Heat, Ice… And Indulgence
Fairy tales like surroundings, moreish food and an enormous and comprehensive spa makes Hoar Cross Hall quite the Staffordshire destination
Review by Catherine Ferguson
There’s something pretty special about driving through the gates of Hoar Cross Hall. The stunning, winding route through the verdant, rolling countryside of the National Forest, leads to a magnificent Grade II listed stately home, set in exquisitely manicured gardens. A little bit of Downton Abbey, with a dash of Harry Potter, the 19th Century family home is an impressive sight. With its mullioned windows, turreted water towers and 48 chimneys, there’s an undeniable air of grandeur.
The fairy tale continues in the oak panelled ballroom, where dinner is served under the watchful gaze of a host of historical figures immortalised in sizable portraits. The range of seasonal dishes were prettily presented, with a menu small enough to ensure quality and attention to detail, but sufficiently varied to meet the tastes of even the fussiest diner.
Favourites at our table were the Salt Cod and Tempura King Prawns, in the lightest batter I think I’ve ever tasted, with fennel crisp, mango, pomegranate, pickled cucumber, chilli oil and molasses; the pan fried salmon with champ, Manhattan clam chowder and crispy salmon skin was equally light and tasty and I just couldn’t say “no,” the Crème Brûlée with chocolate chip brioche à tête and white chocolate and passion fruit truffle to draw things to a close.
After dinner, my head just couldn’t wait to hit the pillow, although I think my desire to nap may have been attributable to my Blackwoods 60 per cent Gin and Tonic aperitif – a delightful explosion of floral botanicals, but positively lethal.
The rooms, all named after Ladies and Baronesses, are simply enormous. Never mind a cat, you could swing an entire menagerie in the duplex suites. The roof terrace is a pleasant addition, although as January visitors, we could only really indulge when rugged up in bobble hats and down jackets. Although vast and comfortable, the suites are ever so slightly tired and the décor, whilst clean and luxurious is a little out-dated.
One of the largest spas in the county, folks flock to Hoar Cross from across Staffordshire and beyond to dip their toes in the waters of the underground hydrotherapy and saltwater vitality pools. The subterranean spa is positively cavernous, so grab a map on the way in and be prepared to bump into posses of guests snuggled up in cosy white robes and slippers, looking ever so slightly lost. The gym is impressive with a jam-packed programme to suit all levels and tastes. The Aqua Detox and Massage zones are not to be missed and the Nordic Heat and Ice experience has the ying and yang of pleasure and pain down to a tee.
The spa is extensive and impressively well-equipped, but for the sunshine fiends among us a little bit of natural light would really tip the balance. Fresh air-hunters can wander the grounds and complimentary bikes are on hand for those who fancy going further afield. I couldn’t resist a couple of games on the all-weather outdoor tennis table table. In truth, I had a score to settle after a shameful defeat on an Italian beach last summer.
With deals starting from £149per person, including a three course dinner, breakfast, lunch and use of the facilities until 5.30pm the following day, Hoar Cross Spa breaks offer great value for money. Above all, I challenge every guest to dabble in the Heat and Ice, if only to alleviate the fuzzy head from the similarly perilous gin and tonics.
Enquires: Hoar Cross Hall, Maker Lane, Burton-on-Trent DE13 8QS / 01283 575671 / www.hoarcross.co.uk/