The Mitre: A bijou boutique hotel pairing classic hospitality with eccentric design

Anna Solomon

13 May 2022

This former hostel to Hampton Court Palace has undergone a kooky refit

13 May 2022 | Anna Solomon

A

lthough The Mitre is undoubtedly at its best when the sun gleams through the bay windows, making all 244 paint shades used in its decoration sing, it has a nighttime ambience that is almost as charming. Low lighting casts an orange glow across the de Gournay wallpaper, shadowy recesses appear in walnut corridors, and soft fabrics muffle the sound of distant diners.

It is amidst this magical aura that we arrive at the riverside hotel. After greeting us with a glass of wine, the receptionist leads us up creaky stairs and along dimmed hallways to our room: The Palace. The nomenclature refers, of course, to Hampton Court Palace, which is situated just across the road. 

The Mitre was built in 1665 by Charles II as a hostel for visitors to the palace, although the site’s origins date back to the reign of Henry VIII, and this is the theme the modern hotel has run with. One of the suites is named after the Tudor king, and another after his final wife, Catherine Parr. Door signs depict King Henry in the tub (‘do not disturb’) and Anne Boleyn ‘Out to Court’, while historical sporting memorabilia is dotted about the building – the neighbouring Bushey Park was once a royal hunting ground.

The Palace is actually one of The Mitre’s more understated rooms. Understated, but lovely, featuring a bed so vast it requires a little jump to hoist yourself onto and floor-to-ceiling shelves stacked with browned books. There’s a tiny burlap sack of cookies on the doorknob and a bottle of the hotel’s homemade liqueur on the side. Tasting notes: akin to an alcoholic Pret ginger shot (in the best way).

The twist is in the fact that The Mitre pairs this slightly twee approach with a fantastically camp ‘70s aesthetic. Along with the cookies and the books, my suite has a noisy chaise lounge and gauche side table with tassels, topped by a bright red lacquered lamp.

This is all thanks to a 2020 revamp by interior designer Nicola Harding, who individually designed the hotel’s 36 rooms and suites. These range from the Classic and Heritage Rooms, which feature raspberry drapes, gingham armchairs, and rattan headboards, to Culture and Royal Rooms, immaculately kitted out with candy-striped loveseats, peach panelling and statement pendant lights. Various suites, meanwhile, lean into autumnal oranges, spring greens and cornflower blues, and boast roll-top copper baths and quaint marquetry desks. Interiors are homely, but this could only be your home if you had impeccable taste and a sizable budget for Ottoline wallpaper and cottagecore antiques.

As gorgeous as the interiors are, much of The Mitre’s charm derives from its surroundings. This unspoiled section of the River Thames is visible from many of the windows – when we visit in spring, the views are hazy and verdant, weeping willows and old-world barges crowding the banks as far as the eye can see.

The Mitre offers two restaurants: 1665, named for the year that the original Mitre was built, and Coppernose Bar, the nickname given to Henry VIII when funds ran low at the end of his reign and he was forced to issue cheap copper-coated currency. Both are headed up by Ronnie Kimbugwe, who worked under Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s.

Dinner is in 1665, a chic brasserie with a menu of upmarket crowd-pleasers like chargrilled ribeye, squash risotto and crab bruschetta. My tuna and sesame ‘bang bang’ salad starter is a pleasing combination of rice noodles, toasted peanut and chilli; my guest's smoked mackerel pate on sourdough with pickled cucumber is equally satisfying.

I consider going all ‘restaurant review-y’ with my main, but after hearing the waiter’s recommendation of whole roasted truffle chicken (to share), I relent, and have no regrets. The meat hums with truffle and the golden skin is perfectly crisp. It’s paired with charred hispi cabbage, maple-glazed parsnips and chips, with a truffle dip to complete the truffle-y extravaganza.

The following morning, having not seen it in its sun-drenched glory, The Mitre feels like a different world. We've awoken to a glorious spring day and the hotel's hidden nooks and crannies are now flooded with light.

Breakfast is served in the Coppernose’s riverside rotunda, an eminently civilised space where patrons read broadsheet newspapers, sip coffee, and take in views framed by wraparound windows. The scrambled egg and smoked salmon on sourdough calls to me, but the poached egg, avocado and hummus looks pretty amazing – a mountain of Hollandaise topped by edible flowers, crispy shallots and smear of Sriracha.

After breakfast, it's out into the breezy spring day and the gorgeous environs of East Molesey. A saunter around Bushey Park is a Henry VIII-worthy antidote to an evening of ginger liqueur, truffle chicken and doorknob cookies.

Read more: Villa d'Este – 150 years of glamour on Lake Como

For more information, visit mitrehamptoncourt.com