It’s hard not to be seduced by Hurley House Hotel, where the restaurant is a destination in itself. The brilliant head chef dreams up dishes that serve as a gastronomic tour of Britain's counties with a delicious detour via Japan for fresh sushi, too; you’ll develop a crush on the famous Sunday roast and nostalgic nursery puds. Once you've polished off your puddings – and the homegrown cheese plate – the hotel's classic, Shaker-style bedrooms beckon, where you can test the bouncy mattresses and super-soft linens. Rest up – a full-English awaits in the morning…
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of prosecco and 10 per cent off all spa treatments
11am. Earliest check-in, 3.30pm. Both are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £190.00, including tax at 20 per cent.
Rates usually include Continental or Full English breakfast.
Hurley House is really a restaurant with rooms, and what a restaurant it is. Book the private dining room (which seats up to 28 people) for an extra-special dinner; folding doors open onto the terrace, so you can dine alfresco when it’s warm. If you’re planning a bigger do, the large, gardens let you bump up your guest list to up to 300.
Our pick for a cosy weekend away would be the HH Superior Room with a private terrace: planted with softly-scented flowers and dotted with alfresco seating, it’s the ideal spot for a morning cup of tea. Inside, the room is decorated in classic, English country house-style with a touch of Shaker cosiness (wooden floors, beamed ceilings and neutral colours). Thanks to the underfloor heating, super-soft bedding and spa-quality bathrooms, every room feels well thought-out and comfortable: you’ll be especially glad of this after several wind-blown, mud-spattered country walks…
There’s no spa as such, but there’s one treatment room where you can have manicures, pedicures, massages and facials using top-drawer brands including Valmont, Kure Bazaar and Pinks Boutique. We’re particularly fond of the head and shoulder massage. Be sure to book treatments well in advance, as the one on-site spa therapist is in high demand.
Bring your wellies, Barbours and warmest woolies as English weather is notoriously unpredictable. Waterproofs are a must – even if you’re coming in July.
The restaurant, bar and two rooms (one HH Superior and one HH Premium) are accessible for guests with mobility issues.
Children are welcome. Highchairs, changing mats, and games are available. The restaurant can adapt meals or heat up baby food. Extra beds (£20 a night) and baby cots (free) can be added to two Superior rooms.
Couples should ask for one of the padded, green-leather booths: perfect for whispering sweet nothings in (relative) privacy.
Dress like the Queen on her day off for weekday suppers (jeans, jumpers and flats). Weekends call for something more stately, so dust off your jewels and heels – maybe leave the tiara at home, though.
Hurley House’s restaurant is its main attraction. Dark wood, exposed brick and oversized hurricane lamps are the backdrop for a superb, thoroughly British menu: sample Windsor estate pigeon and deer, Cotswolds chicken and daily-fresh fish from the boats at Brixham in Devon. Or, take a turn towards Tokyo, with their new Japanese menu featuring fresh sushi, miso cod and teriyaki steak. In winter, the atmosphere is warm and cosy, courtesy of bronze-riveted leather chairs, candlelit tables and towering wine racks. In summer, sit outside on the terrace when the sun is shining, or even when it isn’t – four large, heated awnings keep things dry and toasty for those brave enough to face the elements. Sunday lunch is long, leisurely affair, with the restaurant serving all the way through to 4pm (there's no dinner service on Sundays).
The hotel’s site has hosted several inns and pubs since 1760, and Hurley House has kept up this time-honoured tradition. Wood-burning stoves, flagstone floors, untreated wood and squashy chesterfields make up the bar area, which serves a long list of local ales and artisan beers. The wine offering is particularly stellar – sourced from independent vineyards, there are more than 137 bottles to choose from.
Breakfast from 7am–11am (from 8am at weekends). Lunch is from noon–2.30pm (5pm on Sunday) and dinner's from 6.30pm–9.30pm Monday to Saturday (10pm on Saturday). The bar is up and running from 7am–11pm (til 9pm Sunday).
Situated between riverside towns Henley-on-Thames and Marlow, Hurley House is in the middle of Berkshire, an ancient county with royal connections.
Fly to London Heathrow Airport – most airlines (including British Airways, www.britishairways.com) fly here direct from all over the world. Hurley House is a 20-minute drive away along main artery, the M4.
Maidenhead train station is 15 minutes’ drive from the hotel. Great Western Railway services arrive frequently from stations including London Paddington (a half-hour journey), Oxford and Reading.
We recommend you bring a car to explore the surrounding area. If you’re coming from London, the hotel’s an hour’s drive along the M4 from Heathrow. When you arrive, there’s free on-site parking for guests.
Worth getting out of bed for
We wouldn’t blame weekenders for spending most of their time in the restaurant: the menu is the sort that encourages full and contented, post-dining downtime; however, the outdoors await. Burn off the extra (wholly worth it) calories with an hour-long stomp along the Thames Path – go west and you’ll reach Henley, go east and you’ll find yourself in Marlow. Both towns have charming traditional touches, such as cobbled streets lined with independent butchers, bakers and candlestick makers (there are a few clothes boutiques too, if you’re looking to break in your credit limit). The English countryside is famous for its walks: Maidenhead and Cookham Commons are famed for wild, protected natural beauty, The Chilterns for rolling hills and woodland wanders. Those interested in ancient history should make the 30-minute detour to visit Runnymede, the site of the sealing of the Magna Carta. Downton Abbey fans should hunt out Berkshire’s many ‘statelies’, such as The Vyne, Greys Court and Basildon Park (all National Trust properties within driving distance of the hotel). Go one step further in your search for the biggest and best with a trip to Windsor Castle, the Queen’s own home – if the flag is flying, it means she’s in residence. See the state apartments, Queen Mary’s dolls’ house and St George’s chapel. Sportif Smiths should check out the Temple Golf Club, just down the road from the hotel.
