Thursday, 27 February 2014

Secret Stays: Paddocks House

Paddocks House Review Set just outside of Newmarket, in Six Mile Bottom, you will find a new and elegant hotel set down a tree-lined drive which takes you up a little track to the latest addition to "The House Collection", the same company behind Poets House in Ely. This house is just a hop from the famous Newmarket racecourses and a short drive from Cambridge or Saffron Walden for some quality shopping experiences whilst you visit.  The House Collection are aiming to open a few more locations in the near future and they are offering luxury venues where you can be yourself in a "home away from home", experience a level of service that will exceed expectation, but without any stuffiness. The houses are being offered to provide luxurious accommodation, a passion for food within their dining rooms and bars and space for events, meetings and even weddings. In fact, a friend recently married at Poets House over Xmas 2013, planning her celebrations within a matter of weeks and she couldn't fault the team one iota, she had an intimate and truly memorable affair. I'm very impressed with the fluster-less service menu that this extensive team can offer and I just hoped that my visit would be an equally enjoyable one. Paddocks House Review Setting The Scene:  This hotel was formally known as "Swynford Paddocks" and had become very outdated towards the end of it's "life", so it was going to take a lot of elbow grease to scrub it up and get it shiny & new, something that really does stand out as you push through the heavy front door. Paddocks House is a hotel with 15 luxury bedrooms and was in fact once the home of Lord Byron's sister - it has a hint of a modern day "Downton" about it, complete with grand staircase and feature chandelier. The trees and grass outside the very front of the house are sculpted and preened to show off beautiful shapes, however the rest of the gardens are yet to be landscaped, so a very beautiful lawn and surroundings will be boasted in the summer for the perfect country retreat. The driveway is brightly lit at night, so driving off the main road and creeping up to the house in the dark is an easy experience with the house being lit up to guide you without tripping over verges as you do. Should you have an excess of luggage with you, simply drive up to the front of the house and you will be met with assistance into the house. We personally decided to park the furthest point away and I got to tiptoe over the gravel drive in my heels perfectly unglamorously of course, my readers should expect no less of me... Every room or suite is assigned with a personal butler to ensure that you enjoy every moment of your stay, now that's service!  Paddocks House Review The Welcome:  We were met by our butler at reception on arrival and she immediately arranged for our bags to be taken upstairs as we signed in and were handed our (very blingy and certainly wouldn't get lost in my handbag!) key fob. She walked ahead of us and demonstrated how to lock our door (handy, as it wouldn't simply lock behind itself) with a proper key in the lock and explained the smaller details of our room including how to use the "Smart" TV and "Bose" bluetooth sound system which was easy to connect to our iPods. Before leaving us to settle in, she offered us a welcome drink, of which we decided to wait to enjoy before dinner, left alone to press buttons and get acquainted with the huge rainforest shower and fluffy bathrobes. We were staying in Room 5 for the evening and as soon as we took our shoes off we could feel the thick pile carpet underneath us and the bed looked so inviting that we could have skipped dinner quite easily in place of curling up and heading straight for a deep sleep - but of course, we couldn't do that... Paddocks House Review What I did like about our welcome from a service perspective was that the reception was clean, the desk was tidy and clutter free and the two team members behind the front desk STOOD to greet us. From years of working in the hospitality industry mixed with my experience of staying in hotels & spas, I can disappointingly count on my hands how many people have stood to greet me, so this was an impressive thumbs up from me. Paddocks House Review The Bedroom:  Bedrooms are crisp and clean, decorated in various shades of white, blended with a mix of elegant grey and are very modern in design, with the largest clocks I've seen in my life - there really is no excuse to not be able to see the time at any position within your suite! The first thing I spotted as I stepped off the landing into our room was the stunning free-standing copper bath, of which is a trademark feature in every room, it really was inviting and I'm not even a "bath person", however for this beautiful vessel, I made time for not one, but two indulgent bubble baths during my stay. The king size bed was fairly solid and very comfortable, laden with a white bathrobe each and a bag of designer branded toiletries such as "Hermes" and Bvigari", there was a "spa" feel to the welcome and it really invited you to unwind. This bed was also adorned with lots of cushions, of which I loved - I'm a cushion girl and love burying myself into lots of pillows in a hotel, it's the first thing to do on arrival, alongside the "bounce test" of your mattress... Paddocks House Review There's also a lot of space in the bedroom, in fact plenty to do a little dance or perform your pre-breakfast press ups, there is no worry of cramping your style in a suite here. If you don't fancy heading downstairs, there is an in-room menu 24 hours a day, with a slight restriction on offerings overnight of course. I made the mistake of