The big trip

The Mitre Hampton Court hotel review: a riverside retreat that’s fit for a king

Enjoy a chic and regal stay at this boutique on the banks of the Thames

The Mitre hotel

Country house chic meets regal splendour at The Mitre, a newly-refurbished boutique hotel on the banks of the River Thames, just over the road from Hampton Court Palace. 

Commissioned by Charles II in 1665 to house the overflow of courtiers, the historic hotel has been through various redesigns over the years. Its most recent revamp was during the pandemic after it was purchased by Hector Ross and Ronnie Kimbugwe of hotel company The Signet Collection, which was formed in early 2020.

The new owners stripped out “everything from the toilet bowls to the curtains”, guest relations manager Francois Plougonven tells me. “The only things they couldn’t move were the walls and stairs as it’s a Grade II listed building.”

During summer last year, the hotel began reopening gradually as the refurbishment work finished and it has been fully operational since September 2020 - minus lockdown periods, of course. 

A riverside view of The Mitre

A riverside view of The Mitre

The vibe

The hotel’s friendly, informal atmosphere is evident from the moment you step off the hectic main road and into its relaxed reception room. The staff greet guests and each other like old friends; according to Plougonven, The Mitre hires people “not necessarily on experience” but on “their passion and drive”. 

Guests are greeted with complimentary glasses of wine on arrival which they can enjoy as they wait to check in. There are also free homemade chocolate chip cookies awaiting visitors in their rooms - a lovely touch, especially if someone’s had to travel far.

As well as the reception lounge, guests are able to relax outside on one of two sun-trapped terraces or in a cosy library complete with an “honesty bar” where visitors can log shots of The Mitre’s deliciously lethal homemade ginger liqueur. 

The Mitre library

The Mitre’s residents’ library

It’s hard to describe a specific colour scheme running through the hotel as each room has a different feel to it; Plougonven tells me a whopping 244 paint shades were used during the refurbishment. But instead of feeling jarring, it (somehow) all comes together. 

Ross and Kimbugwe have prioritised local businesses when considering decor; the flowers come from a shop on the adjacent Bridge Road and the soy candles are hand-poured in Hampton Court itself. This is a nice touch and helps explain the hotel’s community-centric feel.

The rooms

Each room has been individually designed, from its pet-friendly “heritage rooms”, which are themed around hunting, boating and sports, to its one-of-a-kind Henry VIII bridal suite, which features a four-poster bed and a copper roll-top bath, and boasts River Thames and Hampton Court views.

The Mitre suite

The Catherine Parr suite

I stayed in the spacious “Painters Studio”, one of The Mitre’s four culture-themed rooms, reflecting the hotel’s literary heritage. With a riverside view, a comfy king-sized bed and a complimentary litre of ginger liqueur to enjoy, it was hard to not feel at luxurious ease.

The bathroom was simple but pleasant and kitted out with products from the bougie Bramley range including an ambrosial grapefruit, coriander and spearmint handwash. All bath and body products are decanted into eco-friendly, custom-made bottles bearing an illustrated lion - The Signet Collection’s signature image, which was designed by a former member of staff.

The restaurants: dinner

The Mitre contains two restaurants which are both housed in the riverside rotunda and headed up by Kimbugwe, who worked with Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s. 

On the smarter side is 1665, named in reference to the date when the original Mitre Hotel was built as an inn to accommodate travellers and guests of the palace. My guest and I dined here the night we arrived where we were treated to a window seat overlooking paddleboarders and (remarkably brave) swimmers making the most of the Thames at sunset.

After a detailed scan of what was a very extensive menu, we opted to start with grilled Padron peppers (served with bite-size chunks of halloumi) and crispy “popcorn” cauliflower, which our waitress assured us was a 1665 speciality. Both portion sizes were far larger than we expected from “nibbles”, the fried cauliflower globes a particularly delicious start to our meal.