The Coach in Marlow is a rare breed: a gastropub serving excellent food, coupled with an unpretentious atmosphere. Try the venison chilli, the apple-glazed celeriac and the ridiculously creamy duck egg-custard tart. It’s best to go early or midweek, as they don’t take bookings and tables are always busy. Shaun Dickens at the Boathouse in Henley is a 10-minute drive from the hotel and the best choice for a blow-the-budget lunch or dinner, right on the banks of the Thames. The White Oak at Cookham does a brilliant Sunday lunch; alternatively, book for Monday night when all steaks come at a hefty discount. For a more international feel, Satollo Marlow is the best Italian around and it shows – the tables are nearly always packed.
Sometimes, friends who are mothers of young children make comments to me such as: ‘I wish I could go and check into a hotel…ON MY OWN.’ They thrill to the idea of being somewhere where no demands are made on them, where people might just be answering theirs.
One weekend I did just that, taking myself off to the tamed wilds of Berkshire for a two-day date with myself at Hurley House Hotel. A Ms Smith weekend, if you will. My plan was to eat with friends who lived locally on the Friday and Saturday nights, then spend the Saturday blissfully alone catching up with reading, perhaps followed by a short shopping foray for good measure.
When people talk about Hurley House Hotel, they generally focus on the food. This is an ambitious restaurant with 10 boutique rooms, appositely within striking distance of Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck in Bray (a 10-minute drive away). But another serious boon is the proximity to London. You could get from Paddington to Maidenhead in 30 minutes for a world-class dinner, stay the night, have a fabulous breakfast and be back in London before lunchtime the next day without breaking a sweat.
This gourmet pied-à-terre is the tiniest skip off the M4 in the environs of Maidenhead. No one ever said: ‘I’m looking forward to a weekend in a boutique hotel in Maidenhead’. But fear not, Hurley House is close to the river-set honeypots of Henley and Marlow, plus the local village of Hurley itself has supermodel looks (of the ‘Moss in the Cotswolds’ strain).
Shaving a few hours off the end of my working day – ah, the life of a freelancer – I arrived in the early evening into this welcoming, warm haven, fire-lit on this autumnal evening, already busy with families and chatty groups of friends limbering up for the weekend.
The hotel has been built on the site of a previous pub, the Red Lyon, the penultimate incarnation on a site that has hosted inns since 1760. The Red Lyon was summarily razed to the ground, and this £6 million phoenix from the ashes espouses a somewhat smarter, 21st-century polished rustic aesthetic while retaining the essence of a ‘pub’, with its flagstone floors; copper-topped bar; cosy armchairs; exposed brick; and smart sofas. Service is friendly, if occasionally scatty. This is not a bucolic idyll that time forgot; it’s more the kind of place you might expect to find Carole Middleton chowing down in impeccably unblemished Hunter wellies. (Those bucolic idylls though, they do chew up a lot of your Friday night with endless driving.)
The room I’m given is a short stumble upstairs from the restaurant and open kitchen. It’s compact but cosy, the busy A4130 outside masked by triple glazing (the rooms at the back, I imagine, must be quieter). Decor is neutral (timber floors, greys and creams), carefully put together and immaculately presented. The bathroom is decked out in Lefroy Brooks fittings and green glazed tiles and stocked with mini Floris shower gels and shampoos.
After drinking tea and watching television in the comfortable bed, Friend Number One texts to let me know she’s drinking in the bar already. So down I go and we gorge on sharing plates: spiced hummus and smoked Cornish mackerel; smoked salmon with pickled vegetables; beer-battered fish; and a violently good chocolate-orange brownie with salted caramel and peanut ice cream.
This is not exactly a place to go to be abstemious or practise a ‘free from’ lifestyle. After a dreamless sleep I loll around having a long conversation with my cousin on the phone, then enjoy a pleasantly late breakfast of avocado, sun-blushed cherry tomatoes and British feta on sourdough, dressed with chilli and lime, before heading out. A tranquil hour’s gambol along the Thames Path takes me to Marlow, where I spend a happy afternoon browsing in all the womens’ boutiques that line the High Street (window shopping, as it turns out – I’m not sold on the ‘mummy luxe’ look they’re all selling).
Then I head back to Hurley House for cupcakes, tea and a bit of reading in the bar before Friend Number Two turns up that evening. Tonight is for the proper restaurant and its menu by Michael Chapman, who is a protégé of Marcus Wareing at Petrus (he later wowed the great and good of Maidenhead with his work at the Michelin-starred Royal Oak).
The restaurant has sultry low lighting and green leather banquettes – every table is packed. The meat hails from local Berkshire producers, with fish and seafood brought from the Devon coast on a daily basis, so I have a lovely Brixham stone bass improved upon with brown shrimps, samphire and lemon butter – and a crisp sancerre.
The indulgences don’t stop there: the next morning I lay out all the Sunday papers around me and order a full English, swapping the local black pudding for bubble and squeak, and lose track of time in my cosy little corner banquette. I must admit to those frustrated mothers, that it is addicting, having a hotel room of one’s own – but I soon realise that London calls and I have to relinquish it, and relieve the au pair, before I get into trouble.