Hoteliers' Hotels Top 100: 1 – 10 hotels

28 July 2016
Hoteliers' Hotels Top 100: 1 – 10 hotels

The inaugural Hoteliers' Hotels Top 100 list was unveiled last week by The Caterer and Sky. Rosalind Mullen profiles the full collection, including the winning hotel, which has been at the top of its game for 50 years

Iconic country house hotel Chewton Glen has been named as the best in the country by the UK's leading hoteliers. The five-red-AA-star, 70-bedroom property on the edge of the New Forest in Hampshire was voted number one on the Hoteliers' Hotels Top 100 list. Compiled by the UK's leading hoteliers and verified by some of the nation's pre-eminent hotel experts, including hotel journalist Fiona Duncan, Giovanna Grossi and fellow AA hotel inspectors, and senior editors at The Caterer, the list was revealed last week at a glittering reception at London's Ham Yard hotel, which itself was ranked number 15.

In addition to the Top 100 list, six category winners were also announced. Chewton Glen added to its overall Hoteliers' Hotels title by also winning the Countryside Hotel of the Year and Spa Hotel of the Year categories.

The award for Food Hotel of the Year went to Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, which was placed second on the overall list, while the family-owned Goring, third on the list, was named City Centre Hotel of the Year.

Meanwhile, Foxhill Manor (number 17) in Broadway, Worcestershire, and Calcot Manor (number 20) in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, carried off the titles of Boutique Hotel of the Year and Family Hotel of the Year respectively.

Contributors included past Hoteliers of the Year, and Catey and Hotel Catey winners, as well as members of organisations such as Pride of Britain Hotels, Relais & Châteaux and the Master Innholders, and included respected operators such as Robin Hutson, chairman and chief executive of Lime Wood Group and Home Grown Hotels; Thomas Kochs, managing director of the Café Royal; and Philip Newman-Hall, former managing director of Le Manoir. Hoteliers were not permitted to vote for their own hotel or one within their group.

Amanda Afiya, editor of The Caterer, said "Hoteliers know their industry, its pitfalls and opportunities best, so who better to ask when compiling a list of the top hotels in the UK? We're lucky to have so many wonderful hotels across the UK and we're excited to be launching this list. There are, of course, many ways of ranking and evaluating hotels, but there's nothing quite as special as peer group recognition."

From our sponsor At Sky we pride ourselves on offering exclusive and engaging content alongside innovative technology to ensure that hotels can provide their guests with the very best in-room experience. This prestigious list of the UK's best and finest hotels recognises all of the hard work that goes in to ensure every guest has a perfect stay.

We would like to congratulate all of the operators that have been included in this most definitive list of the UK's greatest hotels, as selected by the industry's leading professionals.

1. Chewton Glen
• Spa Hotel of the Year and Countryside Hotel of the Year

New Milton, Hampshire
Number of bedrooms 70, including 12 treehouse suites
AA rating Five red stars
Owner London & Regional Properties
Operator Chewton Glen
Rooms start at £325

Built in the early 18th century, Chewton Glen is celebrating its 50th anniversary as a hotel this year. It was bought in 2006 by billionaire property developer Ian Livingstone from former owners Martin and Brigitte Skan.

Despite the changes of ownership, service and quality have remained consistent - a key factor in Chewton Glen achieving the number one spot on the inaugural Hoteliers' Hotels list, as well as being named Spa Hotel of the Year and Countryside Hotel of the Year. It has been a Relais & ChÁ¢teaux member since 1971, while managing director Andrew Stembridge has been in the job for more than a decade, having previously been operations director.

At the hotel's 40th anniversary he said: "Over the years, a lot of people have looked to Chewton Glen for inspiration because it has set something of a benchmark in the industry. I think one of the reasons it is successful is that we never feel we've arrived - we are constantly looking ahead."

Certainly, Chewton Glen doesn't stand still. At the start of this year, it announced that it had planning permission to open a cookery school with chef and TV presenter James Martin on the site of the old gatehouse.

In 2012, the hotel invested £7m in building 12 luxury treehouse suites. The large circular suites, located in the forest canopy, offer foliage-framed views. Starting at £800 a night, they have carpeted bedrooms, wood-burning stoves, under-floor heating and hot tubs on the private deck. Loft suites target families, and have double bedrooms and a galleried bunk area. They also have fabulous green credentials.

