Mallory Court has long earned the reputation for being one of the leading hotels in the Midlands. Located in the heart of England, between Royal Leamington Spa and Bishop’s Tatchbrook, with easy access to the M40, it has been a member of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux Association since 1983. It currently holds three AA stars for accommodation and has been recommended by the Conde Nast Johansens guide for 25 years. The Dining Room has always scored highly in the restaurant guides and recently celebrated holding a Michelin star for eleven consecutive years.
Under the ownership of Sir Peter Rigby who purchased the hotel in 1995, Mallory Court became the first of seven luxury hotels in the Eden House Collection. The following years have seen renovation and expansion, neither of which has been excessive, thereby preserving its medium size and unique country house character.
Thus, continuity and change have featured in the history of Mallory Court between my first visit for lunch in October, 1986, (when Jeremy Mort and Alan Holland were the proprietors), and my recent overnight stay in April 2012.
The main house dates from 1916. Designed by P Morley Horder, in a style popularised by Sir Edwin Lutyens, it typifies the Arts and Crafts design and remains very much as originally built. This ivy clad two storey building, enhanced by gables, stone dressing and mullioned windows, presents an attractive neo Elizabethan façade to the visitor.
From only ten rooms, the East Wing which opened in 1998 doubled the available accommodation. Six years later saw the opening of the Knights Suite, a separate building offering conference and banqueting facilities with more rooms on the first floor. Both additions are designed in sympathy with the main house; indeed it is hardly noticeable that the East Wing, connected to the main house by a glass corridor, is not part of the original set of buildings. The Knights Suite is clearly newer but in the same architectural idiom. The effect of weathering over the years will gradually cause its bright sandstone colour to match the darker shade of the main house. Being set apart, the corporate, large scale nature of its activities is prevented from intruding on the more peaceful atmosphere and personal service offered in the main house.
The small reception and bar area in the main house allow attention to focus on main public rooms. These epitomise the essence of country house elegance and luxury. An open plan lounge and well proportioned drawing room, complete with inglenook fireplaces and exquisite settees, chesterfields and armchairs, offer comfortable areas in which to relax. The conservatory style Garden Room provides a brighter, more airy alternative. Throughout, the décor and quality of materials and fabrics, combining traditional and modern designs, are of very high standards.
Set in ten acres of grounds, the hotel has carefully tended gardens and immaculate lawns – perfect for a game of croquet. The spacious and well protected terrace, ideal for al fresco drinking and dining, commands delightful views of the ornamental water garden. Guests can also explore the rose and organic kitchen gardens. Here, what looked like a maze I later learned was privet hedging to keep out the rabbits.
With 31 rooms, Mallory is of an ideal size: small enough to maintain high standards of service, large enough to allow for guests to choose from a range of six room types, from master suites to double bedrooms. Whilst the eleven rooms in the modern Knights Suite have a more contemporary feel consistent with the rest of the building, the décor and furnishings of the original and east wing rooms retain a more classical, elegant design.
I stayed in Linton, a spacious master bedroom in the East Wing with fine views over the garden. Decorated in shades of tan, with feature striped wallpaper in the bed alcove, and a mixture of wall and table lighting, the room combined both traditional and modern features. Comfortable seating, stylish furniture and sumptuous fabrics added to the lavishness of the surroundings. Attention to detail was seen in small touches such as the shoe horn in the wardrobe, the music centre with a choice of CDs, bottled water, and chocolates, fruit and biscuits on arrival.
Amenities were first class. The large art deco bathroom, fully tiled in marble with large double sinks was a joy to use. The spacious walk in shower was a welcome, modern addition. Fluffy towelling robes, slippers – so often not provided elsewhere – and designer toiletries added luxurious elements. A welcome feature was the separate toilet (also in tiled in art deco style), a highly underrated but often essential facility!
The maintenance and furtherance of such consistently high standards of accommodation and service are the responsibility of the General Manager, Sarah Baker, whose career at Mallory Court began in 1989. In her longevity of dedicated service, her calm, warm personality and mature outlook, she embodies those qualities so valued in the hospitality industry. Her vision for Mallory is one of synergy, of greater presence within Eden House group. Whilst each hotel retains its unique identity, much can be shared to the benefit of all. She admits also that a spa would be a welcome addition to the hotel’s facilities.
On an operational basis, her management style is hands on, leading by example with attention to detail in every aspect of hotel life. She admits the management of 85 staff from diverse backgrounds can be demanding but it is also rewarding. Loyal, hard working staff means happy, contented guests, which is the primary raison d’etre of the hotel. Sarah is proud of her staff retention rates and is keen to promote from within.
Certainly, during my brief stay, the effectiveness of Sarah’s consummate professionalism was much in evidence. Checking in was friendly and welcoming; service at dinner and breakfast was exemplary in its pace, courtesy and in accommodating one’s needs; and a tour of the hotel, given my Natalie, was thorough and informative. The general impression is of seamless, high quality service, offered with grace and good humour.
Clearly, Mallory Court is a hotel of which any manager can be proud. The Relais and Chateaux philosophy of five Cs – courtesy, charm, character, calm and cuisine – has been successfully realised. Much of this success is down to a team effort, one inspired by strong leadership. Under Sarah Baker’s guidance, it continues to go from strength to strength, confirming its leading place in the competitive market of luxury country house hotels.