy and Instagram-magnet opulence. That attention to detail runs to small bottles of fresh milk in the bedroom fridge. Still-warm homemade biscuits waiting for us both evenings when we arrive back at our suite – so warm, actually, there might be a member of the Manor’s staff sprinting up ahead of guests to deliver the goods while they’re still at peak gooeyness. A stash of wellington boots by the main doors for squelchy autumn walks in the grounds, a stash of picnic blankets for less windswept weather: no matter how much has changed, it’s still a manor for all seasons, surefootedly suited to winter weekends and summer weddings alike.
So it turns out some changes really are for the better. We’re up for anything the future holds for Hampton Manor. Just as long as those homemade biscuits stick around.
Hampton Manor Restaurant With Rooms and Peel’s Restaurant, Shadowbrook Lane, Hampton in Arden, B92 0EN. Rooms start at £150. The Robert Peel Suite starts at £285 per person, to dine and stay with breakfast. Peel’s Restaurant is open to non-residents, and tasting menus are £70, £75 or £85 for four to seven courses, with wine matching options available.