This week we check in to Down Hall Hotel & Spa…
We LOVE London, obvs. But sometimes even we feel the need to get out of the city, step away from the tube, and take in some big ol’ gulps of country air from time to time.
Thankfully we were invited to check out Down Hall Hotel & Spa, situated on the Essex/Hertfordshire border and a mere 52 minutes’ drive from East London according to the sat nav.
Pulling up to the grand stately home in the dark, we felt like we’d travelled a LOT further. After a painless check in we made our way up to our large room, passing lots of lovingly restored areas for canoodling. Instead of an empty hallway we found a luxurious lounge area, complete with chandelier and a game of Noughts & Crosses, should the mood take you. It did, it was a draw every damn time.
This Italianate-style building dates back to 1322 and although we’re sure it’s had a spruce up in that time, in places, the hotel felt a little dated. Don’t expect any mod-cons in your room – there was no DAB radio or Nespresso machine (instead there’s a proper kettle – old-school) and the robes and carpet had seen better days, but what it lacks in mod-cons it more than makes up for with its huge comfy bed and giant sash windows with wraparound views. Outside of our room we were impressed by the hotel’s beautiful ornate ceilings and multiple fireplaces.
If you’re spending the night here you’ll want to check out the hotel’s restaurant – The Grill Room. But before that, make the time for a little pre-dinner tipple – the hotel boasts an extensive gin menu– our favourite being the moreish pink pepper gin with Mediterranean tonic and peppercorn garnish. Obviously steaks are a large part of what they do, but aside from that you can expect typical hotel restaurant fodder. Think creamy vegetable soups, rich meaty dishes and decadent desserts.
Luckily we didn’t have far to roll to bed. We started with a still-warm-from-the-oven sourdough loaf with caramelised shallot butter before moving on to venison shoulder ‘nuggets’ served with beetroot and chocolate. The pan fried pollock came alongside fondant potatoes in a bright watercress cream sauce. A deconstructed cheesecake was the highlight of the night and if cheese is more your thing you’ll appreciate the extensive choice of English and French varieties served with onion seed crackers, pickled walnuts and chutney. Service was of the ‘part-time, after school’ variety and very sweet.
The next day we nearly missed breakfast, so good were the blackout curtains. Thankfully we just about managed to make use of the buffet where we filled up on bacon medallions, sausages and eggs. All that was on the agenda for the day was rest and relaxation…
The spa is slightly unusual in that you have to pre-book a specific two hour slot to use it and pay £20 for the privilege. Whilst we were there a few people were turned away so don’t get caught out. We’re guessing it keeps the small space from getting overrun, leaving everyone plenty of space to use the hydrotherapy pool, sauna and steam room.
Once our time was up and we were suitably shrivelled like a prune we headed out to explore Down Hall’s 110 acres of grounds. The hotel offer a walking map with a range of trails from the easy peasy to the slightly more strenuous. Walks promise to take in the tennis courts, the Italian lake and the duck pound but sadly in muddy January, there wasn’t a great deal to see. Perhaps come summer the duck pond will be full of water – and ducks.
Like the sound of that?
Come 15th and 16th June, Down Hall Hotel & Spa’s grounds will be transformed with, Live at Down Hall taking over. Two very special artists – Jools Holland and James Morrison – will take to the stage in two separate evenings of live music within a unique countryside setting. Guests will be able to get up close as a VIP if big fans, and enjoy various add-ons ranging from a picnic, BBQ, through to an overnight stay for the ultimate treat.