The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Ravenwood Hall Hotel: Review and top marks

 

Summer bower at Ravenwood Hall Hotel

Photo: Summer bower at Ravenwood Hall Hotel

Having given me a clean bill of  health on the MS and going gaga front, the neurologist put down his pen and announced,
“The next thing that I want you to do is to book a holiday.”
The ensuing silence was almost squeezable.
“We don’t take holidays,” Danny eventually responded. (We can’t really afford them in normal circumstances and with me having been off work for months a ‘normal’ holiday was out of the question).
“But we do sometimes go to the coast for a day. It’s a great break,” Danny continued.
After a pause the consultant replied, “Well book one of those in your diary.”

A few weeks later Danny spotted a great offer in his inbox. A night at the deluxe Ravenwood Hall hotel. Dinner, bed and full English breakfast for two in one of the less expensive bedrooms for just over £100. This might sound like a lot of dosh but this hotel is wonderful – I’ve eaten there several times with my mum as a special treat. The package was a bargain so D booked it and we really enjoyed looking forward to the cosseting, comfort and of course the scrumptious food.

Yesterday we took a long anticipated evening off and stayed overnight at the hotel just 16 miles away.

Ravenwood Hall is owned by Craig Jarvis. He owns two hotels and is clearly focussed on doing things exceedingly well. He creates a perfect country house hotel environment where the guest feels welcomed, pampered and properly looked after. It is very hard to do and he has done it twice. First with what is now Ravenwood Hall, which he bought as a large country house 25 years ago and converted into a 14 bedroom retreat in seven landscaped acres. He and his wife and family live there also. A great way to acquire a beautiful old property to live in!

Ten years ago he also bought the Black Lion in Long Melford, just 12 miles away as the crow flies. We have stayed for New Years Eve breaks in the Black Lion but last night was our first time to try out actually staying at Ravenwood Hall. It was build around 1530 and the guest pack in each bedroom contains a fascinating history of the origins and owners down the centuries.

In fact, my mum remembers going to the house for tennis parties when it was privately owned before the war.

This part of the world is 16 miles east of our cottage, heading towards Constable country in Suffolk
Both hotels have this offer for Sunday nights that runs all year round (at present).

The first super surprise was that we were bumped up from the Mews bedroom specified in the Sunday offer to the Deans Room in the main house, named after the previous owners. Thank you, Craig. It was generous and we appreciated it.

The room was light and airy, overlooking the croquet lawn. The furnishings were fun antique, quite in keeping with a building that was built when Henry VIII ruled. The bathroom was spotless and the small luxury touches that are a hallmark of Craig Jarvis’s attention to detail – proper fluffy 100% cotton towels and facecloths, light seersucker bathrobes, top grade toiletries, complimentary carpet slippers to take home. The shower was an Aqualisa pumped, which Danny said was the best he has ever seen in a hotel.

I didn’t test it out preferring to luxuriate in a long bath with book and complimentary fizzy water.

The next surprise was that fast wireless Internet access was free (Danny knows one hotel that charges a rip-off £15) and we only had to connect once to get instant access every time we booted up. Danny had packed the laptops.
“If we got burgled when we were away we’d be lost without them,” he had explained. Secretly I reckoned that he wanted to keep up with the Cottage Smallholder forum.

We sat on the swing seat under a spreading cedar with ice cold beers and watched the toings and froings of the party that was underway on the terrace. A gentle stroll around the grounds and a peek at the attached banqueting suite “The Pavillion”, which is a restored Edwardian cricket pavilion (clubhouse) revealed why it is such a popular wedding and function location. I suppose the only downside is the inevitable white noise of the busy A14 audible when we were outside but it soon ceased to irritate.

We peered at the pigmy goats and the geese and hens. A few years ago these goats always seemed to escape when mum and I visited. A lot of flicking of tablecloths would contain them back in their pen. Now they were in a secure paddock. Pigmy goats are the size of a medium dog and suddenly D mentioned that he would like to have a couple in the future!

Dinner was in the less formal Garden Room that overlooks the terrace and I can only say that the meal was superb. This is what we had – the menu descriptions say it all.

