By Kris Thomas, Editor
Owned by the O’Brien family for three generations, Park House was opened as a hotel in the late 1940s by “raconteur” Ioné O’Brien and quickly became a “best kept secret” among celebrities of the day. Located down a long, country lane in Bepton on the outskirts of Midhurst, Park House consists of an attractive main building with other offshoot annexes housing the Spa, function and conference room and additional accommodation. The hotel is still owned by the O’Brien family and retains the warm feeling of a gracious family home.
We arrived on a cold and rainy February day and after checking in went directly for lunch in the dining area overlooking the manicured lawns. The hotel has two grass tennis courts, a croquet lawn and a golf course as well as a lovely outdoor pool.
After lunch we visited the spa, housed in a gorgeous beamed building with a mezzanine relaxation area overlooking the inviting pool and bubbling hot tub. There is also a gym and Pilates and Yoga classes are offered in the Barn next door. The Spa, which is also open to day guests, has an excellent selection of treatments from standard pedicures and facials to more elaborate rejuvenating offerings.
I tried a detoxifying mud wrap which smelled great and left my skin silky soft. The low-lit treatment room, kindly therapist and heated bed put me instantly at ease and the face and head massage administered by my lovely therapist was sheer bliss.
Jeff tired a lava shell massage which he found very relaxing. This treatment is similar to a hot stone massage with the warm shells allowing the therapist to really work on knotted muscles. Extra touches including complimentary shampoos and lotions and hair straighteners in the changing rooms plus key code lockers (that actually work) make for a very pleasurable experience all round.
The hotel has just 21 individually decorated rooms, split between the main building and three adjacent cottages. We were given a delightful and very spacious double-aspect room in the South Down cottage a few steps from the Spa. The room had a separate sitting area and a huge bathroom with under floor heating.
Bar & Restaurant
Pre-dinner drinks in the cosy bar (with a very welcome open fire) gave us time to peruse the many photos adorning the walls. Royals and celebrities from past decades including June Whitfield and Alistair McGowan smile down at visitors. The restaurant is also open to non-residents.
The winter menu is certainly interesting and featured seasonal favourites including Hare. Jeff chose pork “pie” and pear as a starter, the seasoned pork was offset by sweet tangy pear. I had the crab and ginger risotto – three diamond shaped filo pastry crab parcels on top of a creamy risotto garnished with tangy, crunchy fresh ginger and samphire.
For mains Jeff had tender venison rump with red cabbage and rich jus, I opted for the Supreme of chicken with a butter bean and sweet corn sauce and we shared sides of sprouts with bacon, Dauphinois potatoes and garlic and chilli tenderstem.
The desserts were too tempting to resist and we chose; Fine Apple Tart – moreish slices of caramelised apple on a thin tart base with vanilla ice cream and; bread and bread pudding – six individual crispy-topped bread bites in a creamy, delicately orange flavoured sauce with a large marble-sized scoop of ice cream in the middle.
After dinner we retired to the comfortable lounge where there is another open fire and candles on the fireplace mantle, Japanese prints on the walls and a choice of several sofas to relax with our coffee.
Park House hotel is far removed from the standard corporate-feel offerings where all decor is grey and “contemporary”. Staying at Park House is like visiting a charming country retreat and the staff really make you feel welcome. We will return.
Tel: 01730 819000 or www.parkhousehotel.com