Hotel

nahm at COMO Metropolitan Bangkok

"I landed in 1980 in Bangkok, and I stopped to eat ten times between the airport and the hotel. It was all lemongrass and ginger and chilies." - Jean-Georges Vongerichten

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There is no better time to visit Bangkok than December and January. The sweltering heat found from March through to August is replaced with a more manageable and pleasant heat.

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If you’re in need of winter-sun and seek a city-break with world class food and accommodation, then I have just the place for you.

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One of Bangkok’s best hotels, the effortlessly stylish COMO Metropolitan Bangkok, is situated in the quieter Sathorn district of the city. 

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Located a stones throw away from the beautiful Lumpini Park, the 5 star resort is hidden away amongst skyscrapers and embassies and is found by travelling along a tree-lined path away from the busy roads.

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A sleek but understated contemporary style reception meets you. It 's clear that a lot of thought and effort has gone into the design of the hotel.

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The staff couldn’t be more pleasant and willing to assist. 

Super comfy and luxurious 500-thread-count Egyptian cotton linens adorn the super-king beds.

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The rooms are spacious and well-presented and contain some nice touches, such as Bose stereos and fresh orchid plants.

Our room, an Executive Suite, even had its own private meeting/dining room.

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Breakfast is served at Glow restaurant.

A big selling feature for the hotel is its huge outdoor swimming pool, the perfect place to escape the heat.

Attentive pool attendants keep a watchful eye to ensure you’re kept well-hydrated and even offer complimentary sunscreen lotion.

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We didn’t have time to use the spa facilities, but the 1-hour COMO Shambhala Massage is said to be highly recommended.

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The hotel has another ace up its sleeve: possibly the best Thai restaurant in the world.

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‘Kin Khao Reu Yang?’

This single sentence sums up the esteem with which food is held in Thai culture and society. In Thailand, when family or friends meet, rather than ask ‘how are you?’, they will often ask ‘Kin Khao Reu Yang?’. Translation: have you eaten (rice) yet?

If any of the party has yet to eat, sourcing a good meal becomes the immediate priority above all others.

Food in Thailand is a communal affair. Not only is it normal for the entire family to eat together, but they also often cook meals together and eat from the same shared dishes. It is how traditional methods of Thai cookery are inherited from generation to generation.

In our taxi on the way to the hotel the driver enquired if we were going to be eating at nahm. When we told him that we hoped to, but hadn't made a reservation he laughed and informed us that we had little chance - you have to book weeks and months in advance in order to secure a table.

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So it was almost with embarrassment that we asked the hotel reception if they could arrange a reservation for us that evening. And, to complicate matters further, we hoped to invite several family members to share the experience with us - a table for 6 would be required.

nahm at COMO Metropolitan Bangkok frequently features amongst lists of the top restaurants in Asia. Run by the Australian-born chef David Thompson, it was recently awarded a coveted Michelin star. One of the first restaurants in Thailand to receive the award.

Thompson and his team have gained worldwide notoriety for offering authentic Thai cuisine made using the highest quality ingredients, while earning a reputation for reviving once popular traditional Thai dishes.

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This was the highlight of the meal. Alike Fäviken's "i skalet ur elden", this signature dish was bursting with flavour and worth the trip alone.

Muslim curry of oxtail with fresh nutmeg, ginger and eggplants.

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Thai vegetable and fruit salad with tamarind, palm sugar and sesame dressing. Another stunning dish.

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Steamed coral trout with Bang Rak yellow beans and pickled garlic.

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Grilled galangal relish with pork and prawn stuffed bamboo and mustard greens.

One of our party commented: "I can pay this no higher compliment than to say this is exactly how my mum cooked this dish. Beautiful!"

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A delicious Lycheetini.

Kingfish salad with pomelo, lemongrass and lime.

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Preserved shrimp and crab simmered in coconut cream with deep-fried prawns and vegetables.

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Owing to our late reservation we didn't get to spend as much time at nahm as we would have liked, and as a result weren't able to sample even more dishes.

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Each of the dishes we did sample were extremely well-balanced. It's apparent that the chefs have a clear understanding of the four fundamental taste areas; sweet, spicy, salty and sour.

We left extremely full, but with food this good you always want more!

COMO Metropolitan Bangkok

 

Photography by mahon.photo

Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok

“Bangkok, though, is a rejuvenating tonic; the people seem to have found the magic elixir. Life, a visitor feels, has not been wasted on the Thais.” - Bernard Kalb

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Like New York, London, Tokyo and Hong Kong, Bangkok is one of the worlds great cities. It is a city which bustles with energy around the clock.

