If walls could talk then Boys Hall would have a lot to say. This Jacobean manor house in Kent has a fascinating history – including tunnels underneath the house, rumoured to have been used by smugglers.
Just a 40-minute train journey from King’s Cross, Boys Hall was built by the aristocrat Thomas Boys between 1616 and 1632. It was also known to be a hideout for Charles I when he was fleeing Oliver Cromwell, and a hoard of 17 gold coins dating back to the reign of Henry VIII were discovered under its floors, and are now in the British Museum.
The latest exciting chapter to the story involves the charming husband and wife team of Brad and Kristie Lomas. The couple took on the Grade-II listed property three years ago and have put blood, sweat, tears – and by the sound of it a lot of laughs – into a remarkable refurbishment, even living in the house with their two young children as the work was in progress (you’ll sometimes find Kristie’s sister on reception so it’s a real family affair). Having opened the restaurant to visiting diners at the end of last year, the boutique hotel offering is now complete with the launch of seven stylish bedrooms, with three more to follow later in the year.
WHAT TO PACK
The beauty of the house’s refurbishment is that despite a fresh lick of paint, the interiors remain characterful and cosy, packing a personality punch thanks to ancient timber beams, wonky floors and medieval design quirks. Communal areas downstairs are undeniably cosy, with numerous nooks and crannies and super squishy sofas to curl up on with a good book – or a selection from the piles of magazines on coffee and side tables. The regal jewel tones on the walls and ornately-framed oil paintings – including some familiar faces such as one-time houseguest Samuel Pepys – nod to the building’s rich history and create a deeply cocooning effect that seems to transport you to another world altogether. There are glossy green plants on nearly every surface and not one, but five, feature fireplaces with wood-burning stoves.
Outside, there’s a picturesque three-acre garden that comes into its own in the warmer months, with foxgloves, hydrangea and a newly-planted walled rose garden (thanks to Kristie’s mum), plus a large outdoor terrace – the perfect spot for a sun-dappled breakfast in spring. Green-fingered guests will also spot a splendid selection of trees including gingkoes, laburnums and a 400-year-old mulberry tree. Delightfully, there is also a wood-panelled pub in one corner of the building – open to residents and the public – filled with items sourced from local auctions and antique fairs, serving Kentish ales and moreish bar snacks.
Immaculately designed with contemporary comforts but still oozing charm, the seven bedrooms are all named after the stories and people that Kristie and Brad have uncovered from Boys Hall’s rich history, such as Margaret, the wife of the original owner Thomas Boys, and Franklin which takes its name from Thomas Franklin, the gingerbread maker of nearby Wye.
Choose between spacious suites with magnificent four-poster beds, window seats and freestanding roll-top baths, or smaller doubles with en suite bathrooms or shower rooms. Like in the rest of the house, Kristie has made excellent use of sumptuous fabrics and colours, with help from the Kentish new-old specialists Kagu. Dark wood panels, beams and cabinetry are accented by bouquets of dried flowers, paisley headboards, Roberts radios and Pelegrims toiletries in the bathrooms, made from the by-products of wine-making at the nearby Westwell vineyard. You’ll also find a helpful booklet detailing the best local walks, including a spectacular clifftop hike to a lighthouse in Dover.
The Little Extras
Boys Hall excels in the finer details. Service was on point at all times, with a friendly face on hand to help you with things before you even know you needed them, like a welcome slice of cake and pot of tea in front of the fire when you arrive. The bar whips up all sorts of delicious cocktails, including a signature toasted coconut Old Fashioned that will easily replace the original in your affections. And don’t miss the accompanying snacks including tasty Kent smoked Ashmore and speck croquettes with saffron mayonnaise, and parmesan gougeres with chicken liver parfait.
The experience is a delight from start to finish – when you walk in, the first thing that you notice is how incredible it smells: that’s thanks to a personalised Boys Hall scent floating from diffusers dotted around the place. Whoever is showing you to your room will point out the hotel’s honesty bar – a large wooden dresser filled with savoury and sweet snacks and drinks, including crisps, nuts and a stack of giant Tunnock’s caramel wafer biscuits. In the sitting rooms there are board games you can help yourself to – playing Scrabble after dinner in the warming glow of a fire is surely the nicest way to end the day.
The Food + Drink
Kristie and Brad have experience in the field of F&B and it shows – Kristie founded Drink, Shop & Do as well as the Keystone Crescent club in King’s Cross, while Brad was a director at the East London Pub Co, which runs the likes of Spitalfields’ Ten Bells and The Lock Tavern in Camden.
At any time of day, the oak-beamed restaurant is the perfect backdrop to dine; in the morning enjoy freshly baked pastries, a full fry up or delicious oat milk porridge with chopped dates and, by night, you can settle in as logs crackle in the huge fireplace. On all the menus, local, seasonal produce is the star of the show and the chef, Shane Pearson has used his time at Blacklock and Caravan in London to influence the flavours. Make sure you arrive hungry as the menu is fantastic and has something for everyone, including a great selection for vegetarians and vegans – think sweet potato and quinoa tartare with coconut and lime, and candied pumpkin with rice, tofu, choy, shiitake mushroom and coconut. Other standout dishes include Chart Farm sticky braised venison on a grilled crumpet with Dijon, pickled blackberry and fine herbs, and coal fired turbot with Kentish mussels, savoy cabbage, Kent cider and saffron.
The wine list more than holds its own – Brad is something of an oenophile and is keen to make the most of Boys Hall’s location close to some of the best British vineyards, including the Gusborne estate. With a capacity for around 4000 bottles, the wine cellar features a number of speciality vintages from English wineries and looks set to be one of the best in the area.
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