The thought of escaping from one’s busy life – even for just one night of pampered luxury – was just too tempting to resist. But such getaways, so hotly anticipated, can often be fraught with disappointment if the hotel doesn’t live up to the promise of its website or brochures. Luckily for me, on arriving at the impressive, 19th century country house hotel, Matfen Hall, I knew I’d found just what I’d been hoping for. Set in 300 acres of some of Northumberland’s finest landscaped parkland, it’s a favourite spot for weddings, with a newly refurbished spa guaranteed to deliver a bride glowing from head to toe. It’s also the place to go if you’re a golfer, with a 27 hole course to challenge you before collapsing for some well-deserved refreshment at the 19th (at the Keeper’s Lodge).
Matfen Hall is a 53 room, Gothic gem, privately owned by Sir Hugh and Lady Blackett. The Hall has been in the family for over 260 years, and opened as a hotel in 1999. No doubt, such a history and pedigree meant that it was no surprise that I was made to feel more like a favoured guest rather than a mere hotel visitor – the service was impeccable!
Of the four restaurants to choose from, I opted for dinner in the 2 AA rosette Library Dining Room where Head Chef, Chris Delaney, has conjured up a superb, French-inspired menu, sourcing seasonal, local produce. A complex, very crisp Puligny Montrachet put me in a very rosy mood, while completely spoilt for choice. Foie Gras purists will be won over by the Foie Gras Crème Brulee, truffle shortbread with fig and port compote, while I found the Southgate crab and lobster plate with pickled celery and mango relish deliciously fresh. The Northumberland rib eye steak was perfectly cooked and the corn-fed chicken with hand-rolled pasta, summer garden greens and girolle mushroom cream was succulent enough to satisfy but light enough to leave room for pud, which is ever my weakness!
My melting chocolate heart cake made me wish for baking skills, but I can’t imagine ever being able to produce such an irresistible concoction. Fortunately, my sumptuous room with panoramic views across the parkland (you can still sense them, even in the dark) was only a stagger away. Bliss….
£169 – £329 including breakfast. Ainslie stayed in a Principal Room (£329 including dinner and breakfast).
England NE20 0RH
Telephone: +44 (0) 1661 886500