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To the uninitiated it offers an assault to the senses; a culture shock that few other cities can match.

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The wall of heat and humidity when you first leave the airport is unforgettable, so too the unrelenting thrum of tuk tuks and the ever-present smell of incense and Thai street food.

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It’s difficult to fully describe, but to get a sense of what it’s like, grab a bowl of your favourite Thai curry, light the joss-sticks and, while fully clothed, stand in your shower with the heat turned to the max with a friend or relative hammering pots and pans while shouting “TUK TUK!?” down your lughole every 20 seconds or so.

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For many years, despite being a ‘city person’, I found the experience to be just too much.

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I’d escape as soon as possible by grabbing a connecting flight to the greener, more mountainous, area of Chiang Mai, or the drier climates of the beaches in Ao Nang in the south.

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Until, on one trip, I had no choice but to stop in Bangkok. Heavily jet-lagged, a friend and I took a walk around Bangkok’s streets at 5am in the morning. 

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We found ourselves at the aromatic Pak Khlong Thalat flower market. Thailand’s largest wholesale flower market is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week, but is at its most frenetic from 3am to 5am. If you're a flower lover it's a must see.

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Having grabbed a tuk tuk, and with sun beginning to rise, we walked around the area surrounding the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew and the beautiful Wat Pho. 

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Hawkers were replaced by barefoot Buddhist monks in saffron robes on their morning alms round, a cool breeze present instead of searing heat.

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“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” - Saint Ambrose

And it was during this trip that I learnt to do as the locals do. Don’t pound the streets. Walk slowly. Take your time; if you’re late or behind schedule, ‘mai pen rai’ (it doesn’t matter).

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You’re in foodie-heaven, eat deliciously cheap street food rather than western food at chains. Grab the skytrain rather than a taxi. Even more preferable, a boat along the Chao Phraya River.

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"It was perfectly true, he just rather liked being at Shangri-La. Its atmosphere soothed while its mystery stimulated, and the total sensation was agreeable." - James Hilton, Lost Horizon

From the Chao Phraya the Shangri-La Hotel stands regally. Unlike the strikingly modern skyscrapers it neighbours, the 5 star luxury hotel offers an elegance of design associated with a quickly vanishing era.

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It has the exotic majesty I associate with travel of the early jet setters; the type of place you would not be surprised to find Roger Moore’s James Bond milling about, cocktail in one hand, pretty woman in the other (thankfully there was no sign of Nick Nack, Scaramanga's dwarf manservant, during our visit.) 

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The rooms, while relatively compact, are beautiful. Thai silk walk coverings and curtains and golden chandeliers offer a hint of ostentation not present in more modern hotels.

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The hotel has two wings; the larger and slightly less expensive Shangri-La wing, and the Krungthep wing. The latter is my preference and recommendation. 

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Guests of the Krungthep wing have access to both swimming pools, and the breakfast buffet is a noticeably more relaxed affair.

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The rooms have private balconies with views of the Chao Phraya.

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The hotel neighbours the lively Bangrak Bazaar.

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Bangkok is home to nearly 10 million people. Watching the plethora of Bangkokians going about their daily business in the city can be endlessly fascinating.

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Street food sellers pushing their carts down busy roads, oblivious to the fast approaching road traffic careering around them.

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Tuk tuk drivers taking a nap at a busy intersection. The maze of electricity cables which overhang every street. 

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"But here, at Shangri-La, all was in deep calm." - James Hilton, Lost Horizon

The hotel and its gardens on the bank of the river offer an oasis of calm from the frenetic goings on around it.

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CHI, The Spa at Shangri-La, offers further levels of serenity and relaxation.

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Making prime use of its location, the hotel offers an international buffet and great views by night aboard the Horizon Cruise ship.

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And a complimentary river shuttle service is offered to the nearby open-air mall, Asiatique The Riverfront; a great place to grab a bite-to-eat and to spend a couple of hours.

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Other dining choices at the hotel include a Chocolate Boutique(!), and the excellent Shang Palace for authentic Cantonese cuisine.

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For Thai fare there is Salathip Restaurant where Thai classical dance is performed each night.

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"He liked the serene world that Shangri-La offered him..." - James Hilton, Lost Horizon

Bangkok is a labyrinth of ever-increasing madness, but having a place like the Shangri-La to retreat to makes it a beautiful and enjoyable madness.

3 to 5 days spent in the city are often the highlight of trips to Thailand.

