There were two things that concerned me about Hampton Manor before I had even set foot in the place. One was why on earth should I be interested in a hotel in Solihull. The other was that by its own admission, it was a restaurant with rooms, not a hotel with a restaurant.
Both of these concerns proved to be completely unwarranted. For the record, I had no idea Solihull was such a lovely part of middle England, or for that matter, how a restaurant with rooms could be so magnificent.
Hampton Manor is a wonderful country pile set in 45 acres of landscaped grounds a stone’s throw from the tiny village of Hampton-in-Arden just outside Solihull. It may be just a few miles from Birmingham, but light years away by comparison.
Not a Peaky Blinder in sight.
This is proper gentry country and a sense of well to do permeates the air. Fancy houses with impossibly perfect gardens, groomed horses grazing in meadows and Solihull’s half-timbered Tudor houses historical gems.
Hampton Manor itself was once the country estate of Sir Robert Peel and for a man so dedicated to reform, I reckon he would be delighted with how his old home has turned out.
An impressive driveway eventually gives way to a gothic-style mansion of striking proportions, yet a single desk is all that’s required as a lobby. Remember, this is simply a restaurant with rooms. But as you might have guessed, this is no simple restaurant and the rooms are far from ordinary.
We are booked into the De Mountford room, one of a clutch of featured rooms each with its own individual treats; perhaps a glorious view, or maybe a standing bath. Either way, each of the 15 beautiful rooms and suites are stuffed with personality and luxury. From hand grinding your own coffee beans to a tasty packet of freshly baked biscuits. You might find a book or a curious nick-knack on a nearby ladder bookshelf. There’s even a handy custom-made walking map wrapped in a lanyard so you can carry it around easily.
It’s a theme owners Fjona and James Hill have replicated throughout. It’s a perfect example of interior design chic handled lovingly well. Wherever you look there are craftspeople at work, from velvet, oak-framed sofas by Space Copenhagen to Joseph Chierowski mid-century rocking chairs by 336 Concepts. The attention to the smallest detail is simply extraordinary. Even curious vases and pharmacy bottles have been re-imagined as decorative art pieces tucked away in nooks and crannies.
But it is the food that is unashamedly the beating heart of Hampton Manor. Peel’s Restaurant won its first Michelin Star in October 2016, and Head Chef Rob Palmer, a long-time member of the team, has retained the star for 2018. Hampton Manor is all about the celebration of food and drink, but in an informal, stylish and collaborative way. You’re not just invited to dine but to “settle in for the evening.” And we make a point of doing just that. After all, we have the delights of our De Mountford bedroom to finally retire to. The collaborative feel stretches to the tables, where we share a long table with numerous other diners, two well-placed pots defining each party’s space. I have to confess at first I gaze longingly at two small tables, feeling a little envious of those lucky patrons, but in practice, our two pots give us all the privacy we need.
There’s a choice of a four or seven-course menu and seeing as we are in for the night we choose the seven course with wine pairings. Restaurant Manager Luke materialises with a delicious veloute warm potato mousse amuse bouche. “I see you’ve gone for the Comfort wine pairing tonight. We couldn’t tempt you to try an Adventure pairing?”
“I’m an adventurous man Luke, but not with wines I’m afraid.”
The Adventure pairing costs £20 more, but the threat of some “unusual” wines had dampened my enthusiasm.
The asparagus with chicken and burrata is a good opener, particularly paired with a crisp Chardonnay from Languedoc. The Langoustine with leek and ginger is a triumph as is the veal with sweetbreads, grapes and cauliflower. With each new course, Luke reappears brandishing another magical bottle which seems to hold hands with the food remarkably well. After a smoked eel dish paired with an interesting Georgian wine, the star act is announced. Wagyu beef with St George’s mushrooms and black garlic arrives paired with a Western Cape Cabernet called BIG.
“It’s not just the name that’s big, taste the flavour,” whispers Luke.
A second amuse bouche of buttermilk and passion fruit (delicious) and not one but two indulgent desserts later, it’s all over and we retire to the lounge to catch our collective breaths.
De Mountford would have approved of his bedchamber as the night passes blissfully by.
Morning dawns and we’re back in Peel’s for a memorable breakfast victoriously snagging the small table. Large chunks of thick brown wholemeal, a feast of berries and eggs any way is my kind of perfect breakfast. Gayna, who I swear is a Julie Walters double, provides some delightfully engaging table service. The perfect hangover cure from Luke’s pairing excesses.
Hampton Manor is a very special place. A restaurant with rooms? Nah, it’s way more than that. It’s a way of life.
Tell me more about Hampton Manor
Hampton Manor, Shadowbrook Lane, Hampton-In-Arden, Solihull, B92 0DQ
Tel: 01675 446 080 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rooms from £150 per night / £180 with breakfast
Four-course tasting menu £75 and wine pairing £55. Seven-course tasting menu £95 and wine paring £75. Adventure pairing £95.
Peel’s is open Tuesdays – Saturdays for dinner and sits 28 guests
The Tasting Room, a front row seat to watch the chefs at work can seat up to eight guests for a private intimate dinner.