by Rachel Cranshaw, The Telegraph, June 7, 2019
Come here for a break at a contemporary, stylish country house hotel spa that makes the most of its peaceful setting, in the New Forest National Park. It's conveniently located – just off Bealieu Rd before you hit the village of Lyndhurst, if approaching from the north – but still feels wonderfully immersed in nature, surrounded by 17 acres of landscaped grounds.
Where to hang out?
The spa is set in its own building, with a herb garden on the roof that's used for yoga in summer. The changing rooms set the scene for what's to come: all cubicles, so there's no jostling for space, and there's even a huge freestanding shabby-chic metal bathtub (if you're not lucky enough to have one in your room).
The sense of place is fantastic: the hydro pool and sauna look out over the verdant forest through floor-to-ceiling windows. The latter is spacious, but the former is the main event –with multiple bubble benches and various massage jets. The black slate interiors are sleek and elegant, but pared down: they let the views do the talking.
A heated marble slab is great for zenning-out on post-treatment, while the steam room has twinkly star-like ceiling lights. The light-flooded 16m lap pool is lined with loungers, and there's a door from here to the outdoor hydrotherapy pool. You won't be able to resist Instagramming the steam rising up through the lush shrubbery, such as olive trees in oversized terracotta pots.
Classes are available for no extra charge, but they tend to get booked up by members – so reserve your place well in advance (if indeed you're able to: I wasn't, suggesting that demand outstrips supply at present).
The spa's treatment USP is that it's one of only three UK locations offering treatments by celebrity facialist Sarah Chapman (from £115 for 60 minutes). If you want something still special, but more of an all-rounder, go for one of the Bamford treatments. My two-hour Bamford Body Signature Treatment (£155) flew by: perfect if you want a longer all-in-one treatment, and don't fancy the same thing for too long.
It started with a foot soak and chat about my general physical state (tense, in short), then a full-body scrub that reminded me of a particularly severe hammam treatment I once had in Marrakech. If you feel like you'll be red raw after, it's being done right (you won't be, don't worry).
After showering off, and a full-body massage using oil I'd selected from a choice of two at the beginning, my skin was baby soft – and my back and neck were noticeably less tense. Interestingly, my confident, experienced therapist didn't enquire as to my pressure preference, but I found she didn't need to: she went for a just-right medium-to-firm, stressing that if I was in discomfort I should say. A cleansing fennel tea in the relaxation room afterwards rounded off the experience.
What's the vibe?
The ratio of people to beds was excellent when I visited, and there were no groups. Children are permitted in the swimming pool at certain times, meaning my pre-breakfast swim was not quite what I'd envisaged – so check in advance. The spa has a no single-use plastic policy, which is commendable. The only real issue I encountered was a seemingly one-off problem with the hot water in the changing rooms, which the staff could have been quicker to rectify.
The hotel itself is part of the same group as The Pig, and has country boutique-chic nailed. In winter, you'll find roaring fires; for summer, there are plenty of picturesque spots for walking and outdoor drinks.
There's some accommodation in the main house, but most is in outbuildings navigated via a network of paths. At the centre of the main house is a glass-roofed courtyard that makes a gorgeous spot for afternoon tea – with elaborate mosaic tiling, statement flower arrangements, and plenty of soft furnishings.
Rooms come in four sizes, from Eaves to Generous – as well as a range of suite, lodge and cabin options. They are thoughtfully designed, featuring everything from info on local walking routes to Roberts Radios and Bamford toiletries – including bath salts for those decadent soaking tubs. Pens are made from twigs; complimentary Belu water comes in glass bottles.
What's to eat?
Raw & Cured, the spa café, serves healthy juices, hot beverages and alcoholic drinks (such as local sparkling wine) in hip wood- and plant-filled surroundings. Dishes priced at £10.50 (or three for £30) include vegan nori rolls with pine nut rice – the perfect light spa snack.
Any restraint should be abandoned completely, however, if you are to eat at Hartnett Holder & Co – Angela Hartnett's Italian restaurant at the hotel. My antipasti of monkfish carpaccio was delicate and flavoursome, and the pasta primi was superb (the signature artichoke, sundried tomato and truffle pasta is what got Holder the job). The 'truffle trolley' is a highlight: under a glass cloche, seasonal truffles are wheeled over to your table for grating.
The locally-sourced mains of venison and duck delivered in a big way (quite literally – beware the generous portions), but the sides were an uneven size. For dessert, tiramisu was served at the table from a big silver dish: delightfully sloppy, but not at all soggy.
The wine list is intimidatingly long, so it's best to recruit the help of the very able sommelier. The restaurant was full when I visited on a Sunday night, and remains a very popular spot. Other than the sommelier though, staff seemed to struggle, and the operation was not as slick as the rest of the hotel.
The breakfast buffet is served in the pantry – with homemade granola, sourdough, cakes, local cheeses, salmon from the on-site smokery, quail eggs to pop in the poaching machine, and fresh juices. The à la carte choices were less inspired: my 'spicy' avocado and poached eggs was on the bland side.
Money well spent?
With double rooms starting from £395, not including breakfast, staying here is major treat territory – but spa access is included in the rate. And treatments, though not cheap, are comparatively reasonably priced. Massages start from £100, and express 30-minute treatments are available for £65.