REVIEW | Ye Olde Bell Hotel & Spa – Sheffield
Get all your spa needs in one Bell swoop
Ye Olde Bell must have been listening to my prayers because it felt like I had literally won the golden ticket when they got in touch inviting me for a kid-free spa weekend. Jaded by pregnancy and the whirlwind of baby twins, I had literally been waiting for a weekend like this for a what seems a lifetime. Relaxation, pamper, food, wine and agood nights’ sleep. I couldn’t help but set high expectations for what Ye Olde Bell was going to offer me.
We didn’t have the best start to our weekend of dreams. I hate being late for anything, so when we got stuck on the delightful A1 after dropping the girls at my parents in York, I was unnecessarily a bit worked up. But we arrived, eventually, and with my swim cozzie at the ready, we headed straight to the spa.
Designed to make you feel amazing
I’ve become a bit of a wannabe building engineer geek, after working at a design consultancy for over a decade, so I do notice when something has been well thought out. Wellbeing must have been at the forefront of the building’s design, as the reception’s lofted ceilings and big windows let the sunshine pour into the welcoming open-plan reception and bar. The warm lighting, comfy seats and gentle hum of activity helped fizzle away our flustered morning of road closures and traffic.
My husband, Warren, and I were greeted by big smiles from Angela and Jerry, who got the essentials sorted with minutes (lunch selection and drinks obviously) and we sunk into our chairs by a modern open fire and tried to figure the last time we had a kid-free weekend away.
Due to the morning’s mishaps, we were straight into our lunch sitting. Not quite how I had planned the day, but the crisp white Sauv Blanc was a nice compensation for the lack of spa action in the morning.
Food is a deal breaker for me. No matter how good any experience is, if the food is not up to scratch it taints everything. However, this need not be a concern when at Ye Olde Bell, as from start to finish the food was fantastic.
The three-course lunchtime treat is designed to cater for all. With different tiers of dishes depending on your purpose of being in the spa, they offered a variety of options ranging from light healthy dishes to more substantial, indulgent courses.
The Herb Garden Brasserie was filled with the warmth of the sun coming through the big windows that looked onto the outdoor element of the spa, and the open kitchen at the end of the room. Although the restaurant was fairly modest in size, acoustically you didn’t overhear conversations of tables nearby, so we basked in the sun, sipping a cold beer and wine and wondered what the hell we were going to talk about over the weekend without four-year-old chipping in every few moments.
I usually skip bread when we are out for a meal, but when some Indian curried bread was popped on our table there was no way I could resist trying it. This might sound over-the-top for a piece of bread, but seriously it was a fluffy and light slice of bliss, which smothered in salty butter was a true taste sensation. Warren has a habit of eating quick, so I made sure I got my quota of the bread because there was no way I was losing out to the gannet.
Our culinary experience in the brasserie was delightful. There was a lot of effort put into the presentation and putting a number of ingredients into each course to give you a variety of flavours and textures.
Warren’s pigeon salad starter was his food heaven of our lunchtime sitting. The tender bird accompanied with crispy pancetta and little blobs of beetroot jelly was perfection. My fishcake starter was light, warm and accompanied by the gherkins, capers and smooth pea puree made it a very enjoyable dish.
Our main courses were a little heavier, Warren ordered the chicken wellington with mash potato – anything with pastry gets the thumbs up from him. I opted for pork fillet, which in essence was an elegant roast dinner. The veg was crisp but not greasy from fat and the twins would have whipped their gums around the really sweet parsnips if they were given the opportunity.
After two courses we decided to turn down a dessert. Crazy, I know! We both felt comfortably satisfied, which for a man with a big appetite is saying something! Plus we wanted to hit the spa and make up for the lost time.
Switch off in the spa
I really struggle to switch off. My brain goes 100mph from the moment I wake up, until I go to bed, and quite honestly drives Warren mad. So as much as I love going to a spa, it doesn’t come naturally to me, to sit back and relax and forget about my to-do-list and worries.
