While England is graced with many a countryside retreat for those seeking respite from busy city life, a newbie is always exciting news – and as the sister hotel to The Signet Collection’s The Mitre at Hampton Court, Berkshire’s The Retreat at Elcot Park is about as exciting as they come.
Of course, Elcot Park isn’t really a newbie: the building dates back to the early 18th century and once acted as a home to the famous Shelley family (whether or not the great poet Percy Shelley actually lived here is up for debate, but the hotel joyfully plays up to his name nonetheless – his wife Mary Shelley certainly did visit from time to time though).
Arriving at the retreat is an event in itself, with a winding drive leading directly up to the columned doorway of the Grade II listed building. Once through the grand front door, you’re immediately coaxed into one of the lounge’s sumptuous chairs and served an ice-cold drink, setting the tone for the hotel’s home-away-from-home vibe; it’s rare to rave about a check-in experience, but Elcot Park warrants it.
When it comes to design, a huge amount of attention has been paid. Luxury London firm Taylor & Turner was enlisted to bring the space back to life following a stint under the relatively soulless Mercure brand, with the finished result expertly hitting a sweet spot between classic Regency interiors and modern maximalism. Bold licks of paint covering entire walls are complemented by some expertly sourced antique furniture, while playful wallpapers are elevated by decidedly luxurious details.
Posh interiors and luxury details aside, what really sets Elcot Park above other hotels of its kind is its clear commitment to not only act as a fancy escape for city folk, but also as a hub for the local community.
Tucked away behind the main hotel is The Courtyard – a multifunctional space that homes a bakery, coffee shop, wine store and salon, with as plans for a regular farmers’ market too, inviting residents from nearby villages into the buzzing Elcot fold.
The Retreat at Elcot Park is gloriously boutique with just 55 bedrooms and suites. Each is individually designed, but it is the signature suites that are the real showstoppers, with carefully imagined interiors transporting guests to a bygone era.
All three are named for historical English figures connected to the original house in one way or another, with a bounty of thoughtful features making them as distinguished as their namesakes. The two-bedroom Bushby Bacon Suite (named after Anthony Bushby Bacon, who owned Elcot Park in the early 19th century) has a bathroom of dreams with a claw-foot tub sitting in the curved bay window, and a four-poster bed fit for royalty.
The Sutton, on the other hand, oozes romance with an in-room copper soaking tub with views out to the Wessex Downs. Finally, The Percy Shelley Suite is a secluded haven, with a separate lounge space decked out in artfully clashing prints.
Building on that welcoming family-home atmosphere, in place of minibars each floor is equipped with its own help-yourself pantry, crammed full of delicious snacks and drinks for whenever you have a hankering. Back in the room, bespoke Bramley toiletries are another treat.
Like The Mitre, food plays a significant role in bringing Elcot to life, with Signet Collection’s executive chef Ronnie Kimbugwe prioritizing local ingredients and carefully forging relationships with nearby farmers and purveyors.
First on the list is the refined yet informal 1772 Brasserie, which serves up a melting point of cuisines, with everything from hand-rolled sushi starters to roast beef with all the trimmings (impossibly fluffy Yorkshire pudding included, of course). Don’t miss the Bombolini for dessert – a mounded plate of piping hot Nutella-filled donuts, dusted with strawberry sugar.
The drinks list is great too, with some fun spins on classic cocktails as well as a stellar selection of wines – Whispering Angel rosé is a house favorite. Like the rest of the hotel, the restaurant is beautifully designed with a mix of booth, banquette and stool seating, as well as some cozy nooks by the enormous windows with views across the Wessex countryside.
Next to 1772 is an inviting lounge space stocked with plenty of board games. Head here post-dinner for a nightcap and a game of backgammon. Between the two is The Orangery – a light-filled dining area awash with hues of sage green and wicker accents. The space is set to exist as a restaurant in its own right shortly but for now, is a lovely spot to take breakfast.
On the other side of the hotel is Yu – a Pan-Asian restaurant offering an artfully crafted seven-course tasting menu, as well as an a la carte option. While the setup here is a little more formal, the décor is true to Signet’s signature style with a fun, bold design.
While the rest of the facilities at Elcot Park are second to none, it is the wellness facilities that are the real treat. Found at the back of the hotel in the newer wing erected in the nineties, the Signet Spa is impressively expansive, with a modern gym, studio space, indoor hydrotherapy pool, sauna and steam room, and a tranquil treatment room, all of which is open to members and hotel guests.
The treatment menu is vast and includes a number of targeted facials and signature massages, as well as a range of beauty services in the neighboring salon.
Outside, the infinity pool with views across the countryside is a testament to the fact that England does get summers worth writing about, with the yet-to-open Whispering Angel promising to be a real hit. Elsewhere on the expansive 16-acre grounds is a tennis court and croquet lawn – it is a country estate, after all.
If you’re only visiting The Retreat at Elcot Park for a short period, we promise you’ll find it tricky to drag yourself away. However, for longer stays, the surrounding area has plenty to entice, with an exemplary reception team on hand to make any necessary arrangements.
For history fans (or should we historical drama fans) Highclere Castle aka the real-life Downton Abbey is a short drive away, while nature buffs will love stomping through the beautiful North Wessex Downs. There’s also fishing and shooting experiences, local canal boat rides and horse-riding sessions.
The nearby town of Newbury is home to one of the most famous racecourses in the country, with regular fixtures and events, as well as a great hospitality setup.
Suites from £410 ($486), retreatelcotpark.com