This is, frankly, thrilling. We are still caught in the worst crisis that British hospitality has faced and here I am in a new hotel that brims with optimism and a bright future. Covid be gone. The Mitre is here.
If you know the elegant Lutyens bridge that straddles the Thames between London and Surrey at Hampton, you may have glanced at The Mitre and inwardly sighed: a fine landmark gone to seed, the sort of clapped-out place you hurry past.
In fact, it has always been a hostelry, built in 1665 to accommodate the courtiers of King Charles II when he occupied Hampton Court Palace, which stands opposite. It had a moment in the 1960s, when Shirley Bassey would pop in for lobster thermidor, but after that its fortunes dipped.
Enter Hector Ross, formerly in charge of the Bel & the Dragon pub chain and Beaverbrook hotel. He is young yet, but he knows what he’s doing.
Supported by a couple of backers and a substantial bank loan, Ross bought The Mitre shortly before the beginning of lockdown and opened it soon after the end. He and a trusted team of builders (“my brothers”) moved in and spent those lockdown months on a top-to-toe refurbishment, creating a new open-to-view kitchen and implementing his friend Nicola Harding’s gorgeous, country-meets-town interiors, with original art, oak floors, tongue and groove panelling, soft velvet fabrics, Ottoline and de Gournay wallpapers and many subtle shades of paint.
Another good friend and colleague, the very tall Ronnie Kimbugwe, formerly executive chef of Bel & the Dragon, manned a vintage Citroen food van called Polly outside the hotel that made the resurging Mitre a talking point for locals during lockdown. Add Claire Fyfe, MasterChef contestant, interior designer and landscape artist as the new-to-the-game hotel manager, and you have Ross’s dream team.
You’ve either got it or you haven’t in the hospitality game. Ross, who was brought up in St James’s Palace because his father was a senior member of the royal household, has got it. He knows that generosity is key (sensible room rates, a glass of English wine on arrival, complimentary cookies and King’s Ginger liqueur, fresh flowers, Bramley bath products in the bedrooms).
He values his overnight guests enough to give them their own private sitting room (an engaging space in the oldest part of the building with shelves of books, honesty bar and a jukebox).
No two bedrooms are the same and they are all lovely: homely yet vibrant, with a mix of old and new furniture (much of it came with the hotel), paperbacks chosen by Fyfe, free-standing bath tubs, charming café curtains and the prettiest of mirrors.
The Mitre is substantial. It has two restaurants, a lovely events space, the orangery,