Zoë Perrett enjoys a little rural luxury at Four Seasons Hampshire
When we realise that our arrival at Four Seasons Hampshire has coincided with that of a drag hunt and a sizeable Asian wedding party, we prepare to be temporarily – or at least momentarily – overlooked, and embark on a timely reorganisation of a car boot stuffed to bursting with platform boots, sausage pinwheels and other random toot that seemed oh-so essential for a weekend in the countryside.
But our efforts are interrupted by the speedy arrival of a valet and a porter. The former whisks away our (mercifully only-just cleaned) car; the latter loads our luggage onto a smart trolley and ushers us into the Georgian manor house’s reception, where, to our pleasure, we’re informed we’ve been upgraded.
It’s obvious why our Garden Room is a staff favourite. High of ceiling and long on historic country house style, it makes us feel like the Lord & Lady we aren’t. An uninterrupted view of the hotel’s sprawling grounds almost renders the 55” Ultra-HD TV obsolete – not that square-eyed LB agrees as he scrolls the channels from an already-horizontal position on the big, soft bed.
Pool and parkland
Having just put paid to the entire miniature chocolate celebration cake that’s been left for us to share – sorry, what? – in honour of our anniversary, I feel a spot of exercise is probably in order. And it probably is, but, as I merely lie beside the glass-covered infinity pool reading glossy magazines as LB does laps, I’ll never know for sure.
What I can attest to, though, is that the sauna is the perfect temperature, the spa shop is stocked with many a tempting trinket, and the cavernous changing rooms are the best-equipped I’ve ever encountered.
With the autumn sun ablaze as we cross the spa’s 18th-century stableyard, it seems churlish not to explore the grounds – not to mention I’m conscious that a healthy appetite will be required for the dinner that’s fast approaching. And acres of parkland, a fishing pond, an orchard, a croquet lawn and walled and zen gardens mean there’s an ample amount to explore.
Back in the room, I continue to admire that parkland from the rolltop bathtub where I’m almost buried under a mountain of Asprey Purple Water-scented bubbles. The sizeable bathroom’s floor-to-ceiling marble evokes eighties NYC – given the right reading material and a ton of cosmetics to try out in the big old magnifying mirror, I reckon I could happily hole up in here for a few hours.
Supper with style
But it’s cocktail o’clock and the bar is calling. Located in the basement beside the hotel’s brand-new Wild Carrot restaurant, the library-like space is one of those where you covet every single design element. And little wonder – together with the restaurant, the fit-out is the work of globally-renowned designer, Martin Brudnizki. I want the foliage-print wallpaper, I want the polished brass candlestick, I want the rope chandelier. I settle for a margarita.
After a pair of martinis, LB – or should I say Mr. Bond – finds himself encountering a sudden and severe burst of hanger, so we hasten to our table and order a bread basket, stet. Normal service is swiftly resumed, toasted with a glass of delectable Coates & Seey Hampshire fizz.
The brasserie styling here is as successful as that of the magical Holborn Dining Room – you’d happily dine here at any time of day. And the menu, overseen by exec chef Dirk Gieselmann, is equally as egalitarian as that London venue’s – I can’t think of many people who wouldn’t find something which tempts.
Lobster and faggots may not a happy surf’n’turf make, but we very much enjoy sampling this pair of proteins from separate plates. My salad features nuggets of sweet native blue lobster flesh, mini-mounds of shredded green mango, a scattering of roasted peanuts, dainty dabs of coriander pesto and – my best bit – a crisp-coated ball of deep-fried Basmati rice. LB’s faggots are lighter and less offally than oh-so many examples, bedded down on a silken cauliflower puree.
We both go meaty for mains, and accordingly, straight-talking sommelier Akos Hervai recommends a Lebanese red. Tender lamb shoulder has a savoury flavour reminiscent of my grandmother’s savoury mince; its accompanying baba ganoush, olive-laced boulangère potatoes and preserved lemon jus lending the assembly a Middle Eastern accent.
The trimmings with LB’s perfectly-pink sirloin are more interesting than the norm: along with the fries comes sweet corn porridge, braised baby gem and a confit shallot. Fried potato gnocchi with almonds in brown butter is a side dish which deserves signature status.
The dessert menu is proffered and we’re like R Kelly in reverse – our bodies are telling us no, but our minds are telling us yeaaaaah. ‘Zen’ blends nuts, biscuit, praline and Satongo chocolate into a dainty multilayered dessert offset by a tangy yuzu gel; blackberry trifle riffs on a classic with mascarpone cream and estate honey.
Given the hearty meal, the bed, the country air and the blissful silence, one would anticipate a deep and lengthy sleep, and, once we’ve clambered the majestic staircase to the first floor, that’s precisely what we enjoy. In the morning, check-out is preceded by a late and varied repast cherrypicked from the hotel’s extensive buffet breakfast – a nifty way to delay our return to The Big Smoke just that little bit longer.
Make it happen
Where: Four Seasons Hampshire, Dogmersfield Park, Chalky Lane, Dogmersfield, Hampshire RG27 8TD
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