[Originally published by On:Yorkshire Magazine: http://www.on-magazine.co.uk/travel/hotel-reviews/doxford-hall/]
Just a few miles outside of Alnwick in the beautiful Northumberland countryside lies Doxford Hall, an attractive-looking luxury hotel and spa. Formerly a private home it was transformed into a hotel in 2008 and, after changing hands, the hotel was renovated and extended further in 2010 to add a new entrance hall, more rooms and a cocktail bar.
Doxford Hall Hotel boasts several function suites that can be used for conferences, private dining and weddings (ceremonies and wedding breakfasts). The hotel has plenty of interesting historical features, including the Frank Henry Mason Room where a painting by the man himself has been given listed status, therefore cannot be moved. Owners Robert and Gina Parker’s love of antiques, art and interior design can be seen throughout the hotel which is full of interesting art, gorgeous furniture in the lounges and bedrooms and an impressive collection of Toby jugs in the Morning Room and the Library.
Each of the 31 bedrooms is named after a Northumbrian castle or a famous or historical person from the North-East. In fact, there is a big focus on ‘local’ throughout the hotel with lots of produce from nearby featured on the menu, an impressive staircase that has been hand-carved by a local carpenter and even a mini mural depicting the history of the local area. All of the bedrooms have been designed and decorated in an individual style and, like the rest of the hotel, are full of unique, quality furniture.
After a warm welcome from the receptionists in the original 1818 entrance hall we were shown up to our Deluxe Double Room. The room was spacious with an entrance area complete with big wardrobes and a dressing table, a large bedroom and an impressively-sized bathroom. The room offered great views over the hotel’s gardens and out onto the surrounding woodland. The bedroom was decorated in a fairly traditional style but still had those essential mod cons – TV, hair dryer and kettle – although there was no wifi in the bedrooms. For internet access you had to use one of the downstairs lounges which, for some, will be an inconvenience.
The bathroom was completely different though – very modern with a huge walk-in shower, heated floor and a big sunken bath complete with luxurious Molton Brown toiletries.
The hotel offers a superior dining experience in their AA Rosette George Runciman Restaurant and their menu features locally-sourced produce on almost every dish. The meal started well with some lovely homemade bread and a surprise amuse bouche of a Pork Belly beignet with an apple chutney that really cut through the richness of the pork.
I started with Scallops, Toulouse Sausage and Apple and Bacon Chutney. I have never eaten Toulouse Sausage before but it was delicious and the thin, golden slices complemented the expertly-seared scallops perfectly and offered a twist on the classic scallops and bacon pairing. The wonderful apple chutney was just acidic enough to cut through the rich sausage and the small bacon bits were a great addition. My husband chose the Beetroot and Rabbit starter which included a vivid red and very flavoursome chilled beetroot soup, thin slices of peppered duck and a large duck beignet. The balance of flavours was good but the beignet was a little greasy so I offered some of my apple chutney which we agreed finished the dish perfectly.
For my main I chose the Rabbit and Black Pudding. The loin was stuffed with the best black pudding I have tasted and wrapped in pancetta then roasted. I would have preferred it to have had a little less time cooking as it was bordering on tough in places – rabbit has so little fat this is a risk when cooking it, but the combination was wonderful. There was also a mini confit rabbit suet pudding pie on the side which I found a little dry as there was no gravy or sauce in the pie itself but the little bit of rich jus with pearl barley on the plate did go some way to help. I am a bit of a gravy fiend so really could have done with some more but unfortunately we did not speak to a waitress until we had finished our mains. My husband went for the Beef Fillet with a bone marrow crust, braised ox cheeks and a blue cheese crumpet that, despite not being to my personal taste, was a surprisingly good match for the steak.
Luckily we has space for dessert and I chose the Warm Almond Tart with a dollop of clotted cream – my favourite dessert accompaniment – and a sour cherry sauce. It reminded me of a posh Bakewell Tart. The sweetness was just right in the tart itself and the cherry sauce and cream on the side allowed you to combine and balance the flavours yourself – it was a shame that after two courses I could only manage half! My husband had the rich Milk Chocolate Ganache with homemade honeycomb and marshmallows – much too sweet for me but he enjoyed it. At the time of ordering our sweets we also ordered coffees and petit fours to enjoy in one of the lounges afterwards.
The only disappointing part of the evening was that once we had eaten enough of our desserts we waited for them to be cleared and to be shown through to one of the lounges but, after 15 minutes of waiting and other tables being attended to, we left the dining room ourselves and had to find a waitress to ask where the lounges were.
The breakfast the next morning was, as expected, of a very high standard. I had been looking forward to having some more of their brilliant black pudding since dinner so I chose a full cooked breakfast with a perfectly poached egg and one of the best sausages I have tasted in a while. Along with a ‘full English’ you could have (for an extra charge of £4.95 per dish) Eggs Benedict, Smoked Salmon and Scrambled Eggs or Kippers and, for the colder months, fresh porridge.
The hotel has well-kept gardens and a large maze to explore or get lost in for hours – unfortunately the weather was too wild for us to take advantage of them. And for those who are partial to it there is an opportunity to play a few rounds of golf at the nearby Bamburgh Castle Golf Course or spend a few hours fishing at Guyzance Hall just down the road from the hotel. And for those who aren’t as keen to venture out, you can take advantage of the hotel’s Spa and book yourself some beauty treatments.
Doxford Hall, Chathill, Northumberland
tel: 01665 589 700
Open 24 hours. Receptionist from 7am-11pm then night porter from 11pm-7am
Hotel prices for BB range from £130 B&B per night, per room based on 2 sharing to £249 B&B per night per room based on 2 sharing