There is nothing like an escape to the country. More precisely, to the English countryside when it is sunny – yes, and believe me, it does happen sometimes! When the Four Seasons invited me to visit its UK countryside retreat, located an hour from London, and to taste and test-drive their new cocktail selection, I thought someone was pulling a little prank. The exact words were:
“In celebration of the arrival of summer, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts has launched a fun 100 Mile Cocktail initiative worldwide, adding locally sourced cocktails to drink menus across six continents. This year’s 100 Mile Cocktail summer campaign challenged mixologists to craft libations using only ingredients and spirits found within a 100-mile (160-kilometre) radius of each Four Seasons property.Do take a look at the list here on Four Seasons’ recently launched food blog Taste. The program takes Four Seasons commitment to farm-to-table beyond the plate and into the glass, bringing awareness to the community farms, distilleries and producers that supply each cocktail’s distinctive ingredients. We would like to invite you to visit Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire to meet their mixologist and make their 100 mile cocktail named Twenty Two. So called because 22 miles is the distance covered to collect the Bombay Sapphire gin from Laverstoke Mill. With the farm to table concept still ringing strong, we thought this ‘farm to glass’ iteration might interest you?”
I thought about it for about 22 seconds… the words Four Seasons and Gin seemed like a killer combination. And, purely in the name of research, a day after the Henley Regatta Weekend, I headed to my little country estate (little being an understatement… more to come!)… and here is how it went!
– Was there any pre-arrival communication by the hotel with myself via email or social media?
Actually, there was quite a bit of banter since the reservation was made and confirmed.
– Did I try to engage the hotel via Twitter? Did the hotel interact with me and made me feel welcome/special?
I did and the hotel responded and engaged over time. This continued after my stay, which is something that few hotels do.
– Has the hotel tried to gather any personal information (e.g. preferences) prior to my stay?
Four Seasons know me “reasonably” well and know I love gin. And I do 🙂
– The wow factor! What was the hotel decor style?
The property in itself is wonderful. The drive up to the House and the driveway is simply stunning. We arrived and had our car valeted and our suitcases magically disappeared. We were welcomed by the Four Seasons team who escorted us to the reception area.
– How quick and efficient was the hotel check-in?
Very quick and slick. Our rooms weren’t ready when we arrived, so we took a little tour of the hotel, which was very useful as it is a bit of a maze. That saved us precious time during our stay as we knew where we were (the hotel has wings) and where we needed to go.
– Was I addressed by name once reservation has been located? (it is all about the small details, some others are outstanding with this, and I love it, like I do when I board an airplane)
Absolutely. Ms O’Reilly this and that. But something very “different” happened – Leah and Lauren were booked under “Leah Travels”, for some reason and not under their names. Throughout our 3-day stay, the ladies were always addressed as Ms. Travels. We couldn’t say anything – it was too funny!
– Did I get an upgrade from my confirmed pre-booked room type?
We did, and were upgraded to the Belvedere Suite with an adjoining connecting King Room.
– Did I feel genuinely welcomed by the hotel staff?
Absolutely – everyone went out of their way to make sure we and everybody else was looked after. Everyone wanted a chat and it was great.
– Luggage – how many people did I have to tip before the luggage made it safely to my room? This is cultural, I know
We didn’t see our luggage until we got back to our suite.
– Wi-fi – was I told anything about it? Was there a charge?
WiFi is complimentary in the public areas and charged at £12 for standard and £18 for premium connections in the bedrooms. It wasn’t stellar by the pool or in the bar. I did ask about this and was told that the whole WiFi system is being upgraded.
– First impressions – décor, size and wow factor
The Belvedere suite was lovely – very spacious and beautifully decorated. We also had wonderful views of the British countryside!
– Welcome amenity
Chocolate and strawberries (in season at the time, obviously). What is not to like?
Everyday we had a different amenity and I was particularly impressed when room serviced knocked after we were back from the pool. It was certainly Pimms o’clock!
– The bed
The bed was lovely – huge and comfortable. I had some lovely and much-needed sleep.
– Closet/Wardrobe – proper hangers or those annoying ones where you need a PhD to get them out one by one? This is a personal pet peeve of mine. I can’t stand them.
All wonderful and proper (and plenty of hangers too, including the silk ones for more delicate clothes).
– Iphone Charger/Dock
I am now on an iPhone 5, which will be a bit of an issue going forward as every hotel will have, at some point to upgrade their current systems. I was quite impressed with the fact that we had lots of adapters already in the plugs (as my friends were American)
– Bathrobes and slippers
I didn’t use them, but it was there.
– Coffee and Tea
We had a nespresso and some fresh milk in the fridge. I didn’t use it.
– Free bottled water
Of course, and a fresh one by your bed every night.