"Not a tree was felled nor a tree-root disturbed," Stembridge told The Daily Mail when they opened. "The design and project team worked in harmony to create these unique buildings, which blend into the natural habitat and create the absolute minimum footprint in every conceivable way."

Above all, though, Chewton Glen is associated with decadent service. The hotel's Mr & Mrs Smith entry reads: "With a staff-to-guest ratio of two-to-one, it's impossible not to feel like pampered royalty at this world-renowned boutique hotel. Combining the old-school elegance of the Jeeves & Wooster era with a style-sharp modern sensibility (treehouse suite, anyone?), this hotel, spa, restaurant and country club is as seductive as it is suave."

As well as its sumptuous bedrooms, which all feature a Sky box giving guests a full selection of over 300 channels, including Sky Movies and Sky Sports in HD, the hotel offers a nine-hole golf course, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, croquet lawn, mountain bike loan, jogging tracks, spa, gym, and DVD/CD library.

The 156-seat Dining Room has two AA red stars, is a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association - Food Made Good and has an award-winning 1,400-strong wine list. The kitchen has nurtured top chefs, such as Pierre Chevillard, who presided over the stove for 20 years, and his protégés James Martin, Jean-Christophe Novelli and Luke Matthews, the hotel's current executive head chef.

The Good Spa Guide says: "Chewton Glen is a real country house hotel with all the class, comfort and quality you could wish for. A place for lavishing and pampering; don't book in for a few days and expect to come away thinner as the food is simply too good."

Chewton Glen's success is witnessed by a plethora of awards, including the Hotel of the Year - Independent Catey in 2000 and an Accessibility Catey in 2012. It was listed as one of the World's Best Hotels by Condé Nast Traveller readers in 2014 and more recently won the Good Hotel Guide Editor's Choice 2016 award for Country House.

Significantly, former managing directors Peter Crome and Robin Hutson, as well as Stembridge and previous owner Martin Skan have all, at various times, been named Hotelier of the Year by The Caterer.

2. Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons
•Food Hotel of the Year

Great Milton, Oxfordshire
Number of bedrooms 32
AA rating Five red stars
Owner and operator Belmond
Rooms start at £560

In 2002, Orient-Express Hotels acquired a majority stake in Le Manoir from Virgin Hotels for £27.5m and, in 2014, the hotel was rebranded under the Belmond name. Despite the change in ownership, Le Manoir will always be synonymous with celebrated chef Raymond Blanc, who opened the property as a restaurant with four rooms in 1984. In the same year he won two Michelin stars, which he has retained for 32 consecutive years.

While exquisite cooking put Le Manoir on the map, the hotel - situated within a 15th century manor house - is now also known as a luxury hotel with 32 sumptuous, individually designed suites, as well as the Raymond Blanc Cookery School, which opened in 1991.

Described by Mr & Mrs Smith as "straight-up, old-fashioned luxury", each suite has an exotic name and a design to match - for instance, the tranquil haven of Blanc de Blanc and the exuberance of Vettriano. Outside, there are Blanc's famous vegetable and herb gardens, which provide the kitchen with 70 traditional and exotic varieties of herb and 90 types of vegetable. A mushroom garden sprouts around 20 edible species, and an orchard brings in apples, pears and quinces.

Blanc champions an ethical approach to cooking and is keen on energy efficiency and recycling, inspiring many in the industry.

He has also signed up to the "Chefs Adopt a School" programme, teaching young children from two schools the basics of nutrition and how to adopt a good, wholesome diet.

The Guardian's Jay Rayner has said of Blanc: "He shows you that great cooking isn't easy. It's complicated and takes not just great taste, but oceans of experience and hard graft. Plus, killer ingredients, which is the point of
Le Manoir's kitchen."

While Blanc has been the creative driving force, the hotel's recent financial success, which includes having the highest revpar rate outside London, owes much to its former managing director, Philip Newman-Hall, who stepped down from the role in September 2015. He was replaced in December 2015 by general manager Jan-Paul Kroese.

3. The Goring
•City Hotel of the Year

London SW1
Number of bedrooms 69
AA rating Five red stars
Owner and operator The Goring family
Rooms start at £311

What stands out about the Goring is that it is one of London's last few family-owned luxury hotels - built by the Gorings in 1910 and run by them ever since.

