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British hotel review: Inspector calls Hambleton Hall in Rutland, where prices are ‘absurd’


Impeccable service but breakfast fruit ‘discouragingly covered in cling film’ and ‘absurd prices’… the inspector not a fan of Hambleton Hall in Rutland

  • Hambleton Hall was built in 1881 by avid fox-hunting bon viveur Walter Marshall
  • Utilities? A ‘formal hotel with fussy food, pelmets and carpets everywhere’
  • The inspector pays £510 for dinner, bed and breakfast
  • Remember the inspector pays… and says as it is…

Walter Marshall, the frenzied fox-hunting bon vivant who built Hambleton Hall in 1881, had a motto: Fay ce que voudras – ‘do what thou wilt’.

And his sundial on the terrace is engraved with the words Nunc Hora Bibendi, ‘Now it’s time for a drink’.

The owner of Hambleton Hall, Tim Hart, whose sons Sam and Eddie run the popular Spanish restaurant chain Barrafina, writes a lot about this in the hotel guide – and yet the atmosphere in his hotel is strictly regulated.

Hambleton Hall has an atmosphere, inspector says, which is ‘strictly regulated’

“Please dress neatly in your own way,” is an instruction. ‘Please order your breakfast the night before’ is another.

And upon arrival, the receptionist reminds us that we go for drinks at 7:30 PM and sit down for dinner at 8:00 PM. “So don’t be late,” she might have added.

Hambleton Hall, which occupies a glorious position overlooking Rutland Water, reminds us that the Colefax and Fowler style of the country house hotel, which appeared on the scene in the 1980s, is still with us today.

Formal, impeccable service, picky food, pelmets, carpets everywhere and skyrocketing prices. We pay £510 for dinner, bed and breakfast, and despite what the Good Hotel Guide says about all rooms with a ‘garden or lake view’, ours overlooks the kitchen garden to the side of the building.

Inspector says Hambleton Hall occupies a glorious position overlooking Rutland Water, pictured

Inspector says Hambleton Hall occupies a glorious position overlooking Rutland Water, pictured


Hambleton Hall, Oakham, Rutland, LE15 8TH.

The double price is from € 375,-. For more information call 01572 756991, or visit hambletonhall.com


But it’s pretty in a flounced way, with floral headboard, curtains and blinds, high ceiling, neutral carpet. The main bathroom is so brightly lit that it is startling even during the day.

We have an aperitif in the main drawing room, where we are presented with menus and four small snacks, before we are led into the dining room, where it is eerily quiet. We need to avoid an argument here unless we want the whole room to hear it.

The food is also a throwback to the 1980s, when Brussels sprouts on the menu meant a tiny Brussels sprout leaf on the plate. It’s way too fancy, way too minimalistic – and absurdly priced.

Since breakfast is ordered the night before, your fruit compote — or whatever — is waiting for you at the table, covered in cling film. This may be helpful for the staff, but there is something discouraging for guests.

A breath of fresh air beckons as we pack up and get ready to leave – in every sense of the word.


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