Impeccable service but brown flowers on the dinner table, breakfast fruit ‘covered in cling film’ and ‘absurd prices’…the inspector is not a fan of Hambleton Hall in Rutland
- Hambleton Hall was built in 1881 by Walter Marshall, a bon vivant with a passion for fox hunting
- Now? A “formal hotel with fussy food, pelmets and rugs everywhere”
- Inspector pays £510 for dinner, room and breakfast
- Remember that the inspector pays his way… and tells it like it is…
Walter Marshall, the fox-hunting bon vivant who built Hambleton Hall in 1881, had a motto: Fay what you want — “do what you want”.
And its sundial on the terrace is inscribed with the words Nunc Hora Bibendi, “It’s now time for a drink”.
Hambleton Hall owner Tim Hart, whose sons Sam and Eddie run the famous Spanish restaurant chain Barrafina, makes a big deal of it in the hotel directory – and yet his hotel’s atmosphere is tightly regulated.
Hambleton Hall has an atmosphere, says the inspector, which is ‘strictly regulated’
“Please dress smart in your own way,” is an instruction. “Please order your breakfast the night before,” is another.
And, on arrival, the receptionist reminds us that we are going down for a drink at 7:30 p.m. and that we will settle down for dinner at 8 p.m. “So don’t be late,” she might have added.
Hambleton Hall, in a glorious position overlooking Rutland Water, is a reminder that the Colefax and Fowler style of country hotel, which burst onto the scene in the 1980s, is still with us.
Formal and impeccable service, fussy food, pelmets, carpets everywhere and sky-high prices. We pay £510 for dinner, bed and breakfast, and despite what the Good Hotel Guide says about all rooms having “garden or lake” views, ours overlooks the courtyard of the kitchen on the side of the building.
Inspector says Hambleton Hall occupies a glorious position overlooking Rutland Water, pictured
Hambleton Hall, Oakham, Rutland, LE15 8TH.
Doubles are priced at £375. For more information call 01572 756991 or visit hambletonhall.com.
But it’s pretty in a ruffle of sorts, with a floral headboard, curtains and blinds, a high ceiling, a neutral rug. The large bathroom is so bright that it surprises even during the day.
We take an aperitif in the large living room, where we are presented with menus and four small canapés, before being introduced to the dining room, where it is strangely calm. We need to avoid an argument here, unless we want the whole room to hear it.
A surprise is the white carnations on the tables – which have turned brown. The food is also a throwback to the 1980s, when Brussels sprouts on the menu meant a tiny Brussels sprout leaf on the plate. It’s way too chic, way too minimalist – and at an absurd price.
Because breakfast was ordered the night before, your fruit compote — or whatever — is waiting for you at the table, covered in cling film. This may be helpful for staff, but there is something discouraging for customers.
A breath of fresh air awaits us as we pack our bags and prepare to leave – in every sense of the word.