At Ye Olde Bell Spa there is so much on offer, that even for the more energetic person, there are plenty of different treatments to keep you easily occupied for a few hours without any need to read a book or have a snooze.
After an introduction to the immaculate and modern facilities, we decided to work our way through the thermal rooms, which all were heated and scented differently, working the heat up the further you went around.
This might sound a little bizarre, but it was quite a theatrical experience at the spa. I was ooing and aaing in the “Stonebath”, as a cage of burning hot stones was raised out of a covered cave then sizzled as they were dropped into a large bucket of water, followed by shrieks (literally) as I braved the “snowstorm walk” to close my pores. I let Warren give the tropical rainstorm a go (drowned-dog-look isn’t my bag when at a plush spa), and we both sat looking at the live salt wall contemplating if it doing any wonder to our beings.
And this was just the beginning! The steam room is a place where I really feel myself relaxing, taking in deep breaths of the menthol steam and enjoying the darkness filled with twinkly lights. I then gave my feet a treat in the foot spa before we both immersed ourselves into the pool.
The vitality pool is purely for leisure not laps, so we bobbed around for easily 45 minutes trying out all the different bubble features inside and out. Despite it being a nippy but sunny day, we were able to enjoy the outside of the pool and I even braved some of the outdoor areas wrapped in a humongous robe and thick fleecy blanket. The stone heated sun loungers were great for keeping me warm, and the cosy little snug would have been the perfect hangout spot should Warren been manly enough to get out of the pool. The fire pit shelters were hung with fairy lights, so I imagine it is the perfect romantic getaway if you end up going for a twilight spa experience.
It is honestly amazing what taking a break does to your soul. Enjoying time with Warren on a Saturday afternoon, where we just got to chill and talk nonsense felt like something we hadn’t done for a lifetime. Being at a spa just made it quite honestly an amazing treat.
Ye Olde Bell has definitely focused on quality for the spa experience. The spa was fully booked, yet at no point felt overcrowded.
Combined with the spacious facilities, you never felt you were stepping on other people’s territory or waiting for someone else to finish what they were doing. All the facilities were top notch. You could tell it was kitted out with high-end gear, and the little touches of glitter and sparkle made the spa feel above and beyond by a long way what you get down your local Virgin gym.
A new man
Warren is a typical bloke. There is no feminine side to him whatsoever, so when I said a full body massage had been booked for him, he, let’s say, was more than a little reluctant. But before he had the chance to wiggle his way out of it, we were greeted with gentle smiles from the treatment staff and were taken to our double room for our session.
Despite opting for a facial, my treatment started with pinders (crushed volcanic stones heated up in a slowly) that were placed across me slowly to gently release some of the many pressures, stresses and strains in my body. Ruth has hands like the sea, creating waves (god knows how) that rippled across my face. I’ve never experienced anything like this before, but I could have literally laid there all day and not complained. Magic. She released pressure across my shoulders and finished with some neck stretches using a hot towel. It’s amazing how tense you can be from day-to-day life without realising it. I felt lighter and happier for having the treatment.
And Warren…. Is a convert!! Hand on my heart, he absolutely loved it and said it was the best thing about our whole stay at Ye Old Bell. I did try to extract from him what was so good about it, but unfortunately, he is not a man of many words, so all I can say is you’ll have to go for a massage to try it yourself!
Once we had been pampered and pummelled, we sadly said goodbye to the spa but a massive HELLO to the hotel. Overnight stays are few and far between, and even more rare to not be squashing beds and kids into every crevice of a room. So excited was an understatement, I literally skipped across the car park into the hotel.
Ye Olde Bell has had many purposes over the years but was originally built in the 17th century as a farm. But as it was located midway on the Great North Road between London and Edinburgh, it became a well-known hotel for highwaymen and stagecoaches. Seeped in history, there has been a conscious effort to retain some of its legacies, the traditional interiors and pictures help create a hotel that is far from the mass-built chains that litter every city. The brown leather seats, open fires and mahogany throughout, made it the perfect place to spend a wintery evening.
