But when experienced hoteliers Derrick and Janet Hill acquired Hampton Manor in March 2008, it was nothing more than a dilapidated old country manor house. They charged their son and daughter-in-law, James and Fjona Hill, with unleashing its potential.
James and Fjona were both just 26 at the time, and it was one of the most daunting times of the couple’s lives, as they set to work stripping the Grade II listed property back to its bare bones and transforming it into the luxurious hotel that it is today. Fjona explains:
“The process really surprised us. Getting to know the artisanal makers we worked with and watching them hone their craft was inspiring – and we learned to love the beauty that grows out of patience.”
Today, Hampton Manor offers luxurious accommodation with a contemporary and sophisticated style, whilst maintaining many of its original features. Set within 45 wooded acres, the estate comprises the Manor, a fifteen-bedroom hotel and a four-bedroom cottage; Grace & Savour, a walled garden restaurant with five dedicated suites; Smoke, a rustic restaurant and artisan bakery; and a woodland spa treatment room for guests to enjoy.
As creative director at Hampton Manor, Fjona leads all the design aspects of projects, from the Manor’s impressive interiors right through to the gardens and dining experience. James oversees the food and dining side of the business, working closely with Hampton Manor’s chefs on perfecting their menus and leading the high-performing team of 120+ employees.
Hampton Manor is the former estate of Prime Minister and founder of the British Police Force, Sir Robert Peel. Following the death of his father, Sir Robert’s son, Frederick Peel, commissioned the building of the current Manor House, and in 1855, William Eden Nesfield designed the handsome Neo-Tudor Gothic building that we see today, complete with an ornate clock tower and walled garden.
The jewel in Hampton Manor’s crown is undoubtedly its newest restaurant, Grace & Savour. Built into the walls of the walled garden, diners can enjoy a fifteen-course tasting menu served from an open kitchen as part of a fully immersive dining experience that celebrates a revolution in growing and farming. Grace & Savour’s head chef, David Taylor, believes this approach is the key to unlocking flavour.
James explains: “Having worked at a handful of top restaurants, including Maze with Jason Atherton, Purnell’s, and Maaemo (where he was part of the team that won a third Michelin star for the restaurant), David was our number one choice for taking on the Grace & Savour project. With a growing passion for biodynamics – a holistic, ecological, and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food, and nutrition – it felt like the opportunity was meant for him.
“Every choice on Grace & Savour’s menu is underpinned by a commitment to soil health, biodiversity, ethics, and sustainability. David spent his first year at Hampton Manor building a supply chain devoted to regenerative and organic farming and chemical-free practices. We visited an array of farmers and ﬁshermen across the UK, seeking out businesses that use sustainable practices such as re-wilding, diversiﬁcation, agroforestry, and biodynamic farming.”
The team’s hard work paid off; just one year after opening, Grace & Savour won a Michelin star, was named the best restaurant in the UK by SquareMeal and secured a place in the Good Food Guide’s 20 Most Exciting Restaurants of the Year.
The focus on the origin of ingredients also flows through the wine selection at Grace & Savour. In 2019, Hampton Manor won AA Wine List of the Year based on its ethos around the winemakers and growers that it works with.
The walled garden, which was derelict when James and Fjona took over the estate, has been returned to its bounteous glory and remains the main source and inspiration for much of Grace & Savour’s tasting menu. The garden benefits from mixed cropping, where multiple plants are planted simultaneously in the same areas, which helps maintain a balance of input and outgo of soil nutrients. The result is not only more nutrient-rich food but also more ﬂavour on the plate.
The focal point of the Hampton Manor guest experience has now shifted to become its walled garden and the immersive dining experience that Grace & Savour offers, with the Manor House more often used for larger events, particularly weddings, conferences, and corporate experiences.
Prior to the pandemic, James and Fjona made the decision to revisit how they structured the property on the estate, both to maximise security and to seek out opportunities to leverage their assets effectively. This proved to be a highly strategic move, enabling them to navigate some of the financial pressures of the last four years more easily.
James explains: “Our experience of working with Lodders has been brilliant. The team delivered a robust solution that proved invaluable when the pandemic hit. The advice they delivered has enabled us to become more resilient as a business, and that has been really powerful.”
The pandemic provided Hampton Manor with the opportunity to capture the imagination of its customers. The team quickly pivoted into delivering ‘restaurant in a box’ takeaway meals and created ‘how to’ videos to help customers to assemble them. When the venue was able to reopen, it was exclusively looking after couples owing to social distancing rules, and again the team identified a new opportunity, creating unique two-night experiences centred around rustic dining for customers to enjoy. These proved so popular, they continue to run today.
Looking to the future, the Hampton Manor team is already working on creating new dining experiences alongside its existing offerings, including an opulent Indian wedding banquet designed in partnership with Aktar Islam, head chef at Opheem in Birmingham.Contact us
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