The last time we visited Hoar Cross Hall a decade ago it was cosy, chintzy and – forgive us – a bit tired. An extensive facelift, new energetic manager and ambitious plans, have brought it glam up to date
We’re not short of spas in the Midlands, but we’re not exactly awash with great ones within spitting distance of Brum that feel like a proper retreat. There’s something about a big lungful of country air and an historic building that induces deep breathing and loosened shoulders – and you get that at Hoar Cross Hall in spades.
With a dedicated groundsman who’s been with the hotel for decades the gardens are dreamy. Neat topiary, crisp-edged lawns and views across rural landscapes put the hotel firmly in the wedding venue arena. There are plans to restore the extensive original greenhouses to create a kitchen garden. Grade II listing makes that sort of restoration tricky, but it comes with the territory.
Inside, the refurbishment is a million miles from the chintz of our last visit. The reception area is seriously glam with statement lighting and a dramatic dark colour scheme. Original features like the ornate ceilings and fireplaces remain alongside a super sleek bar and squishy sofas in the Long Room. A handful of private dining areas and function rooms are pretty good for business or pleasure.
Our favourite turns out to be the least used, but the most gorgeous in our view. The Old Chapel is a stunning space with original stained glass and dark wooden panelling. The lack of light might explain its lack of popularity compared with other spaces in the hotel, but for an atmospheric candle-lit supper it’s ideal. There’s also a large space with a nightclub vibe in the depths of the hotel which was inspired by Annabel’s in London. Party central.
WARM AND FRIENDLY
The check-in experience set the tone with warm, friendly staff giving useful info. The hotel’s key system is simple, but genius. A discreet waterproof wrist band gives you access to your room and allows for payment, etc, as you go about your day. No more lost keys.
We looked at a handful of recently refurbished rooms which are a successful mix of original features teamed with fresh colours and stylish modern fixtures and furniture. Our room – Baroness Sofia – was practically an apartment with a lounge area and TV downstairs while upstairs there was a super comfy bed, cute bathroom, plenty of storage, a dressing table with a brilliant hair dryer, TV and even a roof terrace. The only omission which was mildly irritating was a full-length mirror. Wifi was strong despite the rural location, but mobile reception was a bit hit and miss.
Once robed up, we explored the spa. We visited on a Monday assuming it would be a slow day, but not so. It seems plenty of people avoid the Monday blues by heading to a spa and why not? There were numerous pools to relax in, a quiet area with nap-inducing beds, salt inhalation room and an extensive list of treatments.
LAVA SHELL MASSAGE
We plumped for a lava shell massage. Smooth, palm sized shells were heated and then used with nourishing oils and medium pressure to relax and alleviate any pesky knots of which we had had plenty. It was super restorative and there’s something about the warmth of the shells that maximises relaxation. There’s also a brilliantly-stocked gym although admittedly we stuck our head around the door rather than actually getting stuck in!
We don’t want to keep harking on about our last visit, but 10 years ago dinner was a completely different affair to now. Then, we were one of the only occupied tables in a room that was a bit flat.
This time, the room was almost full, the décor transformed and the atmosphere lively. The ambitious menu was really pleasing too. Rich Jerusalem artichoke soup with a crisp crouton and chicken wing was tasty followed by a really good salmon fishcake, green salad and the star of the show – crunchy, fluffy top-notch chips that came highly recommended by our very lovely waitress. A glass of Columbia Chardonnay hit the spot nicely too. We swerved dessert mainly because we wanted to curl up with a good book and take advantage of the sprawling room.
What a difference a decade makes. Bravo Hoar Cross!