Once a Downton Abbey-style aristocratic home, Keythorpe Hall in Central England has reinvented itself as a sustainable private-hire venue for eco-conscious house parties
Keythorpe Hall sleeps up to 14 people in seven bedrooms in the main house. We took the corner suite with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto the hills of Leicestershire, a couple of hours’ drive north of London. The room was like something from a Brontë novel – with blush-coloured soft furnishings, a rattan bedstead, shutters, and folding screen. In the bathroom, there was escapism of a different kind, with a freestanding shower resembling the Great Glass Elevator in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory set beside a hot pink bathtub.
Sustainable thinking provides superior comfort. Bed linen is made from 100% Oeko Tex certified cotton. Bath products, created using botanicals, are sourced from small businesses 15 minutes down the road. The house is heated using a biomass boiler which runs on local woodchip for its energy source, and so is the Japanese hot tub on the terrace, which invites a kind of eco-therapy in the great outdoors.
The food & drink
Chefs Peter Johansen and Bent Varming create bespoke menus for guests based on what’s in season. Fruit and vegetables are grown in Keythorpe’s 1.8 acre walled garden, where a quality not quantity mindset means they grow for flavour rather than yield. When we took a walk around the garden with head gardener and wild food expert Claudio Bincoletto, we spotted rainbow chard, wild rocket, and daikon – all of which reappeared on our plates later that evening.
Of the seven ultra-fresh courses we sampled, our favourites were the brill with beurre blanc, rapini and golden ball turnip, and the sea bass with beetroot and toothache pepper. After mains, the Baron Bigod brie (the only traditional raw milk Brie-de-Meaux style cheese produced in the UK) and apple brioche was particularly well accompanied by a glass of Nyetimber Demi-Sec, a sparkling wine produced just a couple of counties away in Kent.
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Responsible for personalising wine pairings at Keythorpe Hall is Bert Blaize, award-winning sommelier and author of Which Wine When. While the wine cellar is available for formal tastings, we opted for something a little less vinous: a vermouth-making class with Blaize, using botanicals foraged from the grounds. (Just don’t make the same mistake as we did, and sign up for a one-on-one session at 10am on a Saturday morning.)
Few can say that they have taken a shower in front of a 2.5-metre mural of a Tudor aristocrat. But then again, the owners of Keythorpe Hall aren’t ones to pay homage to its heritage through any conservative means.
Barbara van Teeffelen and husband Giles have spent the past decade at local auctions and Christie’s sales restoring the private collection of the original owning family while beginning a contemporary art collection of their own. Walk into the reception hall and you will be greeted by two austere, seventeenth-century faces framed on opposing walls. Enter the lounge, and you’ll find contemporary works by Polish artist Marcin Dudek and Selma Parlour’s neon, geometric canvases.
Beyond the property
Leicestershire is less famous than the neighbouring Cotswolds, but it is still English countryside at its best. Keythorpe Hall is close to the market towns of Uppingham and Oakham, famed for its antique shops and galleries and shopping respectively. Rutland Water, one of Europe’s biggest man-made lakes, is 10 minutes away.
Any areas for improvement?
Keythorpe Hall’s owners are candid about its shortcomings. The huge showerheads are not conducive to reduced water consumption. Fish cannot be sourced locally, but must instead be transported from the coast. But the place is proof that sustainability can be synonymous with superior flavours and comfort, and bravo for the effort.
The experience: 8.5/10
Responsible culture rating: 8/10
Rates from £6,000 per night for full use of the house and grounds. Packages can be tailored to include all meals, drinks and service. Book your stay: keythorpehall.co.uk