The Spa Hotel ’ s history is a long one , and with luminaries such as Princess ( later Queen ) Victoria staying there , it has always been something of a star in Tunbridge Wells ’ crown . It first opened as a hotel in 1880 , but had been a country retreat long before that , with the owner , Major Yorke , happily enjoying the fact that Victoria wanted to stay with them in order to enjoy the famous Chalybeate Spring . And since visitors still flock to Tunbridge Wells , it is no surprise that the Spa Hotel is thriving .
After a friendly welcome , we went up to our room to drop off our bags and generally have a bit of a nose around . As we neared the door , we could already see that something a bit exceptional was ahead of us – our room was set apart from the others , entered by climbing a little set of steps . There had to be something gorgeously opulent behind that door , the door to room 216 . And there was . This was more than a mere room , much more than a box with a bed and a bathroom . This was stunning . Not just a bedroom , there was a living area too , and , had we been staying longer , I ’ m sure it would have been a joy to relax in it a little more .
The bed was so comfortable that just testing it out was enough to tell us that that night ’ s sleep was going to be a good one . Decorated in cool blues and creams , the room was a dream . And the bathroom , with its deep , dark walls and large bath was sheer luxury . I spent a lot longer in that incredible shower than I needed to , and it was worth every second .
Opening up the balcony doors , we stepped out onto a small area that held a table and two chairs , perfect for enjoying a glass of wine and looking out onto the grounds of the hotel . From there we could also see the swimming pool , which reminded us that we really should go and try it out .
The steam room was what really beckoned , and that ’ s where we headed first once we made our way down to the spa . The steam room is big enough to stretch out in , but small enough not to feel lost in , which can be the downfall of these particular luxuries . Next , feeling altogether more refreshed and energised , we tried the pool itself . Another bright room , with large windows that allow for natural light to enter along one side , we could quite happily have spent hours in there . But of course , there was the sauna to consider . And consider it we did . Unlike the single steam room , there are two saunas – one for men , one for women – but , just like the steam room , they were both the ideal places to enjoy a bit of quiet ‘ me time ’.
All too soon it was time to leave but , on the positive side , we were leaving because we had a table booked for dinner in the hotel ’ s brasserie , Zagatos .
Zagatos is informal , relaxed , and there is plenty of choice when it comes to good food and drink . Since we stayed on a Sunday , roasts played an important part on the mouthwatering menu , but that was by no means the only option . For my starter I picked the salmon fishcake with tangy , homemade gribiche sauce , and my guest had the farmhouse terrine with apply chutney . Both were delicious . The fishcake was soft and expertly seasoned without too much potato stealing flavour away from the salmon itself , and the terrine was rugged and rustic yet the added touch of the chutney gave it all a refined air .
This was followed by the roast sirloin of beef for my guest , and the smoked haddock for me . What a roast it was ! The plate came loaded with all the trimmings including an impressive Yorkshire pudding and lashings of gravy , and the beef was as it should have been – melt in the mouth and as juicy as could be . As for the haddock , not only was the fish cooked to perfection , but the addition of the poached egg which oozed yolky goodness all over the plate and the excellent mustard sauce made it incredibly moreish . I didn ’ t quite lick the plate clean , but I ’ ll admit that I was sorely tempted …
Dessert was just as wonderful as the rest of the meal – chocolate fondant for him , a generous slab of treacle tart for me , although in the end we did share , as it ’ s the right thing to do when pudding is on the table . The fondant had a soft , sticky centre and a light fluffy exterior which was surprisingly rich and ultimately gorgeous . The treacle tart was a proper oldfashioned wedge served with crème fraîche and toasted macadamias and , although utterly full up , we polished off the lot .
And so to bed . The enormous bed was just as comfortable as it had looked when we first saw it , and after all that swimming and relaxing and eating , it was the ideal spot to rest our weary , happy heads .