So, with that in mind, when I am getting away for a night or two, I must be in an environment where this desire to become a puddle of calmness is as easy as possible, and I managed to find somewhere a short taxi-ride from my house.
There is a sort of novelty about staying somewhere near home. Not only do you not have to put up with the stress of panic-packing but you don’t have to give a moment of thought to travelling or the anxiety of wondering what the weather is going to be like.
Some may see it at pointless, but I think getting away for a night somewhere close to home is one of the nicest (and quickest) ways to relax.
I made a trip to Oddfellows on the Park in Cheadle last weekend for a bit of R&R, and to put it bluntly, I would highly recommend you stop what you are doing and book yourself a room – because I left feeling like a new woman.
Checking out of work early on a Friday afternoon, I stepped out the car and looked up to the glorious Neo-Gothic Victorian mansion which would not be out of place on the set of some elegant BBC period drama. Suddenly I felt rather underdressed and I was cursing that I left my evening gloves at home.
I’d like to point out when they say ‘on the park’ they really mean it. The drive up had the car snaking up a winding path through Bruntwood Park for a good few minutes. Set in 100-acres of woodland, this makes the beautiful hotel feel secluded and really ‘away from it all’ – which if I’m completely honest was just what I was after.
The impressive interior continued to fuel my Gosford Park fantasy. The overall aesthetic takes the hall’s Gothic roots and stunning period features and twins it with a quirky modern twist. Take for example the original Victorian tiled floor in the hallway which leads to the epic oak staircase which is adorned with all sorts of anachronistic artwork.
That’s not even mentioning the gargantuan taxidermy moose head which I would steal if I could get it out of the door.
As for the rooms, Oddfellows boasts 22 bespoke designed bedrooms which are a perfect marriage of old and new. I was lucky enough to have a suite for the night- complete with enormous four-poster-bed, roll top bath (in the room), en-suite bathroom with separate toilet and rain shower, big beautiful sash windows, television and a well-stocked mini-bar.
Looks like I was set for the evening and quite frankly, the rest of my life.
But before I got too comfortable, I shipped myself over to the on-site spa, quaintly called ‘The Pigsty’ after its use in a previous life. I opted for a 40 minute wallow in the mud- which I felt was quite fitting considering my environment and my general piggish disposition.
I must say, I really enjoyed this treatment. I am not much of a salon person, but I have got to say I left feeling rather relaxed. It consisted of a full body scrub followed by the application of mineral mud which was allowed to dry. The best bit was you applied it yourself which is a much less stressful experience for a salon-phobe such as myself.
You then jump in the steam room for twenty minutes or so- a treat in itself- followed by a nice hot shower and a lathering in a delicious body cream. I left feeling amazing with the skin of a newborn and the confidence of the emperor in his brand new clothes.
I retired to my room, threw on a robe and cracked open a bottle of Prosecco. I lazily applied a bit of slap and made my way down to dinner. Word on the street was I had a 7-course tasting menu to get through.
The on-site restaurant, The Galloping Major, is set in the hall’s original ballroom and takes its name from the rather eccentric second owner of the building who was famous for his magnificent handlebar moustache and his tendency to gallop around the grounds aloft his noble steed.
It is a grand old place with a huge oak fireplace and one of the most stunning ceilings I have ever laid my eyes on. As for the food, I was blown away. Seven courses of seasonal food, perfectly cooked each time with stunning presentation and fantastic matched flight of wine.
Kicking off with a selection of artisan breads and a rather naughty little amuse bouche of potted beef on a crispy potato skin, I knew I was going to be in for a treat. This was followed with a smoked burrata with beetroot, chestnuts – real flavours of the forest- and then pigs cheek with celeriac and shrimp. The latter was a bold choice for the surf and turf approach, but I must say it was greatly enjoyed.
Stone bass was next, a favourite of mine, and I am glad to say it was cooked to perfection, which if you ask me is ever so slightly underdone. The main event – lamb rump with parsnip, parmesan, apple and a lovely pearl barley risotto- was a revelation. I love seeing lamb on a menu, and this dish explains why perfectly. Cooked nice and pink with a sumptuous crispy top, I only wish there was more.
Just when I thought it couldn’t get much better, I had the dessert. Now when you read the words ‘egg custard’, what do you think of? I could hope that it would be a tasty little Pasteli de Nata, but more accurately I bet it is an anaemic round tart from Greggs.
I’m right, aren’t I? So when I am describing this custard tart, I want you to get that image out of your head – because this little tart was one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten.
You have never seen, never mind tasted, an egg custard tart like the one at The Galloping Major. The pastry was slender, crumbly, buttery and crisp while the filling was ‘like God going down your throat with velvet trousers on’ to use my mother’s go-to saying to describe outrageously delicious food.
Seven courses down (alongside seven snifters of wine) it is safe to say that I was significantly stuffed. I think the thing I liked the most about the menu was it had a flow inspired by the seasons and, quite obviously, the surrounding areas of the park. There were so many autumnal flavours of the forest that I left the restaurant feeling like a rather full woodland sprite.
After a great night sleep in what is officially the most enormous bed I have ever had the pleasure of sleeping in, I left Oddfellows on the Park feeling fresh, rejuvenated and rather content indeed.
In all honesty, I cannot recommend it enough. Maybe you’ve got something to celebrate or maybe you just deserve a treat – Oddfellows on the Park is the all-in-one gift you never knew you needed.
Bear in mind that you do not have to come and stay to get the full experience either. Pop into the spa, come and have a drink or a fantastic meal or afternoon tea. I cannot wait to come back – I give it a month. Tops.