It’s been voted ‘Best Hotel in the British Isles’ and the traditional British restaurant has garnered numerous awards, but don’t let that sway you – Chewton Glen has to be experienced personally to be enjoyed properly. With a staff-to-guest ratio of two-to-one, it’s impossible not to feel like pampered royalty at this world-renowned boutique hotel in Hampshire. Combining the old-school elegance of the Jeeves & Wooster era with a style-sharp modern sensibility, this hotel, spa, restaurant and country club is as seductive as it is suave.
Award-winning spa with huge, six-treatment hydrotherapy pool
Just a 15-minute stroll to the sea
Simple, spectacular award-winning cuisine
A half-bottle of champagne in your room and Continental breakfast (usually £20 a head)
In the know
Gents in jackets; ladies in lace.
Beach towels and swimwear – the sea is only a short, countryside stroll away so pack a picnic and make an afternoon of it.
Also need to know:
Pets are not allowed, but the hotel is happy to sort out board at reputable kennels nearby. Call in advance if you intend to arrive via helicopter – there's only room for three on the helipad.As well as the hefty catalogue of activities that Chewton Glen can arrange on site, the hotel can also organise shooting, fishing and sailing jaunts.
Mr and Mrs Smith reviews
OK, I admit it – I didn’t even try not to fall in love. Gliding down Chewton Glen’s luxuriously long drive we caught our first heady glimpse across the beautiful lawns and knew we were in for a seriously good time. That mixture of five-star elegance, country-club atmosphere and edge-of-the-New-Forest setting was a formula I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist. Even so, I don’t think either of us expected to fall quite so head over heels with this boutique hotel in Hampshire.
Our weekend hideaway – an inviting amalgam of courtyard, flowers and warm brickwork –doesn’t seem overly imposing from the main entrance. But the second we step inside, we realise we are somewhere very special.
Chewton Glen is an 18th-century beautiful beast – and, with its refined air and formal elegance, it can’t help but exude that very particular type of Englishness that makes you wish you knew all the words to the national anthem. But this place is far too well bred to be stuffy or pretentious.
Post-check in, we pop along to the bar while we wait for our room. It’s very red, very plush and very clubby – with many ancient editions lining the wall (Captain Marryat wrote The Children of the New Forest while staying here). Such masculine, old school surroundings automatically make you feel that a stiff drink is in order. Gazing over the pristine lawn, we promise ourselves that as soon as we’ve dealt with our vodka tonics, we’ll have a game of croquet. The trouble is, the seemingly innocent squishy sofa swallows us up, and the damn thing holds us captive for two hours. There we are forced to remain; swapping stories about losing our virginity (I can’t believe that hasn’t come up until now), drinking more V&Ts to stave off dehydration – and very definitely not playing croquet.
The decor at this Hampshire boutique hotel may be traditional, but it’s freshened up with contemporary lighting, big, bold flower displays and acid-coloured cushions resting on delightfully upholstered armchairs (an effect so potent that one starts saying things like ‘delightfully upholstered armchairs’ quite unselfconsciously).
The front-of-house staff are unfailingly polite, but also rather quirky; as I swap my stilettos for flats, an older porter nods in sympathy and sighs that it is, indeed, hard work being stylish. When we finally get to our room, we question the wisdom of spending so much time out of it. It’s stunning. The bed is bigger than my whole bedroom at home, the secluded balcony has the most incredible view, the carpet is toe-sinkingly thick, and there’s a whole wall of mirrored wardrobes. This is pure, understated sumptuousness.
If this hotel is English with a capital E, then our bathroom is pure Americana. Bad-ass-MTV-pimp-my-crib-hip-hop-sextastic Americana, to be precise. It’s huge: nearly as big as the bedroom. There’s a party-sized shower, a TV in the wall, and a glut of Molton Brown goodies. Accompanied by a bottle of champagne, we watch music videos from our huge tub until both types of bubbles have disappeared.
