Steeped in history; Hartwell House offers a refreshing step back in time and escape from modern living.
Situated within ninety acres of gardens and parkland, Hartwell House is a beautifully restored country house near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire; Only 40 miles from London. The history of the house stretches back almost one thousand years, but the core of the current house was built in the 17th Century. The house boasts both Jacobean and Georgian features, with elaborate plaster-work and panelling throughout the reception, lounge and dining areas.
The rooms have retained their authenticity and grandeur, and great pains have been taken to maintain as traditional an experience as possible. Having been awarded 4 AA red stars, the hotel has managed to preserve the integrity of the house and its traditions, whilst providing the modern facilities and comforts expected of a hotel.
There are a total of forty-six rooms and suites on offer at Hartwell House, and each have been furnished with antiques and fine paintings. Thirty of the rooms and suites are located in the main house, with the remainder situated in Hartwell Court (the converted coach house) or the Old Rectory.
After checking into reception we were taken by the valet up to our room which was on the second floor of the main house.
We had a Royal suite, with a stunning view over the grounds. The room was large, with sitting and desk area by the window, a dressing table, and an ensuite bathroom with tub and over-bath shower. The flat-screen television in the room, and phone on the desk were the only give-aways that we were in the 21st century. To be honest, we would have preferred the TV was not on display, or more discreet, but that was the only criticism.
Homemade shortbread was offered, and a distinct lack of in-room tea and coffee was explained with a friendly note explaining that in keeping with the traditions of a country home, any tea and coffee requested would be brought to your room and served by staff; a nice touch.
Wireless internet facilities are available throughout the hotel and in all rooms, so we made use of the desk and got some work done before we got ready for dinner.
Dinner is served in the Principal Dining Room, which has been awarded two rosettes. A la carte and set menus are available for both lunch and dinner.
Traditional afternoon tea is also available throughout the day, however throughout our stay we noticed most guests enjoyed afternoon tea in the library, lounge area, or back terrace rather than the dining room.
We had booked an Aylesbury Duck package, which is on offer until the end of November 2015, and which included a welcome dry martini with Aylesbury Duck Canadian vodka, followed by a four course Aylesbury duck-inspired menu.
A short list of suggested wines was offered, on top of the normal wine list. We decided to take their advice and opted for the 2012 South African Laibach Ladybird Organic Red; A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc. It paried beautifully with the duck and we would definiely order this wine again.
The first course took us off on a good start. It was an Aylesbury duck consommé with pickled beetroot and braised duck ravioli. The beetroot added a delicate sweetness to the duck, balanced beautifully with the slight sourness from the vineagar and saltiness of the broth.
The second course was a warm salad of crispy Aylesbury duck leg with pea puree, minted pea fritter and pea shoot salad. The duck leg was tender, and the pea fritters were very tasty.
The third and final duck course of the evening was Aylesbury duck with fennel flavoured potatoes, citrus soused fennel, English Asparagus, orange sauce. This dish had nice flavours, but was our least favourite of the three duck dishes that evening.
The last course was a Cherry soufflé with poached cherries, candied almonds, almond and cherry ripple ice cream. The souffle was cooked beautifully, and the poached cherry sauce which was poured into the souffle added a bold flavour to its softness. The icecream and almonds also added a variety of flavours and textures to the dish. There was nothing left on the plates after we’d finished with them.
Breakfast is also served in the dining room. Options include continental breakfast, or guests can upgrade to a cooked breakfast.
The continental breakfast included a range of fresh pastries, cereals, fresh and dried fruits, toast and preserves and juice.
We also enjoyed a cooked English breakfast, which was very basic and traditional, but used top quality produce.
Following breakfast I was booked in for a signature spa treatment. The Hartwell Spa is situated close to the Hartwell Rooms and Hartwell Court, a short stroll from the main house. The facilities on offer include a gymnasium, pool, steam room, sauna and whirlpool tub, which we unfortunately didn’t have time to try out.
I also noticed that there was a gallery overlooking the pool, with a cafe and bar open to both residents and non-residents for breakfast, lunch and morning/afternoon tea.
The treatment I was booked for was The Ultimate Aromatherapy treatment. It was a full body treatment aimed to release tension held in the body, leaving you feeling deeply relaxed and re-charged with the help of carefully selected essential oils. The process of selecting the oils was one I hadn’t experienced before. The therapist asked a series of questions to which I was to answer a simple “yes” or “no”. These ranged from the likes of whether I spent a lot of my time at a desk, to whether I felt generally happy, if I was under emotional stress, and whether I felt like some pampering. Based on my answers, the therapist narrowed the selection down to three oils. I was asked to smell each of them, and without knowing what was in them I was told to choose the one I liked best which ended up being a blend including both ginger and lavender.
The treatment was relaxing, and the therapist made sure she continued to communicate and happily adjusted the amount of pressure used when asked, always making sure I was comfortable.
I came out afterwards wishing I could head straight back in for round two.
Hartwell House is a beautifully authentic country house hotel. The impressive history and heritage of the home really has been embraced and protected in the transition from home to guest house, and guests are asked to play a role in respecting the house and actively taking care to look after and avoid damage to antique features.
While it might lack some luxuries and features of leading hotels around the country, the most impressive luxury on offer at Hartwell is the luxury of space, time, and escape from modernity to good old fashioned comforts.