Weekend Away : Down Hall Hotel & Spa
Idyllically situated on 110 acres of thriving gardens and woodland, Craig Hough visited the beautiful countryside stately home
My partner and I took a 45 minute train ride from London to the Hertfordshire/Essex border for our first visit to Bishop’s Stortford. The historic market town has a real Cheshire feel to it and is brimming with listed buildings, restaurants and shops. On arrival, we jumped into a taxi and took a short ride out into the countryside to Down Hall Hotel and Spa.
Upon arrival, we were greeted by the team and given a guided tour by Phil O’Connell, a friendly former police officer who talked passionately about the history of the venue, his love for his job and his (eleven) grandchildren. Phil explained that dating back to 1322, Down Hall has been home to artists, lords and baronets who’ve all influenced the flamboyant Italianate style (think crystal chandeliers, coffered and gilded high ceilings and opulent fabrics). The building is within easy reach of Stansted Airport meaning they have a lot of business travellers staying over. In the pristinely manicured gardens, you can test your skills on the giant chess set, indulge in a game of croquet or visit the ducks on the pond, so perfect for a family stay. Phil also mentioned that during the balmier summer months, Down Hall’s chefs prepare gourmet picnics in beautifully packaged wicker baskets for quintessentially British al fresco dining.
Down Hall has recently undergone the final stages of a transformative £10 million refurbishment project, in which all 98 bedrooms have been individually designed to reflect the elegance and character of this historic property. 50 west wing rooms have been decorated in traditional heritage colours with bright accents in classic country house-meets contemporary chic. Our room was a classic bedroom, which was spacious and comfortable with a stunning view over the landscaped gardens. The room came with all mod cons including tea and coffee making facilities, ironing board and iron, laptop-sized safe (perfect for business trips) and Wi-Fi.
Food and Drink
The jewel in the crown of Down Hall is their incredible AA Rosette-awarded restaurant, The Dining Room which specialises in Anglo-French food. Our server explained Head Chef Chris Jones only uses ingredients from the kitchen’s own vegetable patch or local supplier. To drink, we took advice from our server and shared a bottle of Raleo, an Argentinian Malbec that was rich, smooth and brimming with dark juicy brambly fruit flavours. For starters we opted for a delicious smoked haddock fishcake served with shimeji mushrooms and spinach, as well as braised venison shoulder with balsamic turnip and beetroot. For my main I opted for the 8oz Aged English rib-eye of beef, cooked medium rare, with rustic hand cut chips, mushroom and grilled plum tomato. My partner opted for the pan-fried cod with salmon boudin, Jerusalem artichoke and seaweed Beurre Blanc. Both meals were out of this world and deceptively filling. For dessert, we both opted for the chocolate fondant with pistachio ice-cream which was swiftly eaten.
After a lovely night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast (back at The Dining Room), we went to the brand-new Eden Spa located on the Down Hall grounds. I chose the deep muscle massage, designed to alleviate deep-seated tension and muscular stress. Once done, I relaxed with a coffee before entering the rest of the ultra-modern spa. This Spa has everything including a hydrotherapy pool, a mood-lit sauna with full-height timber cladding and tiered seating; a state-of-the-art steam room with an incredible starry night lighting feature and a wellness power shower. For those who are more active, there was a gym with brand new equipment for cardio, weight and strength training with cross trainers, rowing machines, free weights and medicine balls. But we came here to relax, not to work up a sweat.
Whilst staying at Down Hall we noticed a complete mix of guests. It’s perfect for those looking for a leisurely countryside break, for business travellers, weekend escapees (like us), or for travellers in need of a pre-airport stopover. I’d definitely recommend a stay in late spring time as the gardens come in to bloom and the weather is a little warmer so you could enjoy afternoon tea on the terrace. The manor awaits, delve into Down Hall.
Down Hall Hotel & Spa
Matching Road, Hatfield Heath, Essex, CM22 7AS
t: +44 (0)1279 731 441 w: downhall.co.uk
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