First in: Boys Hall, Kent: inside the UK’s cosiest new hotel for 2023
Because between a railway line and an industrial estate on the edge of lowly Ashford, Boys Hall is its own surprising little universe: a haven of inviting nooks, crannies and big fireplaces, with a serious Kent locavore restaurant and the warmest welcomes from charming, chatty owners Kristie and Brad Lomas. They led a superb renovation of a 1616 building in the traditional Kentish Wealden Hall style, while infusing all those beams and rickety angles with personality and warmth.
Freestanding bath at Boys Hall, Ashford
Sketch the scene
Sip on a toasted coconut Old Fashioned by the fire in the living room, under medieval beams – try not to feast on Kentish Ashmore cheese and speckled croquettes and parmesan and chicken liver parfait gougere balls, overlooked by a prevailing oil of one-time guest Samuel Pepys. Almost feels too at home to move. Then through to the large barn-like restaurant, buzzing with laughter, with an epic brick fireplace at one end. The Middle Ages, and indeed new hotel openings, rarely feel so much fun.
Built by aristocrat Thomas Boys, the house has an interesting past – sitting atop a warren of smugglers’ tunnels, it was a pit stop for Charles I as he fled Oliver Cromwell, and medieval coins found beneath his floorboards found are now in the British Museum. But when Kristie and Brad Lomas dropped by in 2019 with kids in tow, impatient to move out of London and looking for a project, it was engulfed by wisteria, with multiple occupants in dark rooms under a sagging roof (our beautiful room was apparently owned by a guy who sold auto parts on eBay, and was filled with pieces of metal). Among other things, Kristie founded the Keystone Crescent cocktail club in King’s Cross, and Brad was a director at the East London Pub Co, which runs Spitalfields’ Ten Bells and The Lock Tavern in Camden, among others. Kristie grew up in Ashford, the daughter of a master craftsman with experience renovating period houses. So it was a family labor of love – from clearing the garden and wisteria to restoring beams and fireplaces using fallen oak trees from the garden and transforming the one-time pool area into a barn-like restaurant. They plan to add three more rooms to the current seven, renovate the former stables and build nine log lodges in the hall’s four acres of increasingly sculptured gardens.