REVIEW: Down Hall, Hertfordshire
WHAT: An imposing country house hotel on the Essex and Hertfordshire border, boasting rolling green grounds, ornate interiors and a seriously luxurious (if little) spa.
WHY GO? For some blissful hours spent massaging aches and pains in the indoor whirlpool, followed by a properly great massage, dinner and a snooze.
We arrived on a Sunday afternoon, dropping our belongings in a plush bedroom filled with elaborate furnishings, a huge bath and shower, and a large flat screen TV. Being an Italianate mansion, it effortlessly evokes a Downtown Abbey-esque feel, with luxurious fabrics, grand staircases and roaring open fires.
We headed straight to the spa, where we were shown how to work individual lockers with key cards and given soft robes and slippers to don while wandering from steam room, to sauna, to relaxation room (complete with uber relaxing electronic chairs) and back again.
The spa is compact but clean, offering all you need to wash away the stress of a long week – there are even some outdoor loungers in a small outdoor space, so one can peruse the magazine collection whilst topping up the tan. We opted for 55 minute, full body Aromatherapy massages (£65) which use an expert blend of carefully chosen ESPA essential oils. Staff were skilful and professional, applying just the right amount of pressure and taking care to explain the procedure thoroughly.
We left feeling truly revived, ready for a hearty meal in The Grill Room restaurant. Though a little surprised by the lack of character in the dining room, compared to the rest of the hotel, we enjoyed a duck breast and blackberry starter, plus a well-cooked, 8oz aged English beef rib-eye and chips. Our cod dish (pan-roasted with borlotti beans, beurre blanc, courgette and chive oil) was sadly bland and tasteless, but dessert was much better – a milk chocolate delice, (a Valentine’s Day dish that proved so popular it stayed on the menu for months to come) served with raspberries, hazelnut and raspberry sorbet. We enjoyed our meal, but would say the calming spa experience far surpassed the food.
Adjourning to our super quiet, sumptuous room on the second floor, we caught up on The Great British Bake Off and drifted into a soft slumber. A wonderful place to spend any weekend, we’d recommend Down Hall to couples, or mums and daughters looking for a luxe spa day that’s not too over the top.
DETAILS: Matching Road, Hatfield Heath, Essex, CM22 7AS