Fine & Fancy…

Fine & Fancy…

REVIEW: GRAHAM COURTNEY

Have you been to Seaham Hall Hotel lately? No? Well you don’t know what you’re missing.

Here’s a quick update.

It has new owners….holiday specialists, Seasons.

Tom and Jocelyn Maxfield began work on Seaham Hall to convert it into a hotel in 2001. It became one of THE hotels in the North East and was rightly praised for its outstanding accommodation and food. There was an underground tunnel which led to the lavish Serenity Spa.

In 2008, the Maxfields sold Seaham Hall. From then on it was downhill all the way. Having visited Seaham Hall in early 2012 it was obvious that nothing was being spent on the upkeep. Rooms looked very dated; corridors were heavily marked with scrapes and the carpets looked shabby. The food was decidedly average and the previously stunning grounds had become something of a wilderness.

Fast forward to 2012 and Seasons took over….and the result is that Seaham Hall and Serenity Spa have returned to their 5 Star grandeur. As someone who was actually there on the day when Seaham Hall Hotel was first opened to the public in 2001, I’d say it is now better than ever.

All of the rooms have been completely refurbished to create 18 totally individual suites. You can choose from a junior suite, executive suite, garden suite with a hot tub, penthouse

The dining room has a seriously cosy feel to it. There used to be a dark bar area in the corner and various chairs and tables scattered around the high-ceilinged room. Now, there are small individual tables and a series of booths which provide privacy.

And if you’re really lucky, you’ll have Connor and Devon serving you. There’s a knack to providing people with good service yet not being too overpowering. Connor and Devon were running the show in the dining room. Connor took our order. I have to confess that I do enjoy putting staff on the spot to see if they know their stuff.

“So Connor, duck or lamb, which one would you recommend?” I’m a sucker for lamb and thankfully Connor came up with the right answer. Masham Lamb. He also recommended how it should be cooked and what would go nicely with it. My wife went for the duck. “Go pink with the duck rather than cooked through,” added Connor. He was right; it was outstanding.

For the record, for our starter I had the Whitby Crab (incredibly moist) and my wife went for Aberdeenshire Smoked Salmon, and for the desserts I went for the Bruce Farm Strawberry Tart with Taittinger Rosé while my wife had Blackcurrants with White Sauce with Taittinger Nocturne. All faultless, incredibly tasty and wonderfully presented. It’s worth pointing out that the meat and vegetables are sourced locally whenever possible.

Cue Devon. Attentive and polite but with some conversation too. She’s been at Seaham Hall for several years and has plainly seen plenty of changes. You could tell from her demeanour that she was loving it. Plates and glasses came and went with zero fuss. The Little Beauty New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc kept being topped-up. Fresh and fruity; the perfect accompaniment.

So, what am I getting at? Too often, a 5-Star hotel can be rather over the top when it comes to service. “Yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir.” Do me a favour. Thankfully, Seaham Hall Hotel gets it spot on. From being welcomed at the front door, to being checked-in, to being shown to your bedroom and being welcomed into the dining room, it’s all very friendly and efficient. Whoever does the staff training should be proud of themselves.

Little things mean a lot. There’s a handwritten welcome note in your room. There’s also a note to tell you that the porter, Tony, can bring your car around to the front door and help you with any luggage. There’s even a note to tell you about the weather for the following day.

Rather than a folder which contains all of the information about the hotel, there’s a small tablet computer. You no longer need to leaf through reams of paper, which become increasingly tatty, to find out the Wi-Fi code.

There are candles scattered around your suite. The toiletries are specially produced for Seaham Hall. You get a choice of feather or synthetic bedding and do you want to go with a water pillow, firm cluster pillow, memory foam pillow or a goose feather pillow? Choices, choices.

The next morning, I went for the cooked breakfast (you basically just say what you want and Devon…I think she went home at some point overnight…arrives ten minutes later with it) and lashings of toast and coffee. On reflection, this wasn’t the best idea because it was all swiftly followed by a trip to the Serenity Spa. I should have gone for the continental breakfast. The selection of spa treatments is mind boggling; seaweed bath, mud treatment, reflexology, aromatherapy facial, numerous massages, body scrub, seaweed body wrap, manicure, pedicure, etc. Go onto www.seaham-hall.spabooker.travel/treatments and you’ll find something that will help soothe away the 21st Century.

I took the easy way out; a dip in the stunning pool and then plonked myself onto a lounger and read the newspapers.

And then it was time to head home.

It is great to report that this jewel in the crown has been buffed-up and had the dents removed. It’s now back to being a truly outstanding hotel and spa. It has also regained its popularity. We were there on an autumnal Sunday night, and the hotel was full. I suspect no other hotel in the region could boast that.

As we said at the start, if you haven’t been to Seaham Hall Hotel and Serenity Spa in recent years, you really do need to pay a return visit.

Go and see what the fuss is all about.

Check out their website www.seaham-hall.co.uk

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