 

Rates start at GBP £147 per night. Click here to check availability.

 

Cocktail Saturdays' things to see and do during a 3 day visit:

Day 1: Visit Wat Arun at sunrise. Hop over on a short boat ride to the Grand Palace and have a massage at the wonderful Wat Pho. If you prefer an even more luxurious treatment, spend the afternoon at CHI Spa at The Shangri-La. Then watch the sun go down over a cocktail at Sky Bar rooftop at Lebua State Tower.

Day 2: Visit Pak Khlong Thalat early in the morning, then visit The Jim Thompson House. Spend the afternoon milling around Siam Paragon Mall and Gaysorn Mall. Take a dinner cruise on the Chao Phraya river.

Day 3: Join the locals for early morning yoga in the beautiful Lumpini Park. Take a boat trip along the Chao Phraya and Bangkok's numerous khlongs. Climb Wat Saket (Golden Mountain Temple), and reward yourself with dinner at Raan Jay Fai (327 Maha Chai Road) - Bangkok's most expensive, and Michelin Star winning, street food - try khai jeaw poo (crab omelet.)

 

Photos contained in this review are shot with the excellent Fujifilm X-T2. I have recently been testing various Fujifilm cameras; many thanks to Fujifilm UK for providing me with equipment to review.

 

Photography by mahon.photo

Sloane Square Hotel, London

Sloane Square was designed in 1771 and named after Sir Hans Sloane. It has long been one of the most exclusive areas in central London, situated between the Kings Road and Sloane Street. It’s the perfect address to thrill shopaholics, surrounded by the world’s most luxury boutiques.

Aside from the excellent retail therapy opportunities, the Square also has several historical buildings, including the Peter Jones department store, the Royal Court Theatre and the Sloane Square Hotel. 

Housed in a 19th-century building which was formerly The Royal Court Hotel, it has played host to many celebrities. Early in February 1962, The Beatles stayed for several weeks and in the following year they used the building as a venue for photographic sessions. The hotel also played host to the first meeting between Paul McCartney and his future girlfriend Jane Asher.

In 2005 the building was completely renovated and reopened as Sloane Square Hotel. The ideal location for my recent trip to The Glamour Beauty Festival at The Saatchi Gallery. The Gallery is conveniently just a two minute walk from the hotel. 

As per usual, I arrived at the hotel well before my scheduled Check In time. The intention was to drop my bags and grab some breakfast in the hotel’s French inspired Cote Brasserie. It was a nice surprise to be told that my room was ready, giving me the opportunity to have a quick freshen up before the Festival began. The staff at reception were all charming and extremely welcoming, setting the tone for the rest of my stay. 

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I arrived in my room to find a handsome little fella sat waiting to greet me. We exchanged pleasantries while I inspected the room. 

The hotel’s rooms are elegant and luxurious, with bespoke ornate wallpapers and beds dressed with luxury 300-thread count Egyptian linens. Comfort is paramount with soft pillows on the huge King size bed.

My room had a lovely window seat looking out across the square and was pretty spacious, even by London standards.

After a quick spruce up, I bid my friend farewell and made my way downstairs to meet my (human) friend for some french toast before we set off for the Saatchi Gallery. 

The Glamour Beauty Festival is a two-day beauty event which launched in 2016 and returned to London for its second year.

The event was sponsored by Fiat, which staged a 'pool party', offering guests the chance to immerse themselves in a party experience with DJ music, a gelato van and parasols. We grabbed ourselves a prosecco sorbet and soaked up the party atmosphere.

The Festival is an opportunity to experience professional beauty treatments and gain expert advice, as well as watch talks with some of the industry’s leading figures. Brands supporting the festival included Nars, GHD, Garnier, Elizabeth Arden and Nails Inc. 

Youtube duo Pixiwoo kicked off the talks, followed by make-up guru Mary Greenwell and hair expert Sam McKnight. They spoke to presenter Angela Scanlon about how the beauty industry has changed and gave a fascinating insight into what it was like working with Princess Diana.

Fearne Cotton spoke all things food with celebrity nutritionist Amelia Freer. 

Dermot O’Leary was interviewed by Glamour Editor Jo Elvin on his new skincare range for men. 

Glamour’s Beauty Director, Alessandra Steinherr, interviewed a group of gorgeous ladies as to their Desert Island essentials. The group consisted of singer Frankie Bridge and bloggers In The Frow, Samantha Maria and Niomi Smart.

Winnie Harlow spoke to Erin O’Connor about working in the modelling industry. 

