Searching for Shelley at Elcot Park in Berkshire
THE WEEKEND: On the fringes of the market town of Hungerford in rural Berkshire, The Retreat at Elcot Park is set on elevating the country-house hotel stay. The second hotel from The Signet Collection (the first property is the awardwinning The Mitre in Hampton Court), guests can expect more of the brand’s alluring combination of seriously stylish interiors, innovative dining and a laidback twist on luxury.
The 55-room hotel is carved out of a Grade II-listed 18th-century building which was once the home of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley’s mother. Inspired by the property’s back-story, interior designers Taylor and Turner have woven a sense of poetry throughout the renovation. A portrait of the poet sits proudly over a limestone fireplace in the lobby, while gorgeous Shelley quotes line the walls.
One reads: “The fountains mingle with the river and the rivers with the ocean, the winds of heaven mix for ever with a sweet emotion. Nothing in the world is single, all things by a law divine in one spirit meet and mingle, why not I with thine?”
During the renovoation hidden architectural details, such as gilded mirrors, ornate fireplaces and teak wood floors, were uncovered and these have been given a starring role again. Rooms have bold statement wallpapers, brightly-painted furniture and lovely quirky details – walls are lined with vintage maps or hand painted with murals.
THE STAY: While all the bedrooms have a charm about them, the three suites have standalone tubs, lavish bathrooms and four-poster beds. Instead of minibars, guests can help themselves to pantries, stocked with wine and snacks. The Retreat is the ideal spot for a weekend exploring the North Wessex Downs. We spent an afternoon browsing the boutiques and antique shops in Hungerford. Check out Below
Stairs on the High Street for an eclectic mix of finds.
DON’T MISS: Opening this summer is the outdoor swimming pool, which will feature cabanas and a Whispering Angel bar. You can also hang out in the Courtyard space, which houses a hair salon, coffee shop and Lay & Wheeler wine store, created from the property’s old stables.
THE FOOD: Headed up by culinary director Ronnie Kimbugwe, dining here is a highlight. At the heart of the hotel is the all-day brasserie 1772, where lunch was made up of Crispy Devon Squid to start, followed by Chicken Milanese, topped with oozy creamed spinach and a fried egg. It seemed rude to refuse a side of Truffle Fries. We also ordered Bombolini donuts, dusted in a pink popping candy, to finish.
Yu, on the other hand, offers a seven- ̈ course Pan-Asian tasting menu (there is also a vegan option). Giving an indulgent feasting feel, a seemingly endless stream of artisanal dishes arrive – edamame beans; squid with chilli; Asian seaweed salads; vegetable gyoza; sushi and sashimi; miso chicken and teriyaki ribeye, pots of fried rice and mochi ice cream.
NEED TO KNOW: Rates start from £150 per night for a classic room, and up to £620 per night for The Percy Shelley Suite; visit the website for more information and to book.
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