The real beauty of the event was the opportunity to meet a genuinely passionate, multi-tasking and warm character in Imogen. She calls herself the ‘Reluctant Restaurateur’ after she had to take in paying guests to cover the mounting overheads when she inherited the Hall which has been in her family since 1860. Imogen has since worked hard to create a unique, character rich hotel and restaurant.
Even though the team were extremely busy on the day we were there (there was a wedding and a group of 20 French hospitality students visiting the same day!) the Front of House manager Grace kindly gave us a tour of the hotel and this is where we got to see the hotel’s charming interior. There is a story and unique history behind the décor and names of every room, each of which is individually decorated and bears original antique furniture and paintings. From the ‘Favourite’ room (where Imogen’s favourite guest, a business man, would stay for long periods of time for business) to Nanny’s room, (the ‘Nursery’ where the children would stay if they were ill) to the ‘Cartland’ room (where the novelist Barbara would stay which has since had all the pink décor removed!). Among the many celebrity guests that have stayed at the Hall, the designer Paul Smith is a regular guest, with many references to his famous stripy patterned fabric on display (from armchairs, wellies and signed drawings).
The hotel is most certainly a family affair - Imogen’s daughter Louise is head gardener and grows an impressive amount of fruit and vegetables in their vast garden, all of which are served in the restaurant. Her grandchildren also work at the hotel in various roles.
The charm of Imogen’s personality extend to outside the hotel too. Along with two chalets in the garden, one of which resides on the croquet lawn and is fittingly described as ‘ideal for lovers’, there is garden shed selling plants and some humorous signs warning guests of their incontinent pigeons!
All in all a wonderful event and lovely venue and a host that showed off true English charm and hospitality in all its glory! We look forward to a return visit.