A Cotswold Dream

Exquisite food and outstanding service make for a truly wonderful stay

Column by Jo Gregory

At the top of the Gloucester countryside lies the impressive Ellenborough Park Hotel. After a long and very blustery journey we arrive, albeit a little windswept, and are greeted at reception with a cheerful welcome. After being told our room wasn’t quite ready we headed to the Horse Box, the hotels casual pub-style restaurant for lunch. We’re shown to our seats, my guest orders the goats cheese sandwich and I opt for the mushroom gnocchi. We both go for a large glass of white wine to ease us out of our long drive and into the relaxation of the afternoon ahead. The restaurant’s name is a nod to the hotels relationship with Cheltenham race course which is situated just across the field. Placards and pictures line the walls, I can only imagine how buzzing it must be here during a festival.

After our exceptionally long lunch I head over to the hotels spa area for my hot stone massage. My therapist talked me through what to expect during the appointment and made sure I was happy with both the room temperature and music. After my long drive and my glass of wine with lunch, I relaxed into a slumber like state very quickly and the hour dashed by in no time. After my wonderful treatment, I headed down to the spa area to meet my guest. The spa area isn’t huge, containing only five lounge chairs to be sat on, there were a number of people dotted around waiting for one to become free. So, we decided to take our seats in the jacuzzi as it was empty however, it was far too hot to enter so we aborted very quickly. I like a hot bath, but this was exceptional. A fellow guest mentioned that there was a temperature issue which also made the steam room out of bounds. I think the staff were aware of it and trying to get it sorted.

After much discussion we decided to brave the sleet and snow and head for the outside pool. It was heated, thankfully, and after gingerly climbing in, it didn’t take long to warm ourselves up. There’s something rather lovely about swimming outside, even if it did rain on us whilst out there. I can only imagine what it would be like on a hot summer afternoon, sat beside the pool with a drink in hand, glorious. After a swim we headed back to our room however, we couldn’t do so in our gowns as the spa and hotel areas are unfortunately in separate dwellings.

We’re shown to our room which was in fact a huge suite. The Kauto Star Suite is situated on the 2nd floor of the hotel and overlooks the race course. The triple aspect room lets in an abundance of light and gives you glorious views of the hotels’ beautiful grounds. The humble beginnings of this place date back to the 15th century becoming a home to many families over the centuries before eventually becoming an all-girls school in the early 20th century. Hotel De La Bere purchased the property in 2008, transforming it into the cosy and beautiful dwelling we see before us.

Feeling refreshed, we head to the hotels’ Great Hall, the oldest part of the building, for a pre-dinner gin & tonic by the fire. The room is vast but has a cosy feel with traditional furnishings splashed with a tinge of Morocco. Music plays softly in the background while the hotel guests come and go; a truly relaxing start to the evening. As we take our seats at the restaurant for our dinner we’re greeted by the restaurant’s manager and sommelier. Vasilis is clearly passionate about his work, talking us through wine pairings for each dish we order and the origins of some of the wines we try. For our starter we both go for the chickpea dahl with ginger, chilli, goats’ cheese and crispy shallots. Both of us pull joyful faces at each other as we make our way through the meal.

We sink back into our chairs after our plates are cleared and marvel at the wood panelled walls and chic horse themed décor. It’s truly a beautiful setting with candles flickering and the perfect mix of background music humming away. We are brought our main courses; my guest opts for Moroccan style posset and I go for the Cornish hake with courgette linguine. Once again, we’re grinning at each other in delight. We stop mid dinner to compliment Vasilis on both the wine and the delicious food. He looks delighted, like he pressed the grapes and cooked the food himself. After a trio of deserts, which we really didn’t have room for but couldn’t resist, we head to bed. My guest takes a long hot bath while I read in the luxury of the extremely comfortable bed.

We both wake in the morning, sun pouring through a gap in the curtains. It’s a sunny day and the view from our room is utterly delightful. We head down to breakfast to be greeted with a buffet of cereals, fresh juices, croissants and yoghurts however, we both decide to go for the full English which was delicious and cooked to perfection. After breakfast, we take a short walk in the grounds before heading to reception to checkout. It’s the start of the Cheltenham races today and they’re gearing up for a monumental week at the hotel, but the wonderful, friendly and affable staff can no doubt handle it. If it’s a spa weekend you’re looking for during the winter months, this hotel might not be for you, however, if it’s an incredible stay, wonderful service and food to blow your mind, Ellenborough Park hits the spot. riddle_stop 2

Enquiries: Prices at Ellenborough Park start from £209 per night including breakfast/ Ellenborough Park / 01242 545454

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