Travel: Bedford Lodge Hotel & Spa - 'Pure luxury...and outstanding food'
- Credit: Contributed
Unique. One word that describes Newmarket in a nutshell. It really is quite unlike any other East Anglian town. The A14 slip road will deliver you from its busy dual carriageway to wide, tree-lined avenues accented by villa-style houses, and onwards past training grounds and race courses hidden behind neatly trimmed hedges.
As we turn into the car park for Bedford Lodge Hotel & Spa, I can’t help noticing a park next door.. designed for walking and trotting ponies. See? Unique.
Gleaming wedding cake white against manicured lawns, the hotel exudes romance. No wonder so many couples have chosen to say ‘I do’ here.
Bedford Lodge prides itself on offering a little bit of luxury (it has four AA rosettes for accommodation, two for its Squires Restaurant, and a five bubble spa rating), entwining its rich history with contemporary finishing touches imagined by one of London’s top interior designers.
The original hunting lodge was built more than 200 years ago for the sixth Duke of Bedford, John Russell – father of two-time PM (also John Russell) and one of the visionaries behind the redevelopment of Covent Garden.
In the 30s it was home to jockey and trainer Harry Wragg. And since the 40s it’s been a family-run hotel – one that attracts a wide range of clientele, from couples, to families, corporate retreats, and groups of women (and men) seeking R and R in the spa.
First impressions count, and we’re suitably impressed not only by the wide smile and warm welcome we receive as we check in, but by the swanky Mad Man-esque reception area.
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Our room, 135, is one of 77 in the main hotel, with three rooms available for exclusive use in The Mews opposite.
One Three Five has views across paddocks through sash windows. Plump, sink-into-me pillows and soft-touch bedding arranged over a king size. An enormous TV with Sky sits on a dresser. And a really rather good hospitality tray is laden with proper tea pots and cafetieres, Teapigs tea, Paddy & Scott coffee, hot chocolate and lavender biscuits.
The bathroom is glistening clean – with a separate bath and shower, even a fancy lit shaving mirror. I appreciate the retractable shower head in the bath. I can’t count how many times I’ve been attacked by freezing cold drips from an all-in-one shower/bath mixer.
In summary. It’s lovely.
Now, while hotel guests are free to use the leisure facilities, which include a gym, and a pool with jacuzzi, steam room and sauna, it would be a shame not to experience the purpose-built spa during a stay.
We saunter over
in the elixir of ESPA products as we open the door, the warmth providing an instant buffer from the cold early spring day outside.
Bedford Lodge Spa has been designed with creature comforts in mind. Everything from the scent, to the soft wave of music, and plush décor - from oversized vases, to squidgy wingback chairs – screams ‘relax’.
We find our lockers for the day in the changing room (a little cramped in here), where touches include hangers for our belongings, robes and towels, and a bag each with proper, rubber-soled slippers. My friend points out all the ESPA skin treats we can take advantage of, and clocks the provided hair straighteners.
The spa itself is an oasis of calm, boasting two shower experiences, including a cold bucket (we dare each other but don’t take the plunge), and another offering Tropical Rain or a blast of Atlantic Mist between sessions in the dry heat of the sauna, or humidity of the steam room.
After sweating out our toxins, we lay in the hydrotherapy pool, watching the clouds drift by through tall picture windows.
And onto lunch. Taken in one of those wingback chairs in the lounge. There are healthy options – soup, salads, detoxifying smoothies – but we share a couple of the platters, one Moroccan-style and the other piled with charcuterie. Between us we fend off those pangs of hunger with cured meats, Manchego cheese, tabbouleh salad, hummus, bread, sundried tomatoes, olives, pickles and more.
There’s time for a dip in the rooftop hot tub before I’m whisked into the treatment area for a personalised ESPA facial, while my friend reclines on a day bed with a women’s magazine.
In a cool-toned, soft-focus room, my therapist checks the light and temperature levels are OK, before chatting through my skincare routine (minimal!) and skin concerns (wrinkles). After a deep double cleanse, she directs blue light over my face, picking up sensitive spots on my cheeks and congestion around the nose.
This level of attention to detail means she can fully anticipate the needs of my skin, and use the most suitable products for each area. Lotions and potions are applied and massaged in, using techniques including tapping to increase circulation. Then a clay mask is applied and set to do its magic while a scalp treatment is pummelled into my hair. I’m almost asleep.
