We made our way through the New Forest, passing through quaint little villages, ancient woodlands and stopping to admire some of the 3,000 wild New Forest Ponies that have inhabited the forests for about 2,000 years. About the only good thing that William the Conqueror did for England was to protect this forest and as a result very little of the landscape has changed since 1079AD. Just on the southern edge of this expansive forest is the perfectly situated Chewton Glen Hotel a five star spa hotel, the longest standing member of Relais & Chateaux in the UK since 1971, with good reason. Cheeky and I followed the long driveway, winding through immaculate gardens where the flowers and plants were beginning to raise their weary heads now that Spring was beginning to loom. We drove to the front door where immediately the door man appeared ready to take our luggage and deal with our car, we strolled in past the large array of Hunters wellies in various sizes to the front desk, where they were expecting us. No sooner had we checked in, then we were in our room, where by some kind of magic or fourth dimensional portal our luggage was ready and waiting for us. This was service of a whole other kind; I think that I will be enjoying my time here.
Our Hot Tub Hotel Suite was vast, this was the kind of space that one could while away the hours or perhaps even move into on a permanent basis. The room had an understated colonial quality with muted neutral tones and fabrics, solid wooden floors, whilst there was a lot of natural light coming from the long wall of garden windows and glass doors. Space was the word of the day here, with expansive wardrobes, gargantuan bathroom and a double shower that felt like a swimming bath. Cheeky was particularly impressed with the separate toilet with sink, a rarity in many five star hotels, but a detail that makes all the difference. There was also a bottle of Taittinger and selection of Chewton Glen Chocolates ready and waiting for us. However, it was time to head to the spa for Cheeky and I were both booked in for some relaxing treatments to help destress and make sure we relaxed for the rest of our stay.
Cheeky was to have an Oskia Revitalising Facial, which has been designed to be ultra-hydrating, providing instant and lasting anti-ageing benefits by reducing fine lines by delivering collagen stimulation to the skin. Sophie whisked Cheeky away through a cleverly designed double door to reduce outside noise and promote relaxation into her treatment room. With natural products from British beauty skincare Oskia, Sophie went about removing makeup and cleansing and using a scrub on the face. Whilst a mask performed magic on her skin Cheeky’s received a massage of the upper back and scalp to relax her even further. Whilst this was going on next door, I had been taken by Becky to a separate massage room. I was to experience the Quiro Golf massage. Developed in Barcelona by Natura Bissē it consists of using two golf balls along with Natura Bissē Spa fitness gel to massage the muscles. Becky used this technique as well as her hands to locate the painful tight areas, of which I had many in my back and my legs. I had just returned from skiing where I had found my thighs would burn after just a few turns, Becky discovered that my quads and hamstrings were super tight causing a lack of oxygen and thus no performance, so she went to work loosening them up. Oh the pain! but it was such a good pain; I could feel the blood flowing back in and the muscles start to loosen up no end. I have not had a problem since… Amazing.
Now Cheeky and I were totally relaxed, it was time to get suited and booted for dinner. We made our way to the lounge, a cosy place with dark cherry red suede walls, and a library of old books. The lighting was low and gave an atmosphere of a gentleman’s smoking club of old, this could have been the setting for a real life Cluedo. We sipped on local G&Ts whilst Gosia introduced us to the six course taster menu and with great service tweaked the menu to suit our needs. It was then through to the modern conservatory dining room, with tasteful grey and white interior design elements, gentle lighting and swing Jazz playing this was a very comfortable venue for the evening’s gourmet experience. Lydia was to be looking after us throughout the evening with superb attentive service, whilst the inspiring sommelier Natascha looked after the wine pairings with infectious passion. We started with ethically sourced pressing of duck liver with gingerbread, pineapple and macadamia. Every character on the plate had its part to play from the snap of the Swedish style gingerbread, the saltiness of the roasted macadamia, the sweetness of the pineapple and smoothness of the liver; all culminating in a exquisite dish which was perfectly accompanied by a Sylvaner 2015, a clean and honey-like white wine from Alsace.
The second and very delicious course was hand-dived scallop with cauliflower with bite, smokey Morteau sausage, sweet and salty caper and raisin puree served with a fresh and elegant Sardinian Biancosmeraldo wine. Just before the third course Natascha brought us different wines to suit our tastes; Cheeky was served a light and floral Japanese Koshu Kayagatake whilst I sipped on a 2015 Chardonnay from Newton of the Napa Valley. The rich and leathery Chardonnay had been paired with a risotto of forest mushrooms, pickled walnuts and vintage parmesan, an earthy and warming dish, whilst Cheeky drank the Kayagatake alongside twice-baked emmental souffle, a subtle cheese fest of light and fluffiness with a hint of honey… delicious. Next was possibly our favourite meat, Wiltshire venison with bacon, parsnip, pear and blue cheese. This dish had a combination of flavour and textures that brings balance back to the universe; the texture of pear with venison was genius, the bacon added the tasty fat content back into the lean venison, whilst the parsnip brought a warm earthiness to the dish. To suit my taste, I was drinking a blackberry tasting Mexican L.A. Cetto Petite Sirah whilst Cheeky drank Australian Berton Vineyard Winemaker’s Reserve Durif; deep, rich and fruity.
Of course no dining experience would be complete without the cheese course. So we chomped on an array of British cheeses served with a Tawny port, the Bath soft and Goddess from Somerset were particularly delightful. With cheese washed down with port it was time for a small ‘Pre Dessert’ rhubarb cleanser, a little piece of magical heaven on a plate. To complete the meal, we went ‘off-piste’ from the menu and finished with a pineapple and black pepper tarte tatin for two served with clotted cream ice cream; Wow what a delightfully sweet dish, perfect for my sweet tooth, the pepper also added a fascinating addition. Natascha selected a fresh, cold Moscatel de Setubal for me and a Hiraume Ginjo Umeshu, plum infused sake for Cheeky. This had been an exciting tour of the type gourmet cuisine and wines that take place at Chewton Glen, with much of the ingredients travelling less than 100 yards to the kitchen from the gardens.
The next day, we took advantage of how close the Hotel is to the beach. We followed the footsteps of smugglers of old and tiptoed the path through the Chewton Bunny, just twenty minutes down to the spectacular Jurassic beach, quite amazing to discover that the coast was so near. After a little light wandering we made our way back to eat lunch at the recently opened restaurant, cookery school and bakery that is Kitchen. This is a beautifully designed establishment with a great vibe inside, which largely comes from the passion of the people who work there. Restaurant Manager Tom welcomed us in, with much humour and charm. The building has american diner style seating, but the timber frame building echoes that of a classic British barn. The Kitchens are open, so one can watch as the team busy away at making one’s food.
We ate our way through yet more delicious food from Thai crab risotto, salt cod fritter with mojo picon and Old Winchester cheese & truffle puffs- sounds like something from Harry Potter, for starters to Wagyu burgers with BBQ brisket for Cheeky and Nduja sausage for me. Of course there is a reason why all of the food was amazing, this Kitchen is headed up by the celebrity chef James Martin. We ended with sharing some warm doughnuts with hot cinnamon and milk sauce and coffee and then a final show round the Cookery School where the students were learning to make curries from around the world. The whole experience of Chewton Glen is that of relaxation, perfect service and gourmet food. To deal with the stresses of daily life one could go see a therapist, but I think time would be better spent checking into the five star Luxury escape that is Chewton Glen and letting them take away your troubles and help one concentrate on the important things in life.