Once again I was well and truly spoilt by my amazing fiancée on my birthday this year. Not only did he spoil me to pieces on my birthday itself, he also planned the perfect weekend away 🙂 I love doing thoughtful things for people and in return I’m so incredibly grateful when people do the same. He’d put in so much effort into planning this weekend – he’d planned brunch, lunch, snacks, dinner and coffee stops for a whole three days, and had even included dinner and a cinema trip with all the trimmings the night before! Much as I love cosy film nights in, he knows that I have a slight obsession with cinema popcorn and as a child it was seen as a big deal for us to get cinema snacks (in fairness I can completely understand as they are outrageously pricey!) so when he got me chocolates, a Christmas coffee from Costa, pick and mix, popcorn AND Ben & Jerry’s I literally felt like a kid at Christmas (and I probably behaved like one too from all of the sugar.. what’s new 😛 ).
On the Saturday morning we headed into London and he’d booked a brunch place that I’d been wanting to go to forever. Much as I love deciding where to eat (and I am the one with the stupidly long list of places!) it was so nice to have someone else make the booking for once, and what a decision it was! We went to Bourne & Hollingsworth, followed by cinnamon buns at the Nordic Bakery, donuts at Crosstown and a three course dinner at Nama in Notting Hill (I’ll get round to writing up posts for them at some point!). Nama was another place I’d been wanting to eat at for ages but I hadn’t had the chance as raw food is Marcus’ (and all my friends’!) worst nightmare. I can definitely see why – it’s a strange concept and some of the foods really do taste awful, but I love trying new things and I really can’t think of many foods in the world that I don’t like! To be honest I hadn’t heard of half the foods on the menu but I did enjoy it and after a heavy brunch, donuts and cakes, a lighter and more nutritious dinner was the perfect end to a perfect day 🙂
On the Sunday morning after a lovely brunch we headed to Champneys in Henlow. We’d stayed at Champneys (Tring) once before but it was after Marcus had come back from a tournament and he was quite ill so it wasn’t the best timing. We also hadn’t realised that you had to call up and book treatments well in advance of going and when we arrived they didn’t actually have any free slots! This time Marcus wasn’t ill – yay! – and he’d booked one hour of Champneys Time for me (Head in the Clouds massage and a Champneys Body Wrap) and I couldn’t wait to go back for the full experience and have my first ever spa treatment! Since it was Christmas, they had a lot of pretty decorations around.. I imagine it would be a lovely place to stay between Christmas and New Year.
When we arrived we headed straight to the cafe of course! It’s a relaxed cafe with big sofas next to the restaurant, overlooking the pool. I got a mozzarella, tomato and pesto panini and a latte. The cafe is pretty pricey – just those two things were £10, but I wandered into the restaurant where they were clearing up lunch and I grabbed some bread, soup and a chocolate raspberry chia pudding too 🙂
After eating I got ready for my first ever massage. I’d never had a treatment before and I wasn’t sure what to expect.. I also thought that an hour sounded like a long time (then again the only massage I’ve ever had is a sports massage where every minute feels like an eternity!). This however, was absolutely heavenly and I could have easily stayed in there for double or even triple the time! I got a choice of three different oils each claiming to have different properties (revive, relax, tone, rejuvenate, calm, etc.) and after they’d all been rubbed in I was “wrapped” in a sheet while my head and shoulders were massaged. The time passed so quickly and it was such a relaxing experience.. I’m definitely a spa treatment convert!
Completely relaxed I headed back to the room and had a long bath before we headed to dinner. We knew from past experience that portion sizes are very small so we stocked up on bread before the meal. You can ask for extra bread and dips during the meal too 🙂
I went for falafel with tzatziki and Marcus had the seared lamb which came with a Greek salad (which he obviously didn’t touch!). The falafel was nice but a little crumbly, and it was obviously lacking the crunch of a deep fried falafel. I had a bite of Marcus’ lamb which was lovely and of course I had his salad (still no progress on getting him to even entertain the idea of eating one!) and that was pretty good too. The feta (I assume it was feta despite the odd texture!) was strangely soft and spreadable but it was still delicious. For mains I was tempted by sea bass as we never really cook fish at home but I fancied meat so I ended up going for the pork fillet with braised cabbage and tenderstem. Marcus had the same, and I’m glad I chose the pork or I’d have had serious food envy!
For dessert we surprisingly both chose the apple, prune and apricot crumble with Chantilly cream. I would’ve expected Marcus to get the mousse but we saw it served to someone else in a tiny teacup so it turns out the crumble was the best choice as it was by far the most substantial dessert. There were big chunks of prunes and apricots which had been poached in cinnamon until they were so soft and sweet. Marcus doesn’t like prunes so he sent his over to me.. I’ve never really had prunes before as I always opt for dates but they were delicious 🙂 Needless to say there wasn’t a crumb left 😉
The meal was lovely – relaxed, tasty and the service was great, but the portions were just too small. After the meal, feeling like we had barely had a starter despite having four servings of bread with hummus each, we drove to the nearest supermarket to pick up treats! It was a Sunday night but there was a convenience store open only five minutes’ drive away 🙂 We went for biscuits and chocolate to have with tea in our room which was perfect.
