Located in rural Leicestershire, Keythorpe Hall is designed for exclusive parties and family gatherings, with a team of chefs that create artisanal banquets using hyper-local ingredients from an on-site ‘Garden of Eden’. Jenny Southan reports
The former family home of co-owner Barbara van Teeffelen (she lived there with her husband and children during renovations), Keythorpe Hall has been transformed into an exclusive-use residence that can be rented out in its entirety by groups of up to 20 people for decadent long weekends away.
Before its official opening in November 2021, Globetrender checked in for an overnight stay (it’s easy to get to, taking about an hour on the train from London King’s Cross).
Unlike a conventional luxury home rental on Airbnb or Onefinestay, this property is run more like an on-demand hotel, with a full team of staff including highly talented chefs Peter Johansen and Bent Varming who between them conjure up mind-blowing plant-based cuisine using rare, ultra-fresh home-grown produce.Restored by Van Teeffelen and her husband without the use of a professional interior designer, the couple have created a highly inviting stately retreat that has been informed by years of travelling together, checking into many of the world’s best hotels.
For example, the mattresses were inspired by those found at Number One Bruton hotel in Somerset. “They were so comfy we tore up the sheets to see what brand they were,” says Van Teeffelen. They have also put a lot of consideration into the catering, with an emphasis on nourishment, and quality not quantity. “We don’t want guests to feel uncomfortably full,” Van Teeffelen says. But make no mistake, you will not go hungry.
For example, instead of a huge unhealthy breakfast buffet that inevitably leads to a lot of wastage, there is a highly curated presentation of food and drink that includes pour-over coffee from local brand Northern Cobbler, multi-grain porridge, homemade bread, Keythorpe spring honey (they have their own hives), pots of greengage and damson jam, eggs from a nearby farm and jugs of kombucha.
Guests can also have a guided walk around the 1.8-acre Victorian walled garden, where charismatic head gardner Claudio Bincoletto cultivates everything from organic sweetcorn, rainbow chard and lettuce to delicate white alpine strawberries, nasturtiums and tomatoes.
There is also an orchard of apple, pear and plum trees, and a huge plot of land dedicated to growing dahlias of every colour and variety, which are not only picked and put on display throughout the property but sold through membership organisation Flowers from the Farm to specialist florists and Michelin-star restaurants in London. (Part of Keythorpe’s sustainability ethos centres around “grown not flown” produce.)It’s great to see how Van Teeffelen and her team are continuing the estate’s tradition of self-sufficiency. Back in the 1800s, Keythorpe Hall was owned by the 11th Lord Berners who was president of the Royal Agricultural Society, and used the garden to grow grapes, melons and even pineapples, as well as different varieties of wheat from the New World.
In total there are seven bedrooms in the main house, with an additional three-bedroom apartment available, meaning Keythorpe Hall can accommodate up to 20 guests at time. (But you can’t just book one room.) As you’d expect it’s not cheap – costing £14,000 a night with a minimum two-night stay required.
That said, given that all meals, drinks (including house wine and spirits), service and access to the grounds are included in the price, it’s good value. The banquet we experienced in the evening was truly mind-blowing, not only in terms of the stunning tablescaping with fresh flowers and handprinted linens, but the fresh, elegant food (some of the best I have ever had).
On the menu was a starter of raw and pickled vegetables from the garden, followed by foraged nettle and verbena broth, baked white beetroot, charcoal roasted miso aubergine, pork belly, roasted courgette with sour plum, and warm apple cake with buckwheat salted caramel.Globetrender can attest that in addition to sporting glorious Georgian architecture and striking interior design (every room is different and there are interesting works of art throughout), the standard of the gastronomy is phenomenal, right down to the fresh apples and sunflower seed nut butter left in the rooms, and the wholesome cakes served at afternoon tea. We were also impressed to meet Keythorpe’s award-winning sommelier and author of Which Wine When, Bert Blaize, a dapper young chap who not only hand-selects wine pairings for meals but crafts his own botanical vodka, gins, vermouths and tinctures using the likes of lemon verbena and rhubarb sage. (With this in mind, the Keythorpe martini is a must-try.)With family reunions, hedonism and hyper-local food in high demand in 2022 and beyond, Globetrender predicts Keythorpe Hall will cater well to these trends. Unlike a conventional house rental, guests staying here will also have access to an array of bespoke activities – from flower picking and vegetable harvesting to champagne in the outdoor hot tub and pizza-making.
Kitchen masterclasses in bread-making can also be organised. During my stay I spent some time learning about fermenting (they make their own miso, for example) and how to craft the perfect savoury galette. It really is foodie heaven, particularly for people who enjoy vegan and vegetarian food – although meat and fish are served too.
The property also has an expansive wine cellar where tastings can be arranged. Alternatively, guests can pick botanical herbs from the garden to use in the production of their own gin, which includes a tour of the nearby Brentingby Gin distillery in Melton Mowbray. Upon departure, we were given bags of fresh vegetables and a recipe card to take home to the city.
Keythorpe Hall is an innovative concept that is leading the way with “zero-miles” gastronomy in a way that might not be possible to achieve if it was operating as a full-time restaurant or hotel. As an on-demand retreat, guests have a highly personalised experience, and the chance to feel more in tune with nature, while revelling in nightly parties. After 24 hours at Keythorpe Hall, I decided I never wanted to leave.
£28,000 for a two-night buy-out including all meals, drinks, service, full use of the house, grounds and activities.