reading this before my evening meal and I had the peanut butter ice cream on my mind, making me salivate at the thought... I tucked that menu away back in it's draw quick sharp! The television was very snazzy, you could even connect your many devices to it should you require it for business use, it also pivoted from the wall so that you could position it to view whilst in the bath or in bed, should you want to make time for any viewing... Paddocks House Review The simple en-suite bathroom offered a square seated toilet with slow closing lid (peaceful lid closing was fab to continue the peace!) and a rainforest shower big enough for two. More white bath sheets and towels were folded and placed on a shelf high up so as not to get damp and the toilet rolls and tissues were folded into shapes to please a "loo roll origami" nerd, even a ship folded into one of the tissue boxes, I was easily pleased. Paddocks House Review The Restaurant:  This is a destination restaurant for guests and simply for visitors for the day or evening, the executive chef, Leah Jenson and her team are magnificently passionate about the menus on offer and they use locally-sourced ingredients where humanly possible. During the day you can even see the hens clucking around on the front lawn, so do drive slow when you head up the long driveway! They claim to have a varying A La Carte menu including old British favourites and cheeky modern twists as well as offering private dining and corporate options for a less than boring business lunch - not forgetting their beautiful afternoon tea, of which I will be heading back to sample another day in the near future! Paddocks House Review Whilst we waited for our chosen starters to arrive at dinner, we were offered an amuse-bouche which was a mushroom risotto with a mushroom foam and topped with a savoury granola, it was a heavy few mouthfuls, but delicious. Had I know this was on offer, I may have changed my started choice, but I didn't regret it once I tucked in... I had opted for the Macaroni of Scottish wild mushrooms, with soft leek and cheese crumble and the mister went for a more adventurous dish for him, Foie gras parfait set mushroom broth with brioche cream and pickled mushrooms. He was glad he had tried it, but very rich and an unusual in texture, I'm not convinced he'd go for it again, but that's personal taste. He chose the 12oz Sirloin steak and triple cooked chips, which uses a 21 day aged beef, watercress and béarnaise sauce, he ordered it rare and it came out a little on the blue side, however he was happily tucking away and didn't feel the need to ask for anything to be changed, with the biggest steak knife we've seen to date, he happily chopped away into it. I went for my favourite meat, duo of venison, with potato terrine, roasted beets, kale, salsify and an ever so sweet parsnip caramel which worked perfectly with the deep meaty flavours. I absolutely adored this dish and part of the venison was slow cooked and really did melt in the mouth, I couldn't quite finish it as there was a healthy serving, but I gave it a good go. Paddocks House Review Full to the rafters, I was ready to face plant into my water glass, so we opted for a couple of espresso martini's and were persuaded (oh, go on then, we can't be rude house guests!) to share a baked dark chocolate tart with malted ice-cream. What we hadn't anticipated was that the chef was trying out a brand new pudding and sent out a complimentary rhubarb dessert with almond cake and orange curd which was too inviting to turn down, it was light and the rhubarb parfait was creamy, it was a truly summery dish (we can all wish!) and we gave it a good tearing apart to try every element. Needless to say, we both slept like (very rounded) logs! Paddocks House Review The Breakfast:  I genuinely thought we would be stuffed from dinner the previous evening, but the man-friend went for a full English and I decided to finally get my head around eggs Benedict, a salmon & egg dish that I have yet to try, the eggs were a little on hard side, I could have done with runnier yolks, but the salmon was fresh and tasted of salmon... sometimes it can be so flavorless, especially from supermarket cuts, so this was a real joy. There was a buffet table set up with pastries, cereals, fresh fruit and and the cutest little yoghurt granola kilner jars with a tart blackberry compote, I couldn't resist in this as my pre-breakfast, complete with mini spoon for this individual taster, it was just enough to keep me going! You are never on top of each other in the restaurant, personal space is there and the relaxed background music really does chill you out, it's a very peaceful atmosphere and even though you are a stone throw from the main roads of the area, you feel as though you are in the middle of the rolling countryside, I loved this feeling of seclusion throughout our entire stay. Paddocks House Review The Butler Service:  A personal butler is provided with every stay, no matter what your needs, they will help you with your bags, show you around and help you to settle into your suite, even unpack and pack your case should you not want to do this yourself. You can even arrange for them to run you a bath for your arrival, should you so desire, with a phone call prior to your stay to ask what time you plan to check in and to ensure that everything is seen to for a seamless arrival. You can also use your butler to help you with any bespoke errands or requirements you may have... I love the idea of using this unique service to help propose to a loved one or surprise your partner with a romantic gesture. Whilst at dinner we decided to trial the butler service, wondering if we might feel like a bit