Monday, 26 May 2014

Moddershall Oaks Country Spa Retreat Review


Moddershall Oaks is an awarding winning hotel, spa and restaurant just 2 hours 45 minutes drive from my house in Weybridge. This spa review couldn't have come at a better time with my partner and I both feeling particularly drained with work stress and the everyday anxieties of twenty somethings in 2014.

This was the first lengthy car journey that my boyfriend and I haven’t fallen out with each-other… for a long time. The usual order of events is that I ask if he’s planned the route before we leave, he says yes, then during the journey it turns out he hasn’t. I am then expected to be able to map read! (I know! Ridiculous!) This also tends to lead on to my frustrated ‘Why don’t you have a Sat-Nav?’ rant. So I suppose this means that Moddershall Oaks is relatively straightforward to get to from our home in Surrey. It’s a pretty nice journey too, with plenty of reminders of the UK’s stunning countryside. A few hundred metres from the destination you pass a pub (The Boar Inn), so charming it looks like its been cut out of a postcard or from the set of a film like ‘The Holiday’. Opposite a pond and surrounded by quacking Mallard ducks it served as a great reminder of how far we were from the
stress of the city.


Soon after we greeted by the Moddershall Oaks signs and we traverse down a bumpy pot hole ridden mud hill flanked by building paraphernalia. I have to admit I started to worry that it wasn’t going to be the picturesque retreat I’d hoped for. Once we got to the bottom and drove into the resort I felt comforted. Situated down a valley you feel wonderfully cut off from the outside world and it’s accompanying hassles (and noise).





The Room

As we headed to the reception we passed the reason for the slightly rough and ready aesthetic of the approach to the resort. They are in the process of building an outdoor spa area complete with spa deli, which I believe will be a spectacular addition to their existing facilities. There was further disruption in terms of getting to the reception because of the building work, but everything was signed so it was no problem at all (apart from when it was raining). The young staff on reception greeted us with lovely big smiles and were extremely helpful…something which would continue throughout our stay. I’m used to someone helping to carry luggage to our room, but it didn’t matter that this wasn’t offered, to be honest it made it feel more like we were in a temporary home rather than at a hotel.
Our room had a definite wow factor with a massive four poster bed, gorgeous Moroccan style lamps, and a gleaming wooden floor. The bathroom had a shower which was so glorious you’d end up basking for an amount of time that would aggravate your waiting partner. Like the shower, the jacuzzi bath was accessorised by some lovely Elemis products. There is a phone situated by the toilet  - I guess it has its uses, but I personally wouldn’t want to call anyone while sitting on the loo!

When I do reviews I almost want something to go wrong so I can see how well the staff deal with any issues. In our zombified post spa state we wanted to flake out on our massive bed and watch some TV. At this point a cable error was showing on our TV. During a brief moment of panic my fella confused me with someone with technological knowhow….once he pulled himself together he realised a call to reception was the best move. Within a few seconds a lady was in our room seeing what she could do to rectify the problem. A quick trip upstairs to reboot our system and our trashy TV session was ready to commence. That’s what I call efficient!



The shared hot-tub was situated outside our room. My partner is someone who likes to chat to people (EVERYONE) when we are on our breaks. I’m someone that likes to keep to myself and zone out. So our views on the communal nature of the hot-tub were different. We did agree however that it was a little awkward when people were in the hot tub when we were relaxing in our room. It meant we had to shut the curtains so we maintained our privacy - particularly as my partner likes to strut around scantily clad a lot of the time!


The Good

Clean and well appointed.

The most amazing bed I have slept in.

Elemis products.

Fantastic bath and shower.

Magazines in the lounge area

Great plasma TV

The high tech do not distrub lit button




The Bad

Would have been nice to have some basic refreshments and snacks in the room (that said there are some drinks at the end of the corridor, where the retreat trusts you to donate the fee).




No shower cap

My biggest hotel/spa pet peeve - the hairdryers that are attached to the wall with the button you have to press when you use. I have weak fingers!

Shared hot-tub outside our room (some sort of shield round the hot tub would be beneficial).




Lunch

It was a gloriously warm day so we sat outside of the restaurant looking out on the view of the beautiful lake and its surrounding Spring foliage. To attract the waiters attention you have to ring a buzzer at the bar, which lacks a bit of sophistication, and seems strange considering that the amount of guests at the retreat is so small. I presume that it is because staff have multiple roles and jobs that need to be done elsewhere at the resort. It would feel somewhat more professional if there was someone always on the bar - but I can see why they do it like this ( it would be a very slow work day for someone). For me there was a great selection of yummy lunch options. My partner, who is on a major health kick at the moment, was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more salad and light options. This was quickly forgotten once his healthy smoothie arrived and he tucked into his Salmon and potatoes meal. He’s never been so quiet….so thank you! My duck salad was incredible. I could have had it three times over, but I guess that isn’t in keeping within the ethos of a health improving spa break. Our lunch definitely made us incredibly excited for our dinner in the restaurant later that day.

The Good

The stunning view of the lake.
The food was faultless.
The relaxed feel.

The Bad

Lack of small dishes and salad options.
The ring the buzzer system. Before we realised we sat for a while outside without any service.

