Newmarket. The ancestral home of British horseracing is a perfect backdrop to the Bedford Lodge Hotel and Spa. As if on cue, expertly-groomed thoroughbred racehorses canter past my bedroom window exercising around the adjacent paddocks and training stables.
The cold crisp December day adds another layer of atmosphere to an already rarefied air that seems to collect around all things equine. A healthy array of fancy cars sit silently in the hotel car park. An impressive log fire crackles in the hotel bar; its walls framed with photos of past champions. There’s a healthy collection of racing silks and more than a sprinkling of tweed around the place.
Set back from the road on three acres of grounds, this former 18th-century hunting lodge overlooking the famous Newmarket Training Gallops is a family-owned four-star hotel with a 2 AA rosette restaurant under the stewardship of Sean Melville and a very impressive spa. The hotel’s ancestral history seems to hold hands very comfortably with the high-end contemporary feel of the guestrooms and public areas. To me, it’s a place more than familiar with hosting the likes of racehorse owners, trainers and Jockey Club members.
My super king-size room is a very comfortable space with plenty of goodies inside. Molton Brown toiletries and soft fluffy robes in a bathroom with both a shower and generous-size bath. There are Tea Pigs teas and a cafetière of Paddy & Scott’s coffee alongside some indulgent biscuits and complimentary mineral water. The vast bed is dressed in Egyptian cotton linen and a fancy TV offers a full Sky TV package.
Back downstairs, Squires restaurant is in full swing for the Friday dinner crowd and I’m eager to join in the fun. It’s a cosy restaurant, perhaps a little too cosy in some places where the tables don’t offer much in the personal space department. Still, after a smooth glass of Fleurie, I don’t find it that much of a problem anymore.
It seems there are two menus; the first, a very comprehensive bar menu which carries everything from east coast crab croquetas and moules–frites to steak, burger and seafood. Then, an a la carte menu of some note it must be said. A list of quite delicious-sounding dishes together with welcome suggestions for a suitable wine pairing.
The truffle ravioli starter (£10.50) catches my eye with Buffalo Mozzarella, shaved summer truffle parmesan butter, sautéed wild mushrooms, truffle oil & chive sticks. In a lapse of culinary discipline, I also order a rather delicious roasted curried cauliflower dish with mint raita, pomegranate seeds and spicy butternut puree (£7). Other contenders are smoked chicken with pistachio & cranberries, mango gel, popcorn, barbeque sauce & charred corn bonbon (£8) or chargrilled asparagus, 48-month Bellota Iberico ham, saffron aioli, broad beans & Parisienne potato (£9).
The mains are equally contentious. Do I pick pork tenderloin with bubble & squeak croquette, black pudding, pork pie sauce, salt baked pineapple, buttered baby spinach and apple gel (£26)? Or a 32 day-aged beef fillet, potato turrets, sautéed spinach, forest mushrooms & morel sauce, with shaved truffles (£39). The filet duly wins but not without a hint of regret at what might have been.
At the risk of sounding a little overindulgent, I have to try out a Newmarket-branded dessert. When in Rome as they say. It’s a Newmarket gin fondant (£10). Juniper-infused chocolate fondant, white chocolate soil, Seville orange & horseradish sorbet, Devils Dyke orchid gel with the “Newmarket Stripe” racing colours in coulis. The botanical essences of Newmarket gin are thrown in just for good measure.
This has been an epic food encounter and I vow to burn off the calories in the gym tomorrow before breakfast.
Morning dawns after a stress-free slumber amongst my Egyptian cotton and I dutifully venture down to the spa for some exercise. It’s a stand-alone building, another dwelling from the hotel’s ancestral past. The spa is a temple to ESPA enlightenment. Everything you could want to revitalise and re-invigorate your ying and yang. In the large indoor pool, I spot some of my fellow diners lapping off some of last night’s excesses and quickly join in before taking a steam, sauna and a dip in the jacuzzi. The gym is a well-stocked sight to behold. Rows of current-model cardio and resistance equipment hold the promise of toil and sweat, while just next door a fitness studio awaits pupils of pilates, yoga and cycling classes.
The Bedford Lodge Hotel and Spa is a delightful diversion from Newmarket’s obvious draws. There is nothing pretentious about it. Just an elegant oasis of charm, good service and comfort. The perfect ingredients for a weekend break. Now if only I could get my hands on one of those horses.
Tell me more about The Bedford Lodge Hotel and Spa
The Bedford Lodge Hotel and Spa, 11 Bury Road, Newmarket, Suffolk, CB8 7BX
Tel: 0800 652 2991 or for international visitors +44 (0)1638 663175
Overnight stay for two with breakfast from £170 per night. Dinner bed and breakfast for two from £225