Have you ever tried firing up your own hot tub before? No? Well, let me tell you, it’s not the easiest of tasks, but once you master it, you feel like you can conquer just about anything.
It’s actually one of the best bits about staying at one of Seaham Hall’s new Garden Suites – fabulous number four, to be exact.
Though, they’re all pretty lovely – all spacious, individually styled and sumptuous. Think grand bedrooms, giant free-standing tubs and walk-in wet rooms, private gardens and chic outdoor terraces – fierce features that give an overnight stay the fun factor. Suite Four is especially vibrant. The décor is bright and zippy, inspired, we’re told, by the eccentric character of the great romantic poet, Lord Byron, who married his sweetheart at the hotel (then a stately family home) back in 1815.
It’s a feast for the eyes for sure; flamboyant floral prints adorn the walls, the velvet sofa is an eye-watering shade of blue and there are rainbow-coloured butterflies on our headboard. But I urge you to embrace the funky colour splatters and whimsical wallpaper with open arms. After all, this is a stand-out space that’s meant to be enjoyed.
We loved the open-plan design of the place; this is a spacious pad with plenty of room to breathe (or, in our case, dance around with a glass of complimentary champers) and areas in which to kick-back and unwind. Enjoy breakfast or late-night room service (you can order this via the nifty bedside iPad – check it out) at the table, catch up on work at your very own Scandi-chic desk or watch a little flat screen telly from the sofa.
The elevated bedroom is a particular highlight – a cosy snug off slightly off to the right, where you’ll find a king-sized bed for snoozing. A good night sleep is pretty much guaranteed here – with crisp, Egyptian cotton sheets, marshmallow-like duvets to bury under and one of the fanciest pillow menus we’ve ever seen (we tried the memory foam and water pillows – both great) – how can one complain? I can reveal that wrenching ourselves away come morning proved a little heartbreaking.
And for all you people out there who are quite partial to locking yourselves away in the bathroom in the name of pampering (guilty as charged), I can report that the bathroom also received top marks from us. The near-giant freestanding tub put big smiles on our faces, as did the designer toiletries and fresh, fluffy robes, warm and toasty from the radiator, that were waiting for us. The large his-n-hers sinks were nice too. A luxey place indeed.
Dinner was had at Byron’s Restaurant – the shining star of Seaham’s restaurants. We’d had the pleasure of eating here a few times before, but every visit feels special. Blame it on the sparkling chandeliers, the plush red seating and gold booths, or the slinky New York-style bar, but there’s just something about this place that makes dining here feel like a grand occasion. It’s an intimate, yet relaxed, space that feels very fancy without trying.
The food was spot on, as always. We ordered from the recently revamped evening menu, enjoying starters of delicate lamb sweetbreads, doused in a a silky herb vinegar sauce and pickled mackerel with perky young onions, juicy and tart, with a dash of horseradish and whey caramel for a nice sweet and salty flavour.
Mains were Norwegian Skrei cod and a hearty plate of County Durham beef – both devoured faster than we’d probably like admit. The fish was cooked perfectly; wonderfully moist and flaky with a crisp skin. It arrived with a few splashes of squid ink (don’t be afraid of this – it tastes phenomenal), pork belly and salted almonds for a bit of crunch. Faultless. The beef was also tasty – a good-sized slab, served with crunchy kale and barbecued broccoli for a little smokiness and a few dollops of airy burnt cream – lovely when melted in with the jus-like gravy.
Desserts were as indulgent as they come; chocolate mousse with slicks of butterscotch and a scoop creme fraiche ice cream and a bowl of baked custard with poached Yorkshire rhubarb sorbet and toasted oats. A comforting pud that ticks all the boxes – especially in winter.
With our bellies full, we retired to the suite to tackle the hot tub – which has to be the pièce de résistance. You’ll find it behind beautiful white French doors, nestled in the secluded and tranquil garden, beyond your private terrace. Head out as dusk begins to fall, like we did, and you’ll see the pathway to the tub lit up with twinkling lights – a really nice touch.
The tub itself is a wood-fired, Scandinavian beauty that means business. The team at Seaham can show you how to work it, or you can take a peek at the instructions in the room, but after a glass or two of dutch courage, we decided to tackle it ourselves. I won’t give the game away – it’s all part of the fun after all – but what I will say is that you’re given a wooden ore for stirring and that it does take some patience. But, boy are the results worth it and oh-so-satisfying. Bubbles are replaced with deep, calm waters and soothing woody steam that’s great for a bit of detoxing – both physically and mentally. Take the plunge (and a few deep breaths) and relax.
Our stay came to an end with a spot of brekkie back at Byron’s – poached eggs and homemade beans on sourdough and a full English done properly hit the spot. We left feeling rested and rejuvenated – the hallmark of a great overnight stay – asking ourselves how soon we could return and whether or not we’d be able to fit one of those tubs in our back garden. What can I say, some things just make a lasting impression.