For a weekend of rest and recuperation, Charlie Bond discovers The Spa Hotel in Tunbridge Wells has it all…
Weekends are supposed to be a time for relaxing and recharging your batteries, but I’ll confess – that’s not how I usually end up spending them. Typically, by the time Sunday night rolls around, I’m ready for another two days off. So, in a welcome change, this weekend I’m heading to The Spa Hotel in Tunbridge Wells for a little indulgence and down-time with one of my oldest friends who is also keen to kick back.
Set in 14 acres of picturesque landscape with far-reaching views, it’s hard to believe this country hotel is just minutes from the hustle and bustle of the Tunbridge Wells Pantiles, but as we venture inside the spacious entrance hall and lobby area, we leave any thoughts of the working week firmly at the door.
Our first port of call is a visit to our bedroom to drop off our bags, but when it’s revealed where we’ll be sleeping, we almost cancel all other plans – our suite is stunning, with a sun-drenched balcony overlooking the grounds, huge bed set against striking feature wallpaper, and a spacious contemporary bathroom. Flinging open the doors to the balcony and taking a seat to enjoy the last of the sunshine, we’re instantly relaxed.
In a bid to continue our weekend wind-down, we make our way down to the Spa Spa, where we’re each booked for a back, neck and shoulder massage. This turns out to be the perfect antidote to a busy week – as my therapist Lida spends the next 30 minutes contorting me and working on the knots in my back, any tension I was still holding on to is long-forgotten. As I meet my guest back in the room to begin getting ready for dinner, we both agree that these are some of the best massages we’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing.
We might be in our snuggly robes but there’s the matter of dinner to tend to, so we freshen up and make our way down to the award-winning Chandelier restaurant for our evening meal.
In keeping with the hotel’s country style, the restaurant is both expansive, yet homely. The room is buzzing with diners toasting the weekend – there are groups of all ages, from a table of ladies celebrating a friends 30th birthday, to couples quietly sipping on wine.
We’re shown to a table near the window where we can enjoy the summer breeze, and presented with menus, filled with delicious-looking options. We order our drinks, and set about an extensive deliberation over what to select. In the end, I order the scallops to start (£12) and the hoisin glazed black cod for my main (£19) while my guest opts for the fig and parma ham salad (£8.50) followed by the corn fed chicken breast (£16). Also, as it’s a weekend and we fully intend to swim everything off in the pool tomorrow, we decide to indulge in a side of triple cooked chips to share (£3.50).
As we sip our drinks, our waiter presents us with slices of focaccia to whet our appetite. These are baked to perfection, with a crisp, salty top layer and moist inside studded with olives and rosemary. If this is an indication of what’s to come, then we’re in for a treat.
We don’t have to wait long to find out – we’re soon presented with our starters and eagerly tuck in. My scallops are a taste sensation – they’re topped with crispy panko breadcrumbs, and these, teamed with the soft meat provides a wonderful variety of textures. Served with a parsnip puree, the dish is delicious.
My guest is equally appreciative of her starter, which is served with gorgonzola and truffle honey. She comments that the sharpness of the figs with the creaminess of the cheese is agreeable, and she especially likes the sweetness that comes from the honey flavours.
After such a successful first course, we worry that our main dishes won’t live up to expectation, but if anything, they exceed them. My cod is beautifully cooked, and the fish could melt in my mouth, while the crunch from the cashews and Asian noodle salad it’s served with again provides a fantastic array of textures with each mouthful. My guest is particularly savouring the butternut squash puree which accompanies her chicken – she says it’s a great pairing, and teamed with the tender asparagus it’s another winning choice. Oh, and the chips – well, even though we hardly need them, we still manage to eat them all as they’re perfect – crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside.
The waiting staff leave just enough time for our food to go down before approaching us with the dessert menus – and of course, we oblige, with me selecting the Nutella chocolate delice and my guest choosing the untraditional banana split (both £6.50). My guest, who has a particular penchant for pancakes is delighted to discover her bananas encased in crepes, while I’m pleasantly surprised when my chocolatey pudding contains an extra bit of sparkle in the form of popping candy.
Long after the other diners have left the restaurant, we finally muster the strength to drift back to our bedroom, and within minutes we’re sinking into the cloud-like mattress, feeling full and completely relaxed.
The following morning we wake early and spend a while admiring the view from our balcony before it’s time for breakfast. We can barely believe it’s time to eat again, and both agree we’ll just have cereal and fruit, but we get envious seeing other guests with their full English breakfasts, and soon we’re tucking into hearty plates of sausages and bacon too.
After refuelling, we head down to the spa with the intention of working off some of our indulgences. We have the benefit of being the only two people in the swimming pool, and enjoy some leisurely lengths before making our way to the steam room, followed by the sauna, where we definitely aren’t exercising but we’re certainly enjoying ourselves.
As mid-morning arrives, it’s time for us to check out and leave the lap of luxury and our relaxing retreat behind. Feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, we head home, wishing that every weekend could be like this.