Longevity clearly works. About 60% of the guests have stayed at the hotel before, with many having booked in more than 100 times. A large number have been introduced to the hotel by their parents or grandparents.

Another startling fact is that in 2013 it became the first hotel to be awarded a Royal Warrant for hospitality services. As the closest hotel to Buckingham Palace, it was a favourite haunt of the Queen Mother and has hosted VIP guests for many royal occasions, including coronations and, more recently, the Duchess of Cambridge before her marriage to Prince William.

Jeremy Goring, named Independent Hotelier of the Year in 2012, is the current family incumbent. Managing director David Morgan-Hewitt has been with the hotel since 1990, while Stuart Geddes is hotel manager.

The hotel's Linley-designed restaurant, the Dining Room, was awarded its first Michelin star this year under executive chef Shay Cooper. The Goring has also carved out a name for serving a quintessentially English afternoon tea.

But, while it is famous for impeccable service, a travel review in The Manchester Evening News last November revealed what makes this ostensibly stuffy hotel so wonderful: "… look a little closer and, beyond the luxury exterior, you also find elements of the wicked sense of humour which characterises this quintessentially English hotel.

"We were quickly made to feel at home and relaxed in our new decadent surroundings.

"Our footman Richard was dressed to the hilt in his red tails and was the epitome of good manners, but his cheeky demeanour and willingness to help put us right at ease and made us comfortable chatting with him."

The Goring was named Hotel of the Year - Independent at the 2009 Cateys.

4. Claridge's
London W1
Number of bedrooms 203
AA rating Five red stars
Owner Constellation Hotels, owned by Qatar Holding
Operator Maybourne Hotel Group
Rooms start at £400

This art deco haven in Mayfair has been the hotel of choice for socialites since it opened in 1812. In fact, the actor Spencer Tracy famously said he would rather go to Claridge's than heaven. Having opened as Mivart's hotel in a small terrace, it was taken over by the Claridge family in 1854 and moved into its current building in 1898, when it was taken over by the Savoy Group. In 1998, the group was sold for $867m to two US private-equity funds, Blackstone and Colony Capital. In 2004, they sold the group on to private equity firm Quinlan Private, which later sold off the Savoy Hotel and Savoy Theatre and renamed the remaining group of hotels Maybourne Hotel Group.

The most recent change of ownership took place in April 2015 when Coroin, the holding company of Maybourne Hotel Group (also comprising the Berkely and Connaught hotels), was acquired by sovereign wealth fund Qatar Holding. Paul Jackson was appointed general manger this year, replacing Thomas Kochs, who left in November 2015 after nearly five years in the role.

The hotel's internationally recognised restaurants include Simon Rogan's Michelin-starred Fera, and Aulis, the development kitchen and six-seat dining room. The David Collins-designed Claridge's Bar is a lively hub, while the Fumoir bar is more of a hidden gem. Other facilities include a health club and spa, and a gym.

TV presenter Sue Perkins delivered a review for Mr & Mrs Smith: "Claridge's has an incredibly difficult balancing act to pull off - that between modernity and tradition. I believe they have got it just right. It meets all the expectations of the five-star traveller while retaining the integrity of its history."

With regard to service, Blur member Alex James has said: "The staff are extremely friendly and get to know you by name… every time I take my mum there they recognise her and say hello. The service is second to none."

This is a glamorous grande dame that has earned many awards from glossy magazines and broadsheets alike. One of the most recent was being named City Hotel of the Year 2015 in the Food & Travel Reader awards.

5. The Dorchester
London W1
Number of bedrooms 250
AA rating Five red stars
Owner Brunei Investment Agency
Operator The Dorchester Collection
Rooms start at £550

Since opening in 1931, this now world-famous hotel has attracted guests as diverse as royalty, rock stars, politicians and Hollywood legends.

Prince Philip held his stag party at the Dorchester in 1949 and members of the Cabinet took refuge there in the Second World War on the basis that it was seen as one of the capital's safest buildings. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Taylor lived in the Harlequin suite for a while.

Among its many claims to fame is the Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester restaurant, which is the only British hotel restaurant with three Michelin stars. Other eateries in the property include the Promenade, China Tang and the
Grill. There is also the Spatisserie, which complements the Dorchester Spa, and the recently opened Parcafé artisanal coffee shop.