A swift check-in and we followed the winding staircases and corridors to our room for the evening. The room had plenty of space and was gently lit with uplighters. The plum and brown hues and period décor made it a relaxing environment. Fluffy white towels, modern bathroom and firm but comfy bed, had all the essentials we needed.
But more focused on the evening ahead, I unpacked our bag and started deciding on my outfit and makeup for the evening.
The hotel bar ticked all the boxes for us. It had a traditional pub feel but was far from a sticky carpet and a jar of pickled eggs kind of establishment. It felt elegant yet wasn’t pretentious. There were plenty of seats, enough people drinking (but not too many), a good selection of beers on tap and gins on the shelf to keep us busy, and champagnes should we feel a little flush later on. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.
With an hour spare before dinner, we got settled at our table and enjoyed a few early evening drinks. By 7pm the bar was filling up and a friendly waiter came over with the menus so we could select our food before going into the restaurant. There was plenty on the AA rosette menu to pick, and I had to really debate what to go for.
The restaurant was broken into a number of small pockets of dining areas with traditional partitions, so we had a nice private spot where other people were nearby but in no way near enough to hear our giddy conversation of eating out without children coming out of our ears.
I opted for lobster bisque to start, which smooth and delicious, with flakey chunks of cod and lobster. Warren opted for scallops with cauliflower, and both were light and packed with flavour.
But the stand-out dish of the meal was Warren’s fillet steak. As a self-certified steak connoisseur, he has eaten a lot over the years and he far from minces his words, so when he said “it is the best steak I’ve eaten in a very long time”, you know it must have been good. Not only did it taste good, but it was also flipping massive! The biggest fillet steak I’ve ever seen dished up in a restaurant. Accompanied by some double cooked chips, he was more than satisfied with his main course.
My venison medallions came with anna potatoes, crispy and creamy baby aubergine. Classic food cooked perfectly, which went very nicely with a bottle of the fruit house red and left just the right amount of space for an indulgent pudding.
Which was a good job, since my absolute fav pudding was one the menu. Sticky toffee pudding. I’ve eaten my fair share of sticky toffee puds in my time, and this was a good one. Rather than something creamy accompanying the dessert, Ye Olde Bell put a toffee sorbet alongside the drenched sponge, which melted the moment it touched my tongue. It was a refreshing change to normal and I loved it, and was my favourite food moment of the whole weekend.
Our obsession with a cheese board is far from healthy, we just can’t turn down a pokey cheddar or creamy blue, and we’ve eaten our weight in cheese a fair few times over the years. The unusual lemon cheese was a welcomed change and a nice integration between dessert and savoury, and the blue cheese was right up our street and went well the remainder of our bottle of red. It was a really decent portion of cheese, which could have satisfied two people who wanted to finish their meal on a savoury note.
But our evening didn’t finish there! A few drinks down us, and absolutely no chance of an early wake-up call we had to finish the evening with a couple of gins, so we did just that. After selecting a number of different tipples, we settled on the Bathtub gin and staggered to bed about midnight.
Service With A Smile
Staying at Ye Olde Bell for the weekend was a dream come true. The spa is top notch, the hotel welcoming and inviting, and the food was satisfying. But what stood out consistently throughout the weekend was how lovely all the staff were. Everyone we had the pleasure of talking to was, was so nice, genuine and friendly. It topped off what was already a fantastic weekend, but certainly gave Ye Olde Bell an edge that you don’t always see in hotels.
Thank you to Ye Olde Bell, I feel very lucky to have been invited to stay. And thank you to my parents who were brave enough to have the four-month-old twins and a four-year-old overnight!! Legends.
Spa packages start at £85 and hotel rooms from £135. For more information see www.yeoldebell-hotel.co.uk/
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