Next up were our starters; a prawn and avocado cocktail for me, and a squid, rocket and chilli salad for my partner. The sweet-and-sour tang of my Sriracha Marie Rose sauce perfectly complemented the juicy Atlantic prawns and, like our “nibbles”, both portions were far larger than expected (fit for a king, one might say). 

The Mitre starter

Prawn and avocado cocktail

For mains, my partner had a Hampshire ribeye steak which was sizzled to perfection and served with celery-salted fries and a gloriously creamy béarnaise sauce. I went for the lobster and crab tortellini which was tasty, but I confess that I did suffer a minor bout of food envy.

We barely had room for dessert but were too curious to not try what was described as a pineapple and coconut “ravioli”. Fortunately this unusual dish didn’t equate to my second pasta serving of the evening, but instead was a very thin layer of pineapple wrapped around a refreshing scoop of coconut sorbet.

The surprisingly tasty concoction was a perfect palate cleanser - and unlike every other course, the portion size was aimed at a normal human appetite, rather than that of Henry VIII. 

Pineapple and coconut ‘ravioli’

Pineapple and coconut ‘ravioli’

The restaurants: breakfast

For a more laid-back dining experience than 1665, there’s the Coppernose restaurant, the name deriving from a nickname given to Henry VIII after his funds ran low and he was forced to issue cheap copper-coated currency towards the end of his reign.

This is where we ate breakfast the following morning (which is included in all room rates and served until 10am). The Coppernose breakfast menu ranges from traditional fry ups to more millennial-friendly options like avocado on toast or a mango smoothie bowl. 

I opted for the full English (when in… England?) which came with perfectly runny but slightly cold poached eggs, moderately crispy bacon, roasted mushrooms, baked beans (which were described as “slow-cooked” but tasted like regular Heinz to me) and a totally delicious wild boar and apple sausage. 

Full English breakfast

Full English breakfast

My partner’s poached eggs, avocado and hummus on sourdough was presented like a work of art, complete with edible flower petals and a tasteful smattering of crispy shallots and smear of Sriracha. Both meals were accompanied by fresh orange juice, tea and coffee, which we enjoyed while admiring the riverside view.

What to do

As The Mitre is less than two minutes’ walk from Hampton Court, it would feel remiss not to visit the palace during your stay. Some of the high-end rooms include entry as part of their packages; it’s worth checking with the front desk whether there are any special ticket offers available. 

Hampton Court Palace is a perfect family day out - elements of the experience are slightly Disney-fied (with enthusiastic costumed reenactments) but there’s more than enough history to fascinate older visitors too. I particularly enjoyed checking out Henry VIII’s enormous kitchens (pity the poor women who’d spend all day poring over steaming cauldrons) and wandering around the breathtaking grounds, including the extensive kitchen garden. Don’t miss seeing the Great Vine, a 250-year-old black dessert grapevine which is the largest in the world. 

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace

The Mitre also offers its own activities including a monthly supper club run by Kimbugwe and Claire Fyfe, the hotel’s manager. Each supper club is themed; last month’s was centred around sparkling wine and included a talk and presentation from the local Hambledon Vineyard.

For exercise aficionados, the hotel’s regular “Fit for a King” series brings local trainers onto The Mitre’s terrace for exclusive work-out classes (there are just 20 tickets available at a time). For £50 guests and locals can enjoy a morning strength and stretch session followed by a delicious al fresco brunch on the river deck. 

One of the two terraces at The Mitre

And this August, the hotel is adding another string to its bow, with the launch of a brand new “Pamper Spa Suite”. Hotel guests can book a range of treatments, including a full body massage, a head, neck and shoulder express massage and a full-body hot stone massage, with a team of expert therapists. 

How to book

Rooms at The Mitre start from £290 for two people (including breakfast) and can be booked via mitrehamptoncourt.wearegifted.co.uk. Extra activities can also be booked from The Mitre’s website.

Timed tickets for Hampton Court Palace cost £25.30 for one adult and can be purchased at hrp.org.uk.

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