Many of the suites have been designed by Alexandra Champalimaud and have a view of Hyde Park. Writing in a 2012 London Evening Standard review, Jo Fernandez said: "We entered into a luxurious world of oak, marble, velvet and silks. You can see how people could settle in for months, years even. With more square footage than our entire house, the huge living room held antiques, an open fire and a dining table for eight."

But it's not just a great place to stay. Last year the hotel was listed in The Caterer Best Places to Work list, along with siblings Coworth Park and 45 Park Lane.

In 1985, the hotel was bought by the Brunei Investment Agency and operates under the Dorchester Collection, which owns a total of 10 luxury hotels in the UK, US, France, Switzerland and Italy.

In 1988, the hotel closed for two years for refurbishment and in 2011 it celebrated its 80th anniversary. To mark the event, the charity Trees for Cities planted 80 trees around the capital.

6. Lime Wood
Lyndhurst, Hampshire
Number of bedrooms 32
AA rating Five red stars
Owner and operator Lime Wood Group
Rooms start at £315

This hotel is arguably leading the growing pack of a new-breed of laid-back, uber-cool country house hotels. The fact that it has been created by Robin Hutson, a co-founder of boutique breakthrough brand Hotel du Vin, puts that claim into context.

Hutson was brought in to work his magic in 2009, and is now chairman of Lime Wood. The £30m project had began in 1999 when Jim Ratcliffe, the multi-millionaire chief executive of Ineos, the chemical company, bought the Georgian manor. Others involved in creating it include chef Alex Aitken, who initially had a 50% stake, architect Charles Morris and interior designer David Collins.

Service and style go hand-in-hand. Fiona Duncan of The Daily Telegraph describes the rooms as "gorgeous and sexy", scoring them 10/10, and says that although expensive, room prices are "on the nail".

The Herb House Spa, which opened in 2010, a year after the hotel launched, has taken spas in Blighty to a different level. As the only five-AA-star hotel in the New Forest, it makes the most of its beautiful surroundings. Guests, for instance, can do yoga on the roof in a herb garden and take in the forest views from the sauna. It even has a Mintarium - a meditation area surrounded by 15 varieties of mint.

The Hartnett Holder & Co restaurant has brought together chefs Angela Hartnett and Luke Holder, and sets out its stall as offering some of the "highest quality, no-nonsense food in the country". As Hutson says, "this
is fun dining, not fine dining".

Lime Wood has been listed in The Sunday Times 100 Ultimate British Hotels, and this year won Tatler's Best of British gong with a glowing write-up: "It has the greenest New Forest setting, the chicest rooms, the most brilliant restaurant and cooking school, a stonking spa and rows of Smartie-coloured wellies by the door."

7. Lucknam Park
Colerne, Chippenham, Wiltshire
Number of bedrooms 42
AA rating Five red stars
Owner and operator Lucknam Park Hotels
Rooms start at £290

Lucknam Park has just about everything to offer guests. Alongside its Michelin-starred restaurant headed by executive chef Hywel Jones and its award-winning spa and wellness centre, the hotel, which stands within a 500-acre estate, has stables with 35 horses, extensive gardens, tennis courts, a croquet lawn, football pitch and cookery school.

The Palladian mansion was bought in 1987 by a joint venture company. In 1994, it was taken over by a European shipping family who operate Lucknam Park as a single private hotel property.

The man behind the hotel's success for the past 19 years is the 1986 Hotelier of the Year and industry stalwart Harry Murray. In 2013, he swapped his role as managing director for that of chairman of the hotel's board,
with Claire Randall being promoted to his former position.

Over the past 15 or so years, more than £20m has been spent at Lucknam Park on refurbishing all the bedrooms and public areas and building what Murray describes as "the best hotel spa in the country". This is corroborated by numerous accolades, including the award for Best Dine and Spa in the UK from the Spa Traveller in 2013.

The hotel is a member of the Pride of Britain consortium and Relais & ChÁ¢teaux. In 2010 it was named Hotel of the Year - Independent at the Cateys.

8. Gleneagles
Auchterarder, Perthshire
Number of bedrooms 232
AA rating Five red stars
Owner and operator Ennismore
Rooms start at £355

This Grande Dame opened in 1924 in some of Scotland's most breathtaking scenery and was soon being hailed as "the palace in the glens".