of a plonker for asking them to run my bath whilst I finished off my meal... the answer to that is yes, you do very much feel like one when asking for this. However, the butler was very professional, advised me of my bath being run through our waiter at the table and whilst passing the front desk they discreetly walked past us and advised that no product had been put in the water just in case of allergies or dislikes, so all I needed to do was run it a little more and add my own bubbles, fantastic thought, I was impressed. I had wondered if they offered a "turn down" service, but this wasn't ever mentioned and I didn't want to ask, typically "British" of me I'm sure. As we settled in for the night, we had forgotten to draw the curtains, as our room wasn't overlooked in any way and this actually resulted in being woken the next morning by the stunning natural light shining through the high vaulted windows, a superb way to be woken. Paddocks House Review The Little Extras:  The little touches were well thought out, such as a small table next to the bath with folded towels next to it ready to use, the full length mirror in the bay window was a welcome addition to the room whilst getting ready for dinner and the front desk looked after our room key as we dined, as it was simply too large to even pop on our table - we didn't even have to ask, they simply guided us with the solution without us having to worry about it. You couldn't hear anything once tucked up in bed, the staff glide silently and respectfully around the venue and doors don't slam. Most importantly we couldn't hear our neighbours for the night, as the bathroom was between us and the next room, so we felt perfectly isolated within the house. Paddocks House Review There was a beautiful silver tray set up on the dressing table with bottled water, nice heavy drinking glasses (no knocking these over on the bedside table) and some Corkers crisps to nibble on if peckish, this was a nice touch and I wanted to steal the ornate tray they were placed on - of course I didn't! Paddocks House Review The Little Niggles:  There was no heated towel rail or hook to hang up bath robes and towels when wet, to we had to hang them over the bath tub, however this meant slightly damp goods the next morning which was a mild annoyance. As we had been traveling, this lady needed to use the facilities straight away on arrival, not realising until it was too late that the soap was in my little goodie bag on the bed - luckily I had a partner in crime with me to roll the bar through to me. It might be handy for the venue to place some basic toiletries such as soap in the bathroom itself for such instances, as lovely as the welcome bag looks placed on the bed. The hairdryer wasn't very powerful, a silly thing, but it was a very basic appliance which seems to have been overlooked a little in the luxury department. I was expecting a beast of a dryer with a handy diffuser on the end, but it wasn't meant to be. Paddocks House Review The staff were a little too attentive over dinner, if this is at all possible? When we sat down to dinner we were introduced to the gentleman who would be looking after us for the evening, however during our meal we were served by four different staff members, which was a little confusing and the service became a little disjointed as a result. We were asked the dreaded question of how our meal was three different times within a very short period of time, all by different people - this was a little inelegant as we responded with mouths full on each occasion. Saying this, everybody was very friendly and nothing was too much trouble, so in this respect it really can't be faulted - they simply need a more fluent dining experience when it comes to the service. Noted, this is a new hotel, so I respect it may take a little time for the staff to get their bearings, I will feed this back to ensure they know how we felt on this. Paddocks House Review Final Thoughts:  "Our house is your hotel... come in, take a look around and make yourself at home" it states on the website and you really ARE welcomed to enjoy your surroundings for the entirety of your stay. This is a very special venue and one that I would highly rate for a romantic or relaxing getaway with no real fuss - the rooms, surroundings and the food itself takes care of everything you are ever going to need here. On checking out, the lady at the front desk commented on how refreshed we both looked and even though I'd also spent 2 days in a local spa that very same week, I felt more relaxed and replenished than I had there, so I feel that certainly says something about Paddocks House... In fact, I will be going back for my very special (30th, ahem) birthday in April for a family gathering over afternoon tea, I cannot hold back my excitement on this, it can't come too soon! There is currently a "Classic Spring Stay" including a cream tea (yes please!!) alongside your stay from £199 per room - simply email enquiries@thehousecollection.com or call 01638 593222. Paddocks House Review To view my full photo album of this stay, simply click here. Miss Sue Flay   www.paddockshouse.com  www.thehousecollection.com    Please note - This stay was complimentary, following a visit to view this venue and meet the team. I am in no means obliged to blog or write about their offerings, but I simply choose to share their offerings with my readers, should I enjoy the experience. The service team that work on the day/duration of my visit are never aware of my reasons for visiting, to enable a fair review. Any questions or to discuss a "Secret Stay" or review, please do email: hello@misssueflay.com  

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