In Hampton Court Palace, an oil painting, Field of the Cloth of Gold, depicts an extravagant summit meeting between Henry VIII and the French king, Francis I. Between the tufted tents and turreted towers of the temporary castles erected for the event are depicted a procession of Tudor courtiers prancing towards a castle. Some dazzle in red-striped coats, bright white hoses beneath. Others are draped in mustard-yellow doublets, with slits fashioned to flash lime green beneath. Henry VIII straddles a grey horse, resplendent and larger than life in a cloak of gold. Trussed up in their Sunday best to meet the French court, they're a picture of pleasing frivolity.
On entering our bedroom at The Mitre, across the road from the palace, it's easy to think inspiration for the hotel's interiors might have been plucked from that famous painting. Built in the 17th century to house an overflow of guests from the palace (when Charles II ran out of beds), this old inn by the bridge has been patched up and padded out over the years, making the property a multi-layered extravagance of corridors, staircases, nooks and crannies, not unlike the complexities of the Tudor wardrobe. Outside, Georgian elegance is layered up with a Nineties-built rotunda paunch, modern conservatory and a higgledy-piggledy collation of other architectural styles spanning centuries. Inside, an expressive renovation by The Signet Collection has added tutti-frutti-toned interiors that seem to have been taken from the painting itself, albeit twisted around furnishings and splashed across walls. It's bold, bright and brilliant - like living inside the wardrobe of Henry VIII himself.
The Mitre's drawing room, left, and window views from a bedroom.
The hotel has 36, many named after kings, queens and nobility. Ours - a Royal, number 202, Edward - was as fetchingly dressed as courtiers of old, with joyfully patterned, hand-painted wallpaper, overstuffed armchairs, reinvigorated antiques and enough fringing, gingham and scalloping to fill a haberdashery - think the flavours of Matilda Goad, with a smattering of Tudor. Sash windows offer Thames views (plus the tent tops of the terrace downstairs). Colour is generously used: elsewhere in the hotel, you'll find rooms with lime-green walls, burnt-orange panelling, fuchsia sofas and cherry-red headboards.
The building is old, but its awkward spaces and strange angles are put to good use: think quirky, characterful corners filled with secondhand books and tasselled lampshades. We were particularly taken by the generous, freestanding bathtub in our room, sitting beneath a vintage map of London, with a rubber duck ready to go on the red-striped side table beside it.
What's for dinner?
We dined in 1665 Brasserie, the Thames-facing restaurant and terrace that has become the evening dining spot of choice for Kingston's glitziest. Sat at a table beside Balthazar-sized bottles of Whispering Angel piled precariously high, we tucked into chargrilled steak, wood fire-cooked prawns and chilli-spiked squid.
Note that on Saturdays, the music here is loud and the atmosphere party-like - not one for your hard-of-hearing granny.
Served in the bar (head down early to nab a seat in the curved dining area overlooking the Thames). There's a generous buffet, plus a menu of quick classics.
Is there a bar?
Yes, two. The seasonal Whispering Angel terrace, and the pastel-painted Coppernose upstairs (a nickname given to Henry VIII). Try the virgin cocktails - they're excellent.
A double room, left, and the dining area.
There are English-made Bramley toiletries in all bathrooms, and all bedrooms have a bottle of The King's Ginger liqueur to enjoy at your leisure. You'll also find a coffee machine, cosy robes and quirky minibar offerings. We liked the clever touch of a Tatler on the desk (for swatting up on your royal reading, of course).
We loved the kooky library tucked behind reception, with its retro jukebox, eclectic reading material and old etching of Cardinal Wolsey on the wall.
What are eco-credentials like?
The brains behind the design, Nicola Harding, put time and effort into upcycling and refurbishing old furniture for the rooms - an area often overlooked in the race to pick up sustainability certificates.
What about accessibility?
There is one accessible room, and lifts for reaching the restaurants. However, this is an old building, full of twists and turns, so it's unlikely to be uninterrupted smooth sailing if you struggle with mobility.
What's the crowd?
Londoners seeking leafier surroundings for the weekend, plus out-of-towners wanting a base only a 30-minute train ride away from the intensity of the capital's centre. On our visit, there were a lot of wedding guests, too.
Within a short walk I can find…
The slow roll of the Thames, verdant canal walks and, of course, the majestic (and massive) red-brick Hampton Court Palace, directly opposite. Plus, the deer-patrolled pastures of Bushy Park (perfect for pooch-watching) a short walk away. The train station is four minutes' on foot, too.
Things I should know…
Our room was hot throughout the night, despite all the windows being open. Management are clearly aware - the room was furnished with a Dyson fan - but on a steamy summer's night, it was a touch uncomfortable.
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