The skin soothing session finishes with another warm mitt cleanse, serum and a creamy balm being draped over my face, leaving it with looking and feeling plump and radiant. I almost pinky promise I’ll double cleanse from now on. And the therapist suggests products which will work for me, and advises which ones I should use out of my current (again, almost non-existent) routine.
Our visit ends with a spell in a room simply signposted as ‘Relax’. Think of a sexier (tool-less) version of Christian Grey’s red room. A warm nest of a space, with round and reclining beds, velveteen and faux fur throws for snuggling, low music, and lots and lots of pillows. “I need one of these rooms at home,” I say, meaning every word.
We try not to fall asleep, and make it for dinner in the swankily designed Squires Restaurant, beside the Roxana Bar, where pockets of people are chatting over cocktails and wine. There’s a definite ‘vibe’ here you don’t often get in restaurants outside of big cities.
The restaurant carries through that luxurious feel from the spa, rooms and reception space, with beautiful moulded ceilings, soft lighting and more of those wingback chairs, which we ‘bagsy’ for our meal.
Warm bread and butter arrive with water (topped up throughout the meal without us having to ask), and we’re delivered a couple of glasses of very reasonably priced house wine.
We start with a couple of snacks – vegan beetroot arancini and pork croquette – and are, if we’re honest, decidedly underwhelmed. There’s little seasoning in either, and the rice of the arancini is claggy.
We look at one another, worried about what’s to follow, thinking about those lavender biscuits back in the room. But once the starters, and meal proper, arrive, we realise this place means business.
A wafer-thin shell of goats’ cheese with barbecued pineapple and piquillo pepper emulsion is delightful, as is the crisp-skinned, line-caught, fresh-as-you-like mackerel fillet, with Granny Smith apple, and buttermilk split with herb oil.
The vegetarian main course of celeriac steak does not disappoint, being cooked until just tender and glazed in a sesame/soy/vinegar wafu dressing that’s at turns sweet, savoury and salty. There’s enough greenery on the plate for my friend to declare it so healthy pudding won’t count.
My own main course of guinea fowl ballotine with Jerusalem artichoke puree, salsify, baby leeks and fresh truffle shavings is outstanding. I mean, really good! The meat is so tender it slices like butter. The sauce bolshy, glossy and rib-sticking with the real ‘phwoar’ factor. It’s almost Marmitey. There’s even a dainty guinea fowl pie, presented on a separate plate. Who doesn’t like pie on the side?
Desserts are equally as good. We devour a sticky toffee pudding with aromatic tonka bean ice cream, caramel sauce and ginger crumbs, and a playful plate of cherry rum sorbet (which tastes like my mum’s favourite Kirsch liqueurs choccies), pineapple sugar crackling, pieces of cherry, compressed pineapple, pineapple puree, dehydrated pineapple and vanilla sponge. It’s almost a work of art.
We return to our room sated, and even I, who struggles to sleep on foreign soil (so to speak) drift off effortlessly. It’s quiet. The room temperature is perfect. The bed just the right side of firm. And, importantly, the curtains block out the light.
There’s time in the morning for a quick swim before we’re presented with a breakfast that puts others (well-known chains) to shame.
The bar top is a buffet of cereals, dried fruit, steeped apricots, freshly cut fruit salad, porridge, Bircher muesli, ham and brie, just-warm pastries, proper juice, and a tasty melon and strawberry smoothie.
We break the day with nibbles, and toast with Tiptree preserves, before tucking into scrambled eggs and crushed avocado on sourdough, and a very nicely cooked English breakfast - the likes of which I had no business eating due to still being full from dinner. The plate neatly presented a decent sausage, two rashers of tender bacon with the holy grail of golden fat, tender field mushroom, tomato, eggs and an extra of peppery black pudding.
What we really wanted to do next was envelope ourselves in the warm cradle of the Relax room – not head home to deal with our teenagers!
If you’re looking for an escape closer to home, Bedford Lodge certainly has my stamp of approval – especially for a spa break, or during Newmarket Nights. Are there cheaper, budget options in town? Yes. But you won’t get service or style like this in any of them.
For the best rates and offers visit bedfordlodgehotel.co.uk