If you’re looking for a country manor retreat but still want to enjoy the commotion of nearby vibrant Oxford, you may want to book yourself into Mercure Oxford Hawkwell House Hotel. After undergoing a £3.5 million refurbishment, it’s arguably one of the most serene places for a peaceful night’s sleep.
Luxurious Magazine’s Deputy Editor Sabi Phagura duly packed her bags for a weekend of bliss.
Located in the heart of the quaint village of Iffley, Hawkwell House Hotel is an imposing white, rambling, whitewashed property tucked away by foliage set slightly back from the thoroughfare. And while it may appear rather ordinary-looking from the exterior, inside, it belies a plethora of minute details that make it a marvel to look at.
The historic hotel joined the Mercure Hotel group in 2021, and the venue has now undergone a full rebrand and extensive refurbishment.
Upon entering the reception, guests are greeted with the epitome of Oxford fashion through the decades. The story of the county’s trends is mounted on a wall behind a glassed frame, smart brogues worn by well-heeled men of the society of a by-gone era are displayed on shelves in a vertical cabinet, short collars are visible in glass-domed casings, and neckties are neatly folded and exhibited in fancy bold patterns and bright colours.
The unique ambience of the classic Oxford brogue and shirt theme runs throughout the hotel, from featured oversized murals gracing the corridor walls to shoehorn chandeliers and finer details in the shape of wooden brogue shoe tree coat hooks in the bedrooms. The whole place reflects the county’s remarkable history and location.
And the person responsible for designing every element of the hotel is Warwickshire-based interior designer Oliver Redfern. An expert in design for the hospitality industry, Oliver was appointed to create a bespoke, luxury destination with guest comfort at the heart of the transformation.
It’s easy to see that renovating the 77-bed hotel emulating Oxford’s vintage style has been a laborious and meticulous task. The building is akin to a living museum. All rooms, including standard double/twin rooms, are of a good size and offer more than the expected hotel facilities for a comfortable stay.
Our room towards the rear of the main building on the first floor was spacious and embellished with soft furnishings, contemporary furniture and an oversized bed with the thickest of mattresses. A Nespresso machine and a fridge stocked with complimentary soft drinks awaited us. From the window, our room had calming views of lush greenery leading to Elm House, a stunning 15-bedroom house with private gardens complete with a pillared entrance.
As the hotel venue is licenced for weddings, this exclusive-to-hire house is an ideal place to keep guests together for an intimate stay within the hotel grounds.
The main action happens on the ground level of the main hotel (once a hunting lodge), where you can find a lounge bar, stylish restaurant, three meeting and function rooms and an elegant terrace overlooking a polished and manicured lawn.
The all-day dining venue is open to both locals and visitors to enjoy drinks, lunch or dinner.
Speaking of which, the transformation includes a fresh menu and a comprehensive drinks range, including cocktails. The main restaurant, Frank’s, serves a modern take on classic British and European dishes using fresh, local produce.
It’s named in honour of the famous explorer, treasure hunter and polar medallist Francis Howard Bickerton, who was born at The Elms, Iffley, Oxford, in 1889. Hawkwell House has partnered with a range of local artisan suppliers and producers to source the finest Oxfordshire ingredients to deliver contemporary and seasonal menus to guests all year round.
Following pre-dinner drinks Eve and I dined al-fresco on the terrace under solar lights (you really wouldn’t want to miss the glorious twilight vibes of the enchanting lawn). The menu is simple but wholesome, and you know everything on it as fresh as it can be.
However, ‘some’ of the portions are a tad on the small side, so you may want to order a couple of sides. I gave in to my sweet tooth with the gooey salted caramel-themed pudding, which left me more than satisfied.
After a good night’s sleep, there was plenty of time for a leisurely breakfast served until 11 am, incorporating an extensive continental buffet (fruit juices fancily presented) and a choice from the cook-to-order menu, which includes eggs multiple ways, a full English and vegetarian options.
Just 700 yards from Hawkwell House is Iffley Lock, a tranquil place where you can stretch your legs along the famed Thames Water National Trail. St Mary Virgin Church is also close by, and the whole setting is reminiscent of countryside charm. It made for a good walk following the hearty breakfast.
It’s hard to believe that this luxury boutique hotel is a mere 25-minute walk along the path to Oxford or a 10-minute bus ride away from the commotion of the city centre.
Those wanting to venture further afield can head to Blenheim Palace. The UNESCO World Heritage Site boasts a long and diverse history and was home to the 12th Duke of Marlborough and his family and the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill.
However, if you’d rather stay and absorb the surroundings, dog-friendly Hawkwell House has its own beautifully landscaped three-acre garden to meander in. The relaxed countryside atmosphere of this hotel is something rather special and may prove hard to leave.
Once I had checked out, I didn’t want to leave and spent a good few hours on the terrace sipping a coffee and catching up with some work.
Jovial General Manager Nick Jefford hopes the beautiful refurbishment will attract not just visitors to the area but reconnect the local community to Hawkwell House.
I really can’t see that being much of a problem. It’s tranquillity at its best, no matter what time of year.
Mercure Oxford Hawkwell House Hotel – Where and How?
Hawkwell House is located at Church Way, Iffley, Oxford OX4 4DZ. Room rates start from £130. For more information, visit www.mercureoxfordhawkwellhouse.com.
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