With interiors designed by Nicola Harding, two restaurants, a storied building and a stunning riverside setting, The Mitre – the brand new hotel from The Signet Collection – makes for the perfect staycation, says Jessica Jonzen
THE COPPERNOSE RESTAURANT AT THE MITRE, HAMPTON COURT. IMAGE: THE SIGNET COLLECTION
After months of staring at our own four walls, many of us couldn’t book a hotel break quick enough when the restrictions were lifted in July. We were desperate to be somewhere new, somewhere stylish and, for the love of God, for someone else to cook.
So when we heard that The Mitre in Hampton Court would be opening in early September after a breakneck-speed renovation through lockdown, we couldn’t wait to take a look – especially when we discovered that Nicola Harding was doing the interiors.
But who’d open a new hotel in 2020? Hector Ross, that’s who. The former COO of Longshott – the group behind the exquisite Beaverbrook hotel in Surrey and the perennially popular Bel and the Dragon chain of gastropubs – Hector is a master of the alchemy required to make a hotel or restaurant really work.
(TOP) THE EXTERIOR OF THE MITRE, BUILT IN 1665 ON THE BANKS OF THE THAMES OPPOSITE HAMPTON COURT PALACE; (BOTTOM LEFT) DE GOURNAY WALLPAPER IN ONE OF THE ROOMS; (BOTTOM RIGHT) THE RESIDENTS’ LIBRARY. IMAGES: THE SIGNET COLLECTION
And he has certainly pulled it off at The Mitre. The 36-bedroom Grade II-listed hotel on the banks of the Thames overlooking Hampton Court Palace is the first hotel of his new hotel group The Signet Collection and it really sets the tone. This is a place for fun. Every room beholds a new delight – whether it’s joyful wallpaper from Ottoline, Ceraudo or de Gournay, sweetie stands and honesty bars, boat trips down the Thames or the world’s first dedicated Whispering Angel hut on the terrace, there’s always something memorable.
And then there’s the food. Ronnie Kimbugwe, formerly the Executive Chef at the Bel and the Dragon, has joined as Culinary and Operations Director and has brought his joyful approach to The Mitre’s two restaurants, plus its gorgeous 80-cover orangery, terrace and in-room dining. Ingredients are locally sourced – deliveries from Covent Garden and Billingsgate markets arrive daily, the bread comes from the bakery on the other side of the river and herbs are grown on the roof. They’re in talks with Hampton Court Palace to partner on using the vegetables from their kitchen garden.
Downstairs, 1665 – named for the year the hotel was built by order of King Charles II to house some of his Courtiers who couldn’t find accommodation in the Palace – is the smart, fine-dining restaurant. “It’s the high heels and a jacket, half-a-dozen oysters and a bottle of champagne place,” says Hector. “The music gets turned up at 11pm, not down – that’s the atmosphere we’re creating there.”
(TOP) THE 1665 FINE DINING RESTAURANT; (MIDDLE) THE COPPERNOSE RESTAURANT; (BOTTOM) THE ORANGERY. IMAGES: THE SIGNET COLLECTION
Overlooking the river, the restaurant is painted in rich green Bancha by Farrow & Ball, it feels glamorous and intimate. The beautiful zinc-topped bar serves The Mitre’s own beer (Six Wives, as a nod to Henry VIII), an enormous selection of wines and an ever-changing cocktail menu. Fabulous art sourced by Cramer & Bell, among others, adorns the walls, and gorgeous lighting creates a seductive atmosphere.
Walking through to the Orangery, you’re greeted by an entirely different look. The walls are limewashed in Chalky Coral paint by Pure & Original, and the wooden floorboards are painted in a gorgeous checkerboard effect. Banquettes covered in Ottoline fabric with playful scallop details provide yet more colour and playfulness, while an abundance of plants brings the space to life.
Directly above 1665 is Coppernose, the more relaxed all-day eating restaurant named after the moniker given to Henry VIII after he issued cheap currency. It has exactly the same footprint at 1665 and virtually the same view of the river and the Lutyens-designed Hampton Court Bridge, but feels completely different – a hallmark of Nicola Harding’s ingenious interior design. The real spectacle is the tented ceiling, which was hand sewn, rigged up and painted in situ by Becca Riley from Will Foster Studios and her team. When I ate in the restaurant on a sunny afternoon, it sparkled with the reflections from river like a fairground carousel.
(TOP) A BEDROOM AT THE MITRE, DECORATED IN WALLPAPER BY OTTOLINE; (MIDDLE LEFT) A BEDROOM DECORATED IN WALLPAPER BY CERAUDO; (MIDDLE RIGHT) A BEDROOM WITH ART BY RACHEL COCKER; (BOTTOM) ONE OF THE SUITES AT THE MITRE. IMAGES: THE SIGNET COLLECTION
The Mitre is the third project which Nicola has worked on with Hector. No two bedrooms are the same and each contains fabulous design details, giving The Mitre a refined and luxurious yet homely feel. “I think with the commercial projects we do, the common denominator seems to be that people come to us because they want to have a sense of home rather than it to feel too much like a hotel,” says Nicola. “I think it’s about finding pieces that are interesting, not just having a formula that we roll out but getting to know the client, the building and its wider location and trying to find things that connect and resonate with those things in some way.”
Kempton Park would have been Nicola’s first port of call for sourcing antiques for the hotel, but lockdown put a stop to that so she found dealers online, and trawled eBay and Vinterior for pieces instead, and re-used furniture from the original hotel wherever she could. “From a sustainability point of view, that’s something we’re really pleased to be doing – working with what’s there like you do at home. I like things not being too perfect and feeling like they’ve evolved organically. In your own home, you’ve inherited one thing, a friend gave you something else, you picked up another thing on holiday, but they all co-exist in their own way, a bit like a family does – dysfunction is sort of its beauty.”
THE RECEPTION AT THE MITRE. IMAGE: THE SIGNET COLLECTION
Opening during a pandemic has obviously presented challenges, but Hector and his team have worked social distancing into their plan for the hotel. An app means that guests can self-check-in, and bespoke bottles of Bramley hand santiser sit on every table. For the time being, breakfast is being served in bedrooms, but none of this has harmed the relaxed and convivial atmosphere.
With ambitious plans to open up to eight more hotels over the next few years, Hector and his team at The Signet Collection have their work cut out for them, especially in a post-Covid world. But if you are going to venture from home and want to find somewhere you can kick-back and (safely) relax, I can’t think of a more fun place to do it than at The Mitre.
Double rooms at The Mitre start at £178 per night; themitrehamptoncourt.com
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