One of the most-talked-about hotels of summer 2022, this Victorian gothic pile near Windsor was revamped under the impeccable eye of fashion and concept store powerhouse Alex Eagle and her interiors collaborator Sophie Hodges. Much of the buzz was fuelled by the opening of Soho House’s Summer River House pop-up on the hotel’s grassy riverbank, with guests and Housers rushing to sip Picantes on its rattan loungers and daybeds.
When is the best time to visit?
May 2022 opening aside, there’s fresh energy for the colder months with a riverside ice-rink and guest chef Mateo ‘The Pasta Man’ Zielonka for carb-loaded feasts. The Summer River House gets a seasonal update as the Winter River House, with a new vibe, and next door there’s an outpost of the Alex Eagle Sporting Club, the cool gym concept with boxing and yoga.
What is this place?
In a previous life, Oakley Court was a drab conference hotel, whose gargoyled frontage had star turns in The Rocky Horror Picture Show and St Trinian’s films. But the Thames-side location has always been dreamy – an easy train ride from London that feels happily far away.
Behind the scenes
There are outposts of The Store, Alex Eagle’s fiercely curated retail concept, at Soho Farmhouse, Soho House Berlin and 180 The Strand – so it was no surprise when she brought in the brand as collaborator here. But Eagle and Hodges’ confidently playful work is entirely their own: mixing bold colour with chinoiserie, low-slung Seventies shapes with the high camp of ruffle-skirted armchairs.
The hotel is split into the original Mansion House and the Boathouse by the river (the final Garden Wing will be ready in summer 2022). The 10 rooms in the main house are most interesting. Each is different, some with an imposing wood-panelled bed surround or intricate stained glass windows. And in all bedrooms there are shades of Soho House, with pre-mixed Martinis, Negronis and Old Fashioneds by cut-glass tumblers on marble coffee tables, and Cowshed potions in the bathroom
Food and drink
Winter River House has a familiar hit list of dirty burgers, rotisserie chicken and pizzas (courgette and heritage tomato; black-truffle taleggio), enlivened by pop-ups – September 2022 saw Akira Japan House dish up yakitori and karaage. In the main hotel, The Terrace and The Parlour serve Italian- inflected dishes, big on vegetables from the walled garden (a wood-fired catch of the day with cabbage pappardelle, say, or quinoa salad with kale). The wine list is pleasingly English, from West Sussex’s Bolney Estate Cuvee Noir fizz to fruity reds from nearby Stanlake Park.
Who comes here?
An uncontentious but curious mix of Windsor families who’ve stuck with the place pre- and post-reno for lazy lunches, and fashion couples stalking down to the Winter River House to spam their social media followers.
The immaculate 35-acre waterside grounds, which also hide tennis courts. And in 2022, a sculpture park.
We don’t like
The two Seventies wings aren’t the prettiest – a bit like an Oxbridge college with a dorm addition. But ivy grows up exteriors, and the interiors are gorgeous.
Out and about
Hire bikes and join the Thames Path on the wooded bank opposite Oakley Court and whizz to Windsor Castle in 45 minutes – or book ahead for one of the electric six-man boats from the hotel’s private dock.
Address: Oakley Court, Windsor Road, Water Oakley, Windsor SL4 5UR, UK
Price: Doubles from £275
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