– Magazine selection – had some nice surprises and doesn’t happen often enough!
No proper magazines except the Four Seasons own magazine and a local one. We had a great newspaper selection at breakfast (and available at various places at the hotel).
– Power sockets in useful places – we have more and more devices and we know where we want them! By the bed, by the working area.
We didn’t really have an issue as the plugs were relatively close to the bed, but closer would have been better. This is a tough one.
– First impressions – décor, size and wow factor
The bathroom was lovely. Very classic, in tune with the rest of the room but with everything I need and love.
– Bath, shower and taps – I am looking for Duravits and Hansgrohes (or other fab brands) around the world. How fab was the shower? And a little pet peeve.. was I able to operate the shower without asking Mr. O for help?
This hotel was a shrine to both brands and it was lovely as everything was very familiar. More modern design is used in common areas like the bar and spa. Very good indeed.
– Towels – yes, please! How many and how soft and lovely?
– Toiletries – own brand, super brand, baby ones or proper ones? I shall find out!
I adored the Asprey products. They smelled amazing. Sizes weren’t large.
– Amenity kit – I don’t want more sewing kits thank you very much, but I will need a shower cap.
As usual in every Four Seasons, we had everything we needed. But for future reference, if you have 2 ladies, can we have 2 showercaps? We asked for them and obviously got them quickly.
– Hairdryer – is it a human one, or just something stuck to a wall that only makes noise?
The hairdryer was very good. I also noticed the little note left in the bathroom stating clearly where it could be found.
– Décor of breakfast room
Breakfast takes place at the Seasons restaurant, in the same wing where our room was.
– The spread (inc yumminess)
It was fine – not too large (which is fine by me, to be honest). It had a great selection of fresh bread which is key for me.
– Cost (I have seen a hotel charging €75 for breakfast – a tad much, maybe?)
Very reasonable at £20 per person.
In one of the nights we stayed at the Four Seasons Hampshire, we had dinner at Seasons, the hotel’s signature restaurant. At night, the main restaurant splits into two – Seasons and the Bistro, offering separate seating areas and different menus. We ventured outside the hotel on other nights as there are some great places around too!
I have to say we had a great meal (and worth noting that a 3-course meal is £45, which is outstanding value for money). The service was impeccable and the food was very good. Hats off to Rebecca, the sommelier who treated us to some lovely English sparkling and other very interesting selections!
We did spent a reasonable amount of time at the bar, as do most hotel residents. It is a lovely place and it felt awfully familiar. It was when Leah pointed out that the similarity was obvious – it did look like my house (and worth noting, I loved the “art” at this hotel. I did make some mental notes to enquire later about some particular pieces as they would go very well you know where).
But on our second night, we spent hours at the Bar 1086. Why? Because this is where we did our tasting. Our 100 mile cocktail tasting. All roads leading to the 22 mile cocktail. It was so good! But before the piece of resistance, we *had* to try some other drinks. Interesting colour scheme…
Before we knew it, the moment had arrived.. it was time for the 22 Mile cocktail… made with Bombay Sapphire Gin infused with Estate Elderflowers, homemade estate elderflower syrup, lemon juice, spicy elderflower foam, red hot chili pepper and topped with Estate’s honeycomb and more elderflowers, it was incredible! If you want to know the recipe, just click here.
The hotel has a fab indoor pool, more appropriate to the “normal” British weather. During my stay, which took place in the hottest week in 30 years in this country, everyone wanted to be outside – and it was interesting to see how the hotel coped with this unseasonal demand. The outdoor vitality pool was the place to enjoy a bit of cold water and it was indeed lovely. The hotel does not cater for 200 people by the pool (usually people visit this property for more British activities such as horse-riding, croquet, clay shooting, walking and the lot), so we were very lucky to find some sun loungers every time.
It was my first time sunbathing in England (and at the end of it, getting a lovely tan), so I will never ever forget this moment.
– How good and reliable was the wi-fi?
Wifi was good in the rooms, but not so good in the bar and restaurant (and pool). I understand that a new system will be put in place soon.
– Did the hotel interact with me via Twitter during my stay?
They did and we had a great time!
The Four Seasons Hampshire is located 1 hour from London, easily accessible by train (and a short taxi ride)
– Cost – rooms starting from…
Rooms start at £275 and suites start at £575 per night, excluding breakfast.
– Would I recommend it to my best friend?
– Would I stay again?
Believe me, I will! It will be perfect for a weekend with Mr. O or some close friends year round (and only 45 minutes from home!)
Have you visited this hotel? What were your thoughts?
Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire and loved every minute of it. Opinions are, as always, my own. You can find out more about Four Seasons’ food and wine journeys by visiting its recently launched food blog Taste.