After all of the talks we had our hair done by GHD before heading next door to Gallery Mess for some much needed food. 

Gallery Mess has a beautiful setting within the grounds of the Saatchi Gallery. The decor of exposed brickwork, high ceilings and unique displays of art make for a lovely relaxing atmosphere. The perfect place for a long leisurely meal in readiness for some cocktails in Chelsea. 

Returning to the Sloane Square Hotel in the evening, we enjoyed a complimentary glass of prosecco in the hotel bar.

When I returned to my room a lovely little surprise awaited. The room had been turned down, with my bed made ready to slump into. A chocolate had been left on my pillow and a bottle of water on the bedside table. I’m can’t be sure who the kind and thoughtful person was who did this for me, but I have my suspicions. He’d even left out a mug for me to have a late night feast of hot chocolate and cookies. What a gentleman!

The Park Tower Hotel, Knightsbridge

“It is not in doing what you like, but in liking what you do that is the secret of happiness.” ― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Another secret of happiness is vouchers… more specifically, using Christmas vouchers without the guilt of spending your own money. Especially at this time of year when, if you’re anything like me, you’re at your poorest.

I was lucky enough to have been bought vouchers for afternoon tea at The Berkeley. Granted my friend and I had to pay to get to London and to stay in a hotel but, in our minds, we were technically saving money by using the vouchers.

We wanted to stay close to The Berkeley so that, if we overindulged on cake, we could simply roll our way back to the hotel. The Park Tower in Knightsbridge is two minutes away. Considering its location, in one of London’s most exclusive areas, it’s very reasonably priced compared to the other nearby hotels. 

The hotel is housed in a cylindrical-shaped building. The unique design means that all 271 guest rooms enjoy views over Knightsbridge or Hyde Park. 

The interior is beautiful, the colour scheme was inspired by Hyde Park's foliage with furnishings featuring a colour palette of sage greens and shimmering silvers.

We were allowed an early check in and were taken up to our room on the 9th floor, overlooking Harvey Nichols. 

Once we had unpacked our bags, we headed over to explore Hyde Park. Spread across 350 acres, we spent a couple of hours walking around as much of it as we could before taking a pit stop at the Serpentine Bar & Kitchen.

Despite it being chilly, we couldn’t resist sitting outside by the Serpentine Lake while we sipped tea and ate pain au chocolate. 

It’s a lovely serene place to sit out in the fresh air first thing in the morning, away from the the hustle and bustle of Knightsbridge, watching swans chase after people for their crumbs. 

Thus, when you cry out, 'Greedy! Greedy!' to the bird that flies away with the big crust, you know now that you ought not to do this, for he is very likely taking it to Peter Pan.”― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens

Once refuelled, we set off again and walked up to Kensington Gardens. J.M. Barrie lived close to Kensington Gardens and published his first Peter Pan story in 1902, using the Gardens for inspiration.  

Commissioned and paid for by the author, the Gardens now have a Peter Pan statue at the top end of the Serpentine. It was erected without any official permission during darkness on 30th April 1912, so to look as if it had arrived by magic.

Barrie wasn’t overly enamoured with the statue himself and so left a more significant memorial to Great Ormond Street Hospital. He granted the benefits of Peter Pan’s copyright which means that the hospital benefits from all Peter Pan-inspired works in perpetuity.

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We arrived at Kensington Palace to be greeted by another statue, this time Queen Victoria. She was born at Kensington Palace and grew up there until she was summoned from her bed in 1837 to become the Queen. 

The Palace is now home to Princes William and Harry. Having spent an hour to two admiring the Palace (ahem, searching for Harry) we began our journey back to the hotel, working up an appetite for our afternoon tea.

The Park Tower Hotel turned out to be a fantastic option for what we were looking for and I’d definitely stay again. Perfectly located on the doorstep of some of the best-known shops in Knightsbridge, including Harrods and Harvey Nichols…

Middlethorpe Hall, York

It has all been most interesting.” - Lady Mary Wortley-Montagu’s final words

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the stately homes of Great Britain began to feel the pressure of increased death duties and changing social landscapes. Combined with the impact of two World Wars, nearly a third of the UK’s grandest houses have perished over the years.

These stately homes were status symbols for the upper-class families of Great Britain, usually filled with fantastic collections of arts and antiquities.

After the second world war, planning restrictions and the National Trust meant that many of the houses were saved. A large portion of these homes are now accessible to the public and the contents within them can be enjoyed by all.