We return from our naked state back into clothes, just in time for dinner. There’s something unnervingly sexy about country hotels of a certain standard who still request (politely) jackets for dinner. Mr Smith obliges, and so to the restaurant we head. Supper is worth dressing up for. On arrival we’re given the most delicious amuse-bouche (plump for the avocado morsels) before I polish off a succulent asparagus and artichoke salad, followed by pumpkin tortellini. Mr Smith is in some kind of lamb heaven; it’s so mouth-wateringly rich that he tries to tempt me out of 20 years of vegetarianism. I nearly give in. This is the type of dinner that makes you smile when you think about it afterwards.
At breakfast the next day, an old man at the table behind us booms away in the kind of voice that suggests he was once a ‘somebody’ in the army. He resolutely declares ‘this is the best toast I’ve ever had’. Quite. Many lazy hours later we take the woodland walk down through the hotel grounds to the beach, where we are confronted with another particularly English combination: sunburnt skin, too-tight swimwear and a retro ice-cream van.
We take our sticky mint choc-chip hands for a walk along the front to Barton on Sea and soon stumble across a cliff-top restaurant called the Beachcomber. They may not request a dinner jacket, but they do provide satisfying chip butties and chardonnay. Returning to the beach, we find a quiet spot and drift into a sea-induced slumber on the pebbles, joining the ranks of the slightly sunburnt ourselves.
This weekend has turned into a total food and wine fest – and indeed later that evening back at Chewton Glen, we find Richard, aka 'The Best Barman In The World'. (He’s got to be happy with that title, surely?) Discreet, passionate about his job and great company, he regales us with tales of old regulars, such as the male guest who lent a fledgling businesswoman four grand in return for half a per cent of her profits. She turned out to be the late Anita Roddick. He became rich enough to live six months of the year at Chewton Glen.
We couldn’t bolt from our boutique bolthole without pampering our souls at the spa. We laze around in the outdoor pool, loving the fact that waiters will hand you a glass of whatever you fancy without you even leaving the water. There’s an indoor pool, an outdoor Jacuzzi, a hydrotherapy spa pool with a high-tech make-any-kind-of-bubbles machine, saunas, steam rooms – and an exhaustive range of health and beauty treatments should you feel the need. I end up pleading with Mr Smith to get very rich, very quickly so that I can become a professional spa wife.
The hands on the clock do something peculiar at Chewton Glen: time disappears way too quickly. Tragically, it is soon time to leave – but not before every member of staff we pass has made sure we’ve had a lovely time. Gloriously romantic, this is a hotel I have been deprived of until this weekend. Now all I have to do is persuade Mr Smith to re-pack his dinner jacket and make a return visit soon.
New Forest, Hampshire BH23 5QL, United Kingdom
16.4 mi / 26.4 km from city centre
- Valet parking
- Aerobics instruction
- Exercise gym
- Internet services
- Tennis court
- On-Site parking
- Complimentary in-room coffee or tea
- Concierge desk
- Room service
Chewton's gorgeously grown-up five-roomed gastrodome (aka Vetiver) has a cosmopolitan menu serving guests whatever, whenever; whether you fancy a casual brunch or five-course, wine-matched tasting menu, it's all seasonally themed and skilfully produced by chef Andrew du Bourg and his brigade.
A private dining table in the Wine Room; a lime-green horseshoe banquette in Oak End; or a window seat in the Summer House conservatory, so you can marvel at the extensive manicured gardens and revel in a New Forest sunset.
Last orders in Vetiver are 10pm. The bar offers food, drink and good cheer until there’s no one left to enjoy them.
Meals, snacks and drinks are available to enjoy in-room 24 hours a day.
A burgundy-walled, leather-armchaired, gentleman’s club of a hidey-hole, the hotel’s bar is the definitive brandy-and-cigars den (except it’s non-smoking these days; just the brandy, then).