Stuck in traffic on a wet autumn day on the M27, it was hard to believe that a little bit of Thailand was supposedly just the other side of a hotel door. Even if one squinted really, really hard through a misty windscreen, there was no way the Hampshire village of Brockenhurst was a Koh Samui wonderland. Careys looks the red-brick Victorian manor it aspires to be – from the outside and lobby, at least.
Careys Manor is a four star hotel with a cutting-edge, award-winning, Thai-flavoured spa. It cannot be faulted; it’s up there with the best of them. Think whirlpool, saunas, steam rooms and relaxation rooms, with guests wafting about serenely. It’s the kind of place you dream of escaping to on a stressful and dismal London day.
But if you want maximum effect, don’t enter the hotel through the modern extension from the car park. If you’re here for a corporate do, ensure guests and colleagues enter through the main reception, which, with open fire and oak paneling is both snug and a bit grand at the same time.
Unfortunately, the communal areas of the hotel, which has 78 bedrooms and suites across the main Victorian building and its modern extension, are outmoded and tired-looking – it’s all a bit 1995.
MT stayed in a comfortable Oakwood Garden room in the modern part of the hotel. The decoration is straightforward, catalogue smart so don’t go expecting any quirky touches or shabby chic. The bed is comfortable, as is the bathroom, and the view from the Juliette doors across the hotel’s traditional gardens is pleasing.
Yet the rooms are simply an aside to the main action - the spa. From the welcoming staff and starchy-white waffle dressing gowns, to the amazing hydrotherapy pool and pristine treatment rooms there is nothing you won’t like. Instead of indulging in a lie-in in the huge double bed, you’ll find yourself choosing to get up before dawn just to squeeze an extra hour getting steamed and pummelled before breakfast.
And that brings us to the food. MT was sorry it missed the Thai lunch at the spa’s Zen Garden restaurant as the word on the street was that it’s very good, but the breakfast there was a letdown. The coffee was weak and gritty, and the fresh orange juice, which was on the breakfast menu, wasn’t available because the daily delivery of oranges had yet to arrive (it was 9 o’clock in the morning). The pains aux chocolats looked and weighed like sausage rolls. But the scrambled eggs and smoked salmon were a treat.
Dinner the previous evening at the hotel’s Manor Restaurant was also a mixed affair. The décor is an acquired taste. The carpet was pink, there was an odd champagne display slung in the middle of the room, and the food was presented on enough slate to tile your bathroom with. However, a lovely Val Doonican doppelganger tickled the ivories, and, when the service was good, it was very good. Starters of pork belly (£12) and scallops (£17) were delicious (though should be at the price). But the venison with curried beetroot puree was just plain weird, and the rump steak (£27) was a bit dry and chewy.
Overall, make the most of the spa and wake up in lovely surroundings.
An ‘Autumn Glow Spa Break’ at Careys Manor including overnight accommodation, breakfast, full access to the health club & award winning SenSpa hydrotherapy facilities, as well as a free 60 minute treatment* is available From £159 per person, you can also add £50 per person for dinner. Valid until 30th Nov.
*Treatment must be chosen at the time of reservation. Choose from any 1 hour Massage, Facial, Body Polish, Body Wraps, Manicure or Pedicure. Supplement applies for Hot Stone Massage and Pure Spa Treatments.