The next morning I woke up incredibly excited for breakfast as always! The breakfast buffet at Champneys is mainly continental with a huge spread of cereals, yogurts, fruit, breads, juices, tea, coffee and a few hot dishes like kedgeree, smoked mackerel/trout, avocado, cottage cheese, tomatoes, goats cheese and nuts. They have plenty of fruit, including the most heavenly poached fruit in a mix of cinnamon and other spices – I had apricots and figs which were delicious 🙂 You can order from a hot menu at a surcharge which includes a cooked breakfast and eggs. I was a little tempted as I love eggs and I’m in the habit of having them as part of my breakfast every day but given how carb obsessed I am I was more than happy to fill up on all of the cereal and breads. Their Bircher muesli is so tasty and they had a gluten free take on cornflakes made with corn which were amazing!
They also had bagels, rye bread, jams, marmalade and nut butter, so I was in heaven! Although the breakfast was amazing (and I was more than happy), I must admit that I don’t think it’s too much to ask for them to provide one cooked dish per person. They’re not expensive and I saw plenty of people ordering from the menu but I guess it’s just the principle, especially given that staying at Champneys isn’t really the most budget friendly of options.
After breakfast we relaxed by the pool before having a thalassotherapy pool session. Again it was something that I’d never done before but it was so relaxing. It’s done in small groups of 7 and there are 7 stations which you rotate around, each with different jets to massage different parts of the body. Then it was lunch time.. Tough life 😉 Lunch was another buffet and once again I was in food heaven! There was soup with bread, huge bowls of different types of salad and a hot section featuring a lamb tagine, fish, a bean chilli, rice and pasta, all of which were lovely. Not quite sticking to the Champneys portion control guidelines we ate until we were stuffed, but at least it was all good stuff 🙂
I have to say I absolutely love Champneys. To be honest I’m happy at any hotel – I just love staying away from home as its the perfect opportunity to relax and switch off without the nagging feeling of chores and work. I know that at Champneys you’re paying for the name but I love the little touches that they have around their resorts – they always have a lovely pool, fresh warm towels, a steam room, sauna, jacuzzi and beautiful grounds which make you feel as though you’re surrounded by endless countryside (even if you’re not!). The food is a lovely balance between healthy and delicious, with plenty of nutritious options without it feeling like you’re on some awful diet plan. Obviously the spa is amazing too and they have a lot of classes and talks planned – we didn’t actually go to any but I imagine if I went with friends I would. The best part is you can wander round the entire resort (including breakfast and lunch) in the fluffy dressing gowns and slippers that they give you, and because everyone else does you don’t feel remotely silly doing it – in fact you look odd if you’re in normal clothes! Talk about living the dream 😛
Despite both being Champneys spa resorts, the Henlow and Tring locations are pretty different. Both are set in big manor-type houses with standard rooms along long corridors but the one in Henlow feels a lot more old fashioned, and despite feeling completed relaxed it is only a minute away from the main road/shops. I think the pool is slightly larger and I do love how relaxed the little cafe upstairs is, but they don’t have any outdoor pool facilities like the resort at Tring does. There is a pretty waterfall and a small path outside which leads to a tennis court and a table tennis table but the grounds are noticeably smaller. Tring on the other hand feels a little more tucked away and it’s definitely more modern in design – it feels more luxurious in that sense, where Henlow is more homely.
There’s an outdoor hot tub and jacuzzi which are beautiful in summer, the grounds feel like they stretch on forever, and there are cute little pods with cushions which are perfect to nap in. There were also deckchairs around the jacuzzi outside and the cafe is a lot bigger, with an outdoor terrace overlooking the grounds. Perhaps not a direct comparison, as I think Henlow also had an outdoor terrace which I assume would have been open during summer, but out of the two Tring is definitely my favourite.
Plus the buffet was far more extensive with many more options – at breakfast there were more options around the bakery section with a selection of crackers, mini muffins and more types of bread. There were also more hot dishes and the variety of salads available at lunch was far bigger from what I remember!
If I had to choose one to go back to it would definitely be Tring, though both are beautiful in their own way, and there are two more as well around the country which look different again, so I’d love to visit those too 🙂 I love visiting new places so I think it’s great that they have different resorts, each with their own charm and individuality, whilst simultaneously providing the great quality and service for which Champney is so well renowned.
Link to their website: https://www.champneys.com