Petwood Hotel, Woodhall Spa
Walking through the doors at the Petwood feels like coming home to a grand country house with a friendly feel. The real Christmas trees and open fires warmly welcome visitors and the festive menus offer a taste of Christmas with a nod to the excitement to come, finds Katrina Burrill.
The splendid gardens are fabulous to explore at any time of year, so be sure to pack your boots and enjoy a stroll around the Petwood grounds and woods – perfect for capturing the imagination of mini explorers. Whether walking through Woodhall’s pinewoods after a film at the Kinema, or making use of the play equipment across the road at Jubilee Park, the Petwood makes a perfect finish to a family day out in Woodhall Spa.
From Saturday 1st to Monday 24th December, you can enjoy some delectable Christmas treats in the Terrace Bar. See the website www.petwood.co.uk for more details of festive bar lunches, Champagne Christmas Afternoon Teas and Christmas Sunday lunches. Add to the mix some mince pies and mulled wine, festive local ales and boozy hot chocolates, and there is a warming yuletide treat for everyone.
For families getting together prior to Christmas and wanting to experience the fun and food without the organising and washing up, why not consider hiring a private room? The Squadron Bar seats up to sixteen people and the Garden Room up to twenty-five, both of which are available for exclusive use.
The building dates back to 1905 when it was built for Baroness Grace van Eckhardstein. In subsequent years it was used as a convalescence hospital, during WW1, before opening as a hotel in 1933 when the then Lady Grace Weigall and her husband moved to their other house in Ascot. Probably the most famous connection to the Petwood is 617 Squadron, the Dambusters. Today the hotel’s Squadron Bar hosts memorabilia relating to the squadron.
It’s a rare treat to visit the Petwood during the winter months. I usually only make it over to this wonderful village each July when they host the popular 1940s festival, and we get to enjoying live music and dancing on the terrace.
My guest and I visited on a Thursday night and it was already popular with diners and hotel guests. The dining room takes you back to the early twentieth century, with delicate wood panelling and beams. We were seated and offered a drink from the maitre d’ whilst we perused the menu. For evening dining, guests are offered a choice of two or three courses and we had both made sure we were ready for three courses.
After our order was taken, our waitress brought over the bread of the day which included an onion loaf, white and wholemeal loaf and white baguette. Our starters arrived quickly and we were both looking forward to tucking in. I had chosen the tempura scallops which were served with a scallop roe pâté and deep fried sweetened kale. A favourite of mine, the dish was cooked perfectly. It is always a testament to the chef to be able to understand their products and know the perfect time to bring them out of the fryer ready for serving. My guest chose the Emmental Beignets, which were deep fried Emmental cheese choux buns, with a red chilli and coriander jelly. Again these were cooked to perfection and both the portion sizes were perfect, leaving us ready for our next courses.
It wasn’t long before our main courses arrived. This time I chose the pan fried duck breast with a maple and marinated cherry sauce, served with a potato terrine and grilled pak choi. I am one of those people who prefer their meat to be pink to allow all the flavours to truly shine, and for me this was cooked perfectly. Having the ability to be able to use influences aside from traditional British fare in cooking again shows off the creative talents of the chef.
My colleague opted for the grilled pork loin with compote of mixed beetroots, new potatoes and Braeburn apple. The dish was served in a broth which accompanied the vegetables perfectly. The pork was juicy, again something that is hard to achieve, and the chef created a traditional diamond pattern, something that perhaps reflects the history of the hotel. Again the portion size of both of these dishes was perfect and left us ready to sample the dessert menu.
Dessert was a tough decision this time. Usually I would go for a chocolate option, and the menu did have dark chocolate torte, but I was struggling to decide between the puff pastry apple crumble and another favourite, the crème brûlée. It wasn’t until the waiter arrived that I finally opted for the crème brûlée, served with a blueberry and mixed berry gin sour. The filling was deliciously soft and the perfect end to the meal. Unfortunately I was driving so was unable to drink the gin, but I did manage all the soaked berries, which was a great addition to the crème brûlée.
My guest chose the strawberry and white chocolate mousse encased in a strawberry gel, garnished with a pistachio sponge and white chocolate snow. All these elements were well prepared and wonderfully presented.
Whether you are looking for lunch, dinner or afternoon tea, or an overnight stay, there is plenty of choice for all at the Petwood Hotel.