The Treatment

We were both booked in for a neck, shoulder and back massage. In recent months my partner has become accustomed to regular shoulder massages and back scratches. It used to be a treat for for when he’d had a stressful day, but now most days he requests/begs with puppy eyes and droopy bottom lip. I was just extremely grateful to simply have a day off from my usual pampering duties. To get a treat of my own was a very welcome bonus.
I couldn’t wait to completely zone out and most probably snooze during my treatment. I should have known when I invited my partner along that relaxation time was going to be limited. I was just starting to drift when I heard the wall shaking sound of a laugh much like Lou Carpenter’s from Neighbours - you can guess who it was. This continued throughout what would otherwise have been a blissful 25 minutes. I’d say that the spa area needed to invest in thicker walls, but lets face it, I just need to think more carefully about who I invite with me on relaxing getaways! I also had to stifle a giggle when the M&S advert music came on. Lying down covered in aromatic oils and being rubbed, I couldn't help but feel like a joint of meat being marinated. An extremely content bit of meat though!

The Good

The massage itself - enough pressure that you feel it is doing some good, but not too hard that it isn’t relaxing.

Punctual start time.

Lovely Elemis products.

The therapist put you at complete ease.

The Bad

I prefer treatment rooms not to have windows. It can be distracting seeing the outside world.

The waiting area, the stairs and area leading to treatment area could be a bit prettier - feels a bit office-like.



The Spa

Compact but perfectly formed. I made myself at home in the hydrotherapy pool while my partner poached himself in the steam room. I’m a bit prone to lightheadedness so tend to avoid steam/sauna rooms, but I was assured by the sweaty red figure that emerged that it was a winner. To try and return to his normal hue he then went under the experience shower, which although a bit of a shock to the system, gave him a much needed shot of energy.
Within the pool there is a slope that you can lie on, which I did so while looking up at the lights which twinkle like stars - quite therapeutic. Afterwards I got back in my snuggly dressing gown and relaxed on the heated tile lounger and drifted off to dreamworld. The spa definitely did the trick!

Dinner

The vibe of the dining room was a bit different come evening time, less towelling dress gowns, more smart casual and glowing faces. Despite being in the same room as lunch, dinner felt more of an occasion as we were escorted to our seats for some pre dinner drinks. Looking out on the lake as the sun went down while we were sipping in our drinks was bliss and having the company of a nosey signet was a nice addition. The menu was full of so many to die for dishes we were undecided for an embarrassingly long time. We turned to our waiter for help, and he informed us of his favourites from the menu. He seemed very confident and knowledgeable about the dishes so we were happy to go with his recommendations, while trying desperately to avoid dribbling at the prospect. It’s amazing how doing nothing taxing can build an appetite!
So after a few more minutes of enjoying our view and our new feathered friend we were escorted to our table.
When our starters arrived we were first struck by the presentation and beautiful colours. This is when our two part harmony of oohs and ahhs began. We were in ecstasy from here on in. Although content with our own choices we did’t want to miss out on further delight so both sampled each others choices along the way. It was immediately clear why the restaurant had received so many awards over the years. The way the servers dealt with us, wearing their white gloves and addressing us like sophisticated adults made the whole evening feel like an absolute treat.
We were full to the brim after our delicious main courses but when a dish called Chocolate Rehab features on a menu, you needn’t ask if I have room for dessert. It is happening. Of course Simon said he was full, which as usual, meant he would be stealing from my dish. I didn’t make it easy for him though!

 Piri piri marinated chicken fillets, sweet potato wedges, mango salsa
 Blow torched Scottish scallops, pea veloute, pancetta crisp, pea shoots, crème fraiche
Lemon Sorbet
 Pancetta wrapped pork fillet, crispy roast belly pork, sweet braised carrot, spring greens,boulangère potatoes, Perry gravy, warm apple gel
 Char grilled dry aged sirloin, slow cooked steak & ale pie, béarnaise sauce,charred asparagus, gratin potato, red wine jus
  Chocolate Rehab; soft chocolate fudge cake, fresh vanilla custard, white chocolate panna cotta

The Good

The best table service I have had in a long time

The food in general - outstanding!


The Bad

If I had to pick a low point from the food it was the White Chocolate Pannacota ( a tad bland)

The Menu design. I think they are doing the quality of the service and food a dis- service with the rather casual,budget feel coated cardboard menus. I’d like to see it in an embossed leather book, or on high quality parchment. A silly detail I know, but these things completely change your perception.

We heard the same CD three times over. Luckily I like Kodaline.

That I can’t have the chef cook for me every day…..

That my stomach isn’t bigger….

To sum up….

I hope that when the Moddershall Oaks staff read this they will know that any negatives written here are just minor details/potential changes that would make a stay perfect. Even though we attended the retreat during a slight time of disarray we still had a wonderful time and we can’t wait to return once the new facilities have opened. As well as making use of the new outside areas I would want to make use of the various opportunities for fitness next time (the tennis courts and the nature trails). Although my partner made use of the rather swanky looking wood-panelled gym this time round, I decided that anything that required effort was firmly off the agenda. When/if I get engaged I will also be dropping subtle hen do hints about the retreat’s Snug -  perfect for girlies looking for an allover makeover session accompanied by an alcoholic bevarage or two. There are only ten rooms at the retreat, so if you are a social bunny you will have plenty of opportunities to get to know the other guests (via the hot-tub or spa area). But, if like me, you like to keep to yourself this is attainable too.
This is an ideal tranquil destination for groups, couples, and mums and daughters, and nothing is too much trouble for the friendly and attentive staff. It truly feels like an escape from real life...so much so that people will have trouble contacting you on the phone. If you are someone that needs to keep in regular contact with the normal world you should be made aware of the lack of signal at Moddershall. I was actually pleased to have the excuse to be aloof for a couple of days though.

Thank you to all the staff... and see you soon hopefully!

Check out the website to see what else the retreat has to offer and to find out what package suits your desires. 


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