A manor house in the Garden of England — rumoured to once have hosted Charles I — is now a buzzy restaurant with rooms. Gilly Hopper checks in.
Husband-and-wife duo, Brad and Kristie Lomas purchased Boys Hall, a 17th-century Jacobean Manor in Ashford, in 2019. Restored and revived, the Wealden Hall house has been transformed into a restaurant with rooms.
The 70-cover dining room — a light-filled space fitted with local oak-beamed ceilings and handmade willow pendants from Willow with Roots — is the anchor of the property, helmed by Head Chef Shane Pearson. Menus place focus on local, seasonal produce from the ‘Garden of England’ — come dinner, tuck into enoki tempura followed by coal-fired turbot with Kentish mussels and savoy cabbage paired with county wine.
Come morning, guests can munch on a complimentary breakfast of fresh pastries, yoghurt, and toothsome homemade granola, while hot breakfast items (try the shakshuka) can be added to orders for an additional fee.
Design-wise, sinkable sofas and burning fires beckon guests into colourful lounges, amalgams of old and new. Interiors by owner Kristie, with the help of Kagu Interiors, see potted plants and dried flowers, umpteen lamps, and Lewis & Wood upholstered chairs peppered about the ground floor of the property, with rich Farrow & Ball hues cementing a homely feel.
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A compact, crimson pub with its own entrance proves an inviting watering hole for overnighters and locals alike, while a PDR at the opposite end of the property is available for more intimate gatherings. Upstairs, seven bedrooms — with three more slated later on in 2023 — are kitted out with Roberts radios, Hypnos mattresses, and antique finds.
The entry-level rooms are cosy and charming. Franklin, where we stayed, is positioned above the Boys Hall pub and boasts a four-poster bed as well as a ‘beam-filled bathroom’ stocked with Pelegrims products; meanwhile, the hall’s four suites are fit for a king. (Side note: apparently ‘Boys Hall played host to Charles I while fleeing the forces of Oliver Cromwell circa 1642’).
Still in its infancy, there are grand plans for further expansion at Boys Hall, including the addition of cabins and a garden room bar with outdoor pizza oven. With an appealing price point, this Grade-II listed manor is likely to hit the spot with foodies and Londoners seeking some respite from city life.
While you’re there
- On 23rd October 1970, a hoard of 17 gold coins were found in a broken flowerpot in a loose patch of earth below the floorboards at Boys Hall. Three of the coins were ‘declared treasure trove by the British Museum and are available to view by appointment’
- Ashford International is approximately a 35-minute train ride from London St Pancras; from Ashford station it’s a five-minute taxi to Boys Hall
- Plotted on the southern edge of the North Downs, download the Alltrails app for a selection of nearby walking routes – the Pluckley Circular is a two-hour walk
- Nearby day trips include visits to Kent’s many vineyards, including Chapel Down and Westwell Wines, as well as the coastal Kentish towns of Folkestone and Deal
- Country houses and gardens within driving distance include Godinton House and Gardens and Mount Ephraim Country House and Gardens
Best time to visit?
Spring or summer when the hall’s gardens are in bloom. In the summer months, guests can enjoy garden games on the formal front lawn