My starter was the best starter that I’ve ever had to date. Anywhere in the world. Ever. And in more financially deluxe times I’ve eaten at the best of the best.

Starter:
Me – Pressed foie gras, smoked duck, peppered Madeira jelly, rhubarb and walnut (rhubarb and foie gras is a marriage that can never end in divorce).
D – Cured pigeon breast, ballotine of rabbit, sorrel, sautéed morels, tonka bean jus
Followed by:
D – Roasted rump of new season lamb, goat cheese fondue, sweet potato dauphinoise, smoked olive oil, black olive oil tapenade
Me – Ox tongue, braised ox cheek, caper raisin, ginger carrots, truffle gnocchi
In fact I much preferred the lamb and D, indulgent to the bitter end, swapped (but yearned for potatoes).
Puddings:
D – Valrhona chocolate fondant, pistachio ice cream, and amaretto jelly
Me – Rhubarb poached in vanilla, rhubarb sorbet, basil marshmallow, candy floss (I’m exploring uses of rhubarb in depth ATM).
Good wine. Not overly expensive by restaurant standards.
Perfect service, attentive but not cloying .

Breakfast was served in the formal Restaurant. There were no other guests at the time, which made for a truly relaxing and enjoyable hour. After freshly squeezed orange juice I had Loch Fyne kippers, perfectly cooked and succulent. Danny had a full fry-up and we lolled with endless coffees and the newspapers.

I think the Sunday offer is restricted to a Chef’s Special menu and you pay extra for the a la carte but we did not see a special menu, chose what we wanted, and no extra was added to our bill. That was the final heartening surprise of what was a thoroughly enjoyable mini holiday.

We chatted endlessly – business and pleasure and got some welcome perspective. When we returned home just 21 hours later I’m sure the garden plants had grown. And it seemed as if we’d been away for a week. Totally refreshed and rearing to go.

Thank you everybody at Ravenwood Hall for giving us way more than we expected and a perfect break.

Ravenwood Hall was reviewed in the Times three years ago.


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14 Comments

  1. Hi , Ive been to Ravenwood several times and enoy the experience very much , especially when taking advantage of the many special offers they have

  2. Sound like a spectacular retreat! I love rhubarb too and just discovered this http://www.ci.sumner.wa.us/Rhubarb/Baking.htm – My favorite thing to do with it is rhubarb crisp and a tasty Rhubarb punch, the base of which can be bottled or frozen for a treat all year around

  3. Jo@LittleFfarm Dairy

    What’s a holiday…?? :0(

    Haven’t had even a “proper” day off now, in years. However – so pleased to hear you’ve been given a clean bill of health, at last – that’s “holiday” enough for me. Will you go back to decorating again?

    Great that you had a lovely time at Ravenwood Hall, sounds like a great place to be pampered (& very well fed!).

    So Danny’s interested in Pygmy goats, eh…? Well; Pygmies require less room than larger dairy goats but still certainly need stout fencing – would’ve thought a couple of milkers would be more rewarding for you folks though, given your self-sufficiency drive.

    Pygmy goats are lovely but still cost a fair whack to house, feed & insure; you’d be better getting some “output” for your input, rather than having something purely decorative (& potentially very destructive, if they escape!).

    Incidentally if he IS serious & you have any rhododendron-type species of plants in the garden, get rid of them prior to the arrival of your goats – they’re deadly poisonous to caprines.

    You’d need to register with DEFRA & get a CPH (Council/Parish/Holding)Number to register your property as a smallholding, along with the details of your livestock for which you need to complete an annual census. You also need to keep detailed feed & medication records & be aware your stock, property & records will be susceptible to regular visits from Animal Health etc. Sadly with current levels of bureaucracy in overdrive we have no choice but to be stoic about such things….doesn’t do the old blood pressure much good, though!

    So bear in mind – for every hour of petting your Pygmy goats, you’d probably have another ten minutes’ worth of paperwork lurking in the background….grrrr!!!

    Meanwhile, what a celebration – you have your health back! Woohoo!!! Sooo very happy at this wonderful news. :0)

  4. Veronica

    oh, how lovely! So glad you and Danny got a relaxing mini-break — you really needed it, and it sounds glorious. And that menu had me licking the screen 🙂

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