Despite its remote location, the combination of luxurious accommodation, Michelin-starred food and service and three world-class golf courses have put Gleneagles on the international map. Among its claims to fame are hosting the G8 summit in 2005 and being the venue for the Ryder Cup in 2014.

In July 2015, private investment and property company Ennismore, which owns designer budget brand the Hoxton, bought the trophy property from drinks giant Diageo. Ennismore founder Sharan Pasricha said: "We intend to invest right across the estate and bring the hotel up to date. The property is best known for golf, but with 850 acres of beautiful Scottish countryside, there is the potential to do a lot more."

Work is already under way on the transformation, with 35 newly refurbished bedrooms recently unveiled alongside a redecorated Century Bar and the new Auchterarder 70 bar.

Certainly, the four restaurants set high culinary standards, including Scotland's only two-Michelin-starred restaurant, Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles, which opened in May 2001.

As well as golf, guests can opt for shooting, fishing, falconry, off-road driving and horse riding, as well as swimming in the club's two indoor pools. In 2008, Gleneagles added its
spa, with 18 treatment rooms.

9. Gravetye Manor
East Grinstead, West Hoathly, West Sussex
Number of bedrooms 17
AA rating Four red stars
Owner and operator Saphos Hotels
Rooms start at £280

This beautiful 16th century manor house is set in 1,000 acres of parkland and gardens created by William Robinson in the late 1800s.

In 1958, it became one of the first country houses in Britain to open as a hotel, under the ownership of visionary hotelier Peter Herbert. Unlike trendy peers that have reinvented themselves as shabby chic or used contemporary designers, Gravetye remains the epitome of the classic country house, refined and sophisticated, with a strong emphasis on hospitality.

Fiona Duncan, writing in The Daily Telegraph, said: "If you appreciate proper, ungimmicky hotels in sensational locations, where service comes first, you will find a rare jewel. There's no spa here, and no plans for one, thank goodness." However, the technology is fully up to speed and includes a full selection of 300 entertainment, sports and movie channels from Sky.

In 2010, Gravetye Manor was rescued from administration by Jeremy and Elizabeth Hosking, and is now owned and managed by their company Saphos Hotels, with managing
director Andrew Thomason at the helm.

Since then, the hotel has risen from three to four AA red stars and was named 2014 AA Hotel of the Year England. This year, the restaurant won its first Michelin star under chef George Blogg.

As well as being winner of the Hotel of the Year - Independent Catey award in 2015, Gravetye was awarded Johansens' Best Countryside Hotel 2014 and Food & Travel's Rural Hotel of the Year 2014.

10. Cliveden House
Taplow, Berkshire
Number of bedrooms 39
AA rating Five red stars
Owner London & Regional Properties
Operator Cliveden House
Rooms start at £300

Cliveden, the historic stately home of princes and dukes and the scene of notorious events in the Profumo scandal during the Astors' tenure, has been a luxury hotel since 1985 - although the freehold is owned by the National Trust.

The current owners of the lease are property developers Richard and Ian Livingstone of London & Regional Properties (L&R). They bought it in February 2012, after Von Essen went into administration. Sue Williams is
the current general manager, although she is leaving the property in September.

A three-year £20m refurbishment was completed last year. This included a £500,000 makeover of the former Terrace restaurant, relaunched by former Galvin at Windows chef André Garrett as an eponymous fine-dining restaurant and it has subsequently been awarded three AA rosettes. The less formal Astor Grill has recently opened, while the refurbishment of the spa will get under way later this year.

In addition to the 39 sumptuous bedrooms and suites, there is also Spring Cottage, a freestanding summerhouse by the Thames in the 376-acre grounds that sleeps up to six guests.

Leisure facilities include indoor and outdoor pools, as well as a gym, snooker room, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, squash courts and three boats on the Thames. Needless to say, there is also a helipad.

A review in Condé Nast Traveller in 2015 captures its essence: "There is something of the survivor about Cliveden, something proud and gorgeous contained in that stone: GinFizz and Chaplin, Queen Victoria and, of course, those showgirls. A bit like an old beauty at a party whose stories you want to hear, and whose hand you want to hold."

Cliveden's most recent accolade was being named AA Hotel of the Year 2016.

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