Nidd Hall – Hotel Review
by Roger Crow
I’m a man of simple tastes. Sometimes I just want a nice meal and to watch a double act perform my favourite tracks on fiddle and guitar.
Oh, and it helps if after a stunning meal and jaw-dropping light entertainment I can retire to a superb room with an incredible bathroom and a bed so soft, I imagine it’s what sleeping on a cloud feels like.
My partner Rachel and I are at Nidd Hall, Harrogate, a glorious 18th-century pile set in 45-acres of landscaped gardens. It’s rumoured to be where King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson first met, before he lost his heart and the throne.
On a sun-kissed Friday, we’ve managed to avoid rush hour and following some trial and error finding the place, we rock up at the stunning hotel. The lobby is enough to make my jaw loosen, and when we find our room, it hits the floor. The carpet is so soft I want to make fists with my toes like a jet-lagged John McClane in Die Hard. And the bed, as you may have guessed, is out of this world.
There’s a fridge with real milk so when the obligatory cuppa is brewed after check in, it tastes like home rather than a cheap hotel – which it definitely isn’t. Those little touches make all the difference.
“Lifting the meal to another level”
We spend the afternoon pottering around the expansive grounds, soaking up the sunshine, glorious vistas and making fools of ourselves on the exercise bikes dotted around the gardens. There’s also a secluded area with deck chairs and sand which is perfect for de-stressing, while the charming fairy doors at the base of some trees is a nice touch for the young at heart. It’s the end of a week off for Rachel and I and we definitely saved the best until last.
After a pint in The Pavilion bar, we get ready for dinner. Meals are always a highlight of any stay and I’m keen to see if the food is as good as the accommodation. The Terrace is the residence’s poshest eatery which caters for fine diners at £18 on top of the existing hotel fee. (Passing visitors can also pop in for a meal).
Following bread, olive oil and balsamic vinegar, I order a salmon terrine starter. My sea bass main is also a delight, along with a side of baby new potatoes. Rachel’s choux pastry stuffed with vegetables is equally moreish, while the sun-dried tomatoes are a delicious, tangy touch. We round things off with a chocolate brownie (her) and sorbet with mango (me). The ideal end to a perfect meal. The service is excellent with waiters so engaging, it lifts the meal to another level.
Our evening of entertainment could be either watching The Full Monty in a communal viewing area, or Northern Lights (singers) and Live Wire (aforementioned fiddle player and guitarist) in The Pavilion. It’s great entertainment that reminds me of some of my favourite cruises. In fact the whole thing feels like being on a cruise ship, without the buffeting motion (at least not without the aid of another pint or two).
“All tastes are catered for”
After a blissful night’s sleep, breakfast in the Rawson Restaurant (main dining area) turns into chaos as we hang around the dining room waiting to get seated. Admittedly it’s toward the end of service, so things are winding down. There’s an assumption we’ll be sitting in the same place as dinner the night before, despite it being our first visit. Thankfully the breakfast itself is terrific. A ‘help yourself’ full English ticks all the boxes whether vegetarian or otherwise. Coffee, toast and juices ensure we’re set up for the day.
We could drive into Harrogate, just five miles away, or make use of the offer in which taxis whisk us into town and back for £7.50 per person. It saves a lot of hassle, especially as a major food show is on at the exhibition centre and parking is a nightmare. (There are also trips to York for those who prefer at £15pp).
There’s so much to do during the day, whether getting pampered at the spa; using the gym; sauna, hot tub; pool; archery or shooting lessons and trivia quizzes, there’s little danger of being bored if you don’t want a day trip. A great library or DVD-lending service (for some of the posher rooms) ensures all tastes are catered for. Just wandering around the grounds, going gaga over the lambs is enough to recharge the most exhausted battery.
“A glorious stay”
Dinner is a lot more organised than breakfast as we’re shown to the table we should have had that morning. A smoked salmon and Prosecco mousse starter with lemon and ginger pork escalopes, sweet potato mash, cider sauce and green beans goes down a treat. Rachel has no shortage of vegetarian choices; she opts for a caramelised onion and goat’s cheese tart starter and panzerotti (think ravioli) with porcini mushrooms main.
The evening’s entertainment consists of crooner John Moakes (genius touch having a name like an old Blue Peter presenter) warming up the crowd in the Pavilion followed by The Showstoppers.
The idea of an improv musical with key elements offered by the audience sounds like a recipe for disaster. The fact it proves more entertaining than the last two genuine musicals I’ve seen put together is testament to the quality. Little wonder they picked up a coveted Olivier award.
I’m still singing the closing number to Heartbeat, a foot-tapping love letter to Malham Cove, as we return to our room, which is more than I can say for a lot of major musicals. Following another perfect night’s sleep, and great breakfast, we head off with a heavy heart.
It’s been a glorious stay, and given the calibre of food, room, service and entertainment, there’s little wonder the place is so busy. A shame we can’t stay longer, but even for a couple of days it felt like a week off.
Nidd Hall has recently undergone a makeover, and we’re thrilled by the result. Given its high profile history, safe to say it’s a jewel in Yorkshire’s hospitality crown. I get the feeling even Edward and Mrs Simpson would approve.
Nidd Hall Hotel, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG3 3BN