Can you find Australia in England? Yes, at Heckfield Place Hotel & Estate, ten minutes by Range Rover shuttle from Hook rail station or 40 minutes’ drive west of London’s Heathrow airport.
Heckfield is the English country house base of Sydneysider Skye Gyngell. As is English tradition, she naturally also has a London pad, in the form of Spring Restaurant, at Somerset House on The Strand. After leaving Australia, she cooked in France, with Brit Anne Willan, and at London’s Dorchester Hotel, under Swiss maestro Anton Mosimann. She then convinced the owners that Petersham Nurseries needed a café – and she gained a Green Michelin star. She has another one, now, for Marle Restaurant at Heckfield Place.
Marle’s menu changes daily, depending on what gardeners have brought in from Heckfield’s own farm. Typical choices could include Warm crab with n’duja butter and wholegrain polenta, and Pork fillet with gooseberries and farm fennel. Yes, there are Berkshire Pigs down on the farm, as well as Aberdeen Angus cattle, Guernsey cows and sheep and every edible green you have ever heard of. Go and visit.
Heckfield, in its entirety is one impressive 162-hectare privately-owned estate. 750 metres up a winding approach – ‘5 ¼ mph max’ – is the house, three-floors, stone-edged red brick, finished 1760 for Charles Shaw-Lefevre, Lord Eversley. Today, with clever use of numerous Eversley outhouses, all now attached, this is the dream country house hotel. 45 bedrooms, designed by Ben Thompson, are perfect foil for such bits and pieces as induction tea kettles, Bang & Olufsen electronics, masses of hardbacks and more.
Check the house’s drawing rooms, where today’s pristine newspapers, as well as half-done jigsaws, await attention. Walls here are stylishly hung with oils, last century and this. Walls of the main staircase, 26 steps in all, display 61 black and white photo portraits, including Winston Churchill.
Take in a movie in the significant cinema, popcorn provided and pre-screening dinner available. Head for the spa, perhaps for a 60-minute Wildsmith foot massage, named for the 19th century arboretum designer.
Hike or bike the grounds, explore semi-hidden gardens. There’s a 17-metre pool, plus wild swimming in the enormous lake, which has a sky-high jet d’eau to rival Geneva’s.
GM Kevin Brooke, an Aman veteran, heads a team of ‘actors’, staff who in many departments are dressed à la mode, the old-fashioned mode, by Maureen Doherty, who dressed Maggie Smith in the 2015 movie The Lady In the Van. You might feel you too are an extra in Downton Abbey. The difference is that Heckfield Place is authentic, and gorgeous.
Mary Gostelow publishes the daily girlahead.com and a unique weekly 15-minute industry Mary Gostelow Girlahead Podcast, both part of Almont Global.