In recent years costume dramas such as Downton Abbey have depicted the life in imaginary aristocratic households. There has been a renewed interest in these homes and the reality behind the fiction of life upstairs and downstairs. The nation has a keen interest in the grand residences, especially the families and staff who occupied them.

Middlethorpe Hall in York is one such property. An elegant country house hotel built 300 years ago by Thomas Barlow in the “William and Mary-style”. Thomas was a prosperous master cutler who bought the estate in a bid to establish himself as a country gentleman. Donated to the National Trust in 2008, it still has the look and feel of a well-kept manor house rather than a 29 bedroom hotel. 

What is a weekend?

- Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith), Downton Abbey

I visited a couple of weeks ago for a weekend break away with the girls. Our friend Joey was bidding us farewell as she’s off on an around-the-world adventure. It seemed only fitting that we gave her a celebratory send-off, and what better setting than Middlethorpe.

Sitting in 20 acres of beautiful manicured gardens and parkland, it even has it’s own lake and helipad. I decided to leave the chopper at home and took my trusty VW instead so I could nip into the city of York, which is a ten minute drive away. 

The hotel’s exceptional customer service began even before we’d arrived. A few days before our stay, I received an email with directions to the hotel from my home, as well as providing me with the weather forecast. I was also introduced to the hotel’s concierge service, who can book theatre tickets for guests, make restaurant reservations or arrange chauffeur driven services. Suitably impressed, it set the tone for the rest of our stay. 

Since there were three of us, we were accommodated in a courtyard suite, off the main house in the old stables. Following a laborious drive in the miserable British weather, I arrived to find our little sanctuary for the weekend. Our cute cottage had an open fire which was warming the room for our arrival.

There was a plate of homemade fudge and macarons to welcome us as well as a little note from Lionel Chatard, Director & General Manager of the hotel. Lionel worked at Claridge’s before moving to Middlethorpe, he leaves a hand-written note to every guest in the hotel’s 29 rooms. 

The cottage had it’s own kitchen, a lounge and dining area, a bathroom and three bedrooms. It was surprisingly spacious which is ideal when staying in a group. The decor is traditional, in parts it’s like stepping 300 years back in time.

The hotel is quite rightly unapologetic about this, “guests should not expect the hotel to be modern like new built establishments in town or country.” That being said, we noticed a few mod cons here and there, including Roberts radios, a Nespresso coffee machine and free Wi-Fi for all guest. 

As darkness fell we spruced ourselves up before heading over to the main hotel for our evening meal. The interior is olde-world grandeur, with an ornate oak staircase leading up to the luxury bedrooms. 

The staircase still bears some markings of Thomas Barlow’s grandsons, who carved their initials and the date into the oak “IN 1764 & SB”.

A large painting of Lady Mary Wortley-Montagu greets guests in the hall. Lady Mary is best known for introducing her knowledge of inoculation against smallpox to the UK.

She moved into Middlethorpe in 1713 when Thomas Barlow and his son went on the grand tour and let the house in their absence.

We were shown through to the regal sitting room for a pre-dinner cocktail. This room has billowing curtains and Georgian oil paintings. The hotel is so peaceful, the only sounds being the creaking floorboards and grandfather clocks tick-tocking away.

The food was delicious, as were the cocktails. Understandably Middlethorpe’s oak-panelled dining room comes out on top for fine-dining in York. The à la carte menu draws from the local area with vegetables straight from the hotel’s own gardens.

After our meal we returned to the cottage to get warm and cosy by the fire while watching our favourite festive film, The Holiday. 

After a hearty Yorkshire breakfast we made our way to the hotel spa for some pampering.

The spa is located in a charming cottage opposite the hotel. It has a 40’ heated swimming pool, a spa bath, whirlpool, steam room, sauna and gym. There are three massage and treatment rooms in the spa offering a whole host of treatments.

I’d recommend booking in advance as the spa can become very busy. We opted to have our nails done in preparation for an evening sampling York's array of cocktail bars. 

The next morning we awoke with sore heads and, feeling extremely lazy, had breakfast delivered to us in the cottage.

Well on the road to recovery, we packed our bags and waved Joey off on her adventure. I took a walk around the hotel grounds before tackling the drive home.

Apparently early risers often glimpse deer in the gardens. I wasn’t lucky on this occasion but I was happy enough walking in the fresh air and enjoying my peaceful surroundings. Middlethorpe is the perfect location for a luxurious Yorkshire escape. 

Middlethorpe Hall Hotel, Restaurant and Spa

Bishopthorpe Road, York, YO23 2GB

01904 641 241

*Cocktail Saturdays was a guest of Middlethorpe Hall