Set in the idyllic country surroundings of the New Forest National Park. Lime Wood Hotel encapsulates laid back luxury at its finest. From the peaceful heaven of the hotel’s spa, Herb House, to the beautifully balanced rooms and lakeside lodges, guests feel part of an exclusive crowd from the start. Undoubtedly the perfect escape for weekend breaks, a dash from the city, or an escape from home the enchanting moments of wellness and homeliness throughout each element of this country-house hotel certainly do not go amiss.
Continuing our tour to some of the most desirable locations around the UK, when our pop up cart stopped off at Lime Wood this week, we got the opportunity to chat to Luke Holder, the co-head chef at Lime Wood’s stylish spot for sustainable dining, Hartnett Holder & Co.
Italian inspired, and well versed in provenance, Hartnett Holder & Co. demonstrates a passion for championing local, sustainable produce, where Luke and Angela Hartnett are known for creating cuisine that is simultaneously rustic and sumptuous.
Tell us about Lime Wood and its ethos…
It’s always been about laid back luxury and the spirit of generosity. It’s a beautiful space that really understands that great hospitality is greater than the sum of its parts.
What sets it apart and why do people fall in love with the hotel?
It’s the million little details that are often overlooked. Obviously, the building is architecturally stunning and the interior design is wonderful, but the little touches such as the mini bar items, the music and the ambiance that the staff bring really set us apart from the rest. People, product, planet has served us well.
The appreciation of nature is core to both brands, what does it mean to you and why is it so important?
Cheffing is a wonderful career, and I have worked in Italy, Thailand and Dubai, but what really makes the difference to me is the relationship with mother nature. When you work in Dubai and Thailand to a degree, there are no seasons, and as much as hot sun and beach life was fun, I found myself hungering for asparagus, strawberries, duck, porcini that come on line when the seasons change. It’s just not the same when the weather outside is 50c and we are cooking ducks and porcini. It’s not the same having everything available all the time no matter what the quality! So cheffing to me is dancing to the rhythm of mother nature.
Having a brand with a greater purpose is so important now, why do you believe that luxury should have a greater responsibility?
A lot of change starts with those that can afford to make the change. The luxury market can afford to help support the start of the cultural shift to sustainability. Over the years we have lost touch with the true cost of British seafood, and small producers for cheese, meat, vegetables and quality farming techniques, that look after the soil and the land around. At our end of the market our guests trust us to have done the leg work around this so they know they are paying a fair price for a quality product that has sustainability and fairness at the heart of what we do.
Tell us about your secrets behind running a successful hotel.
Strong systems with a broad offering as the modern guest has high expectations not just on quality but dietary. Flexitarian attitudes have grown immensely over the years, so it’s no longer (arguably, was it ever) good enough to have dietary options as a second thought.
People choose to be gluten-free and vegan for lunch and want the very best produced steak and chips for dinner and we have to be ready for that. Key is hiring good staff that need to understand that everyone has to have a "total hospitality" attitude! Kitchen porters helping with popping peas, bar teams serving coffee with as much gusto and passion as they do mixing cocktails and mocktails, reception teams coming down to help in the restaurant at peak times. If you don’t create a cultural attitude of working as a unit together then all that happens is one area of your business is floating while another area of your business is sinking. I believe this is where our strength is at its best – you can’t run hospitality from behind a desk!
What is your definition of sustainable travel and being environmentally aware?
Looking closer to home rather than flying all over the world. I hope the British start to recognise the beauty and quality on offer right here on their doorstep. Enjoying the journey of a train trip to Scotland to walk, eat and drink rather than flying to Barbados twice a year!
What do you see as the future of travel?
More smaller breaks closer to home with a longer break away overseas every other year or so. Making the change to more sustainable travel being part of the journey – be that by land or sea! And if and when we do fly, making it a large break as opposed to short-haul flights.
What do you see as positive outcomes of this difficult period for travel?
Seeing what the British Isles has to offer for travel. Like London for example. How many of us have really exploited what London really has to offer? Or Cornwall, The Lake District, Wales, The Scottish Highlands which arguably have some of the most stunning scenery anywhere in the world. Even here in the New Forest, we have wonderful coastlines as well as incredible walks through the forests!
Hidden secret about the hotel or something not many know about.
Not necessarily a secret but Raw & Cured is a real gem here at the hotel. Most guests know it as the chill-out spot within the spa, but outside guests don’t realise it’s there. The food is wonderful and Sheila Hulme is the heart and soul down there (pop in and say hi, she would love to see you), and way ahead of her time with the raw food movement. It’s developed over the years and has everything from light wonderful salads, vegan dressing, fresh juices and raw & fermented nutritional benefitting food too. Spoil yourself with tarts and cakes that are a little naughty but why not, you’re at Lime Wood, spoil yourself!
To travel is to…
Expand your cultural awareness and breath in humanity's diversity. To challenge your expectations and philosophies. To see mother nature’s wonders and consider your insignificance against the unapologetic march forward of the universe… and if you’re lucky… to feel your place within space and time before you disappear to wherever your energy goes when it all comes to an end.