A Shropshire Sojourn with SPAshell:
Fishmore Hall is a rather lovely boutique country house hotel in beautiful Shropshire. Like many fine English houses, it served its time as a school, then fell derelict and unloved until rescued by its current owner, Laura Penman. Laura has a wonderful eye, and although this is a country house hotel, there is nothing twee about the decor. Instead, it’s stylish with lovely quirky details, as can be seen in my photos of our bedroom. The bathroom was massive with a huge walk-in shower and a deep bath; this would have been perfect to sink into after a long country walk, but I have to admit to not being that energetic during our visit!
As lovely as our room was, we were here to sample the new SPAshell facility. This is an incredibly clever idea for small boutique hotels such as Fishmore Hall, the spa is a built off-site and doesn’t need foundations, and once on-site only takes a couple of days to install. For the owners of hotels, being able to avoid that level of building disruption must be heaven sent.
Fishmore Hall has opted for the model with four treatment rooms, together with a thermal suite consisting of a sauna and steam room. This is Alex relaxing outside the thermal suite before in his words ‘handing in his man badge’ and succumbing to the luxury of a facial! The spa provides the robes, towels and slippers. The spa uses Elemis products, which I find always smell lovely and actually do what they are supposed to. If you want to use the thermal suite/hot tub you need to remember to bring a swimming costume. If like me, you forget, there are 1 or 2 piece black ‘proper’ costumes for sale at a very reasonable £25.
We both had a 50-minute long facial. Alex was asked what he normally exfoliates with; it seems that ‘a brick’ was a surprising answer! I found mine to be incredibly relaxing and soothing, the treatment room itself immaculate, and my skin glowed with health afterwards.
Outside there is a lovely private relaxation area complete with a hot tub, hammock, and sun loungers. This overlooks the beautiful countryside, and it really did feel like a haven of peace and relaxation, just what we needed after a busy period of work and a lot of home renovations.
You don’t have to stay at the hotel to use the SPAShell; there are afternoon tea, celebration, or hen party packages also available. This would be a very nice treat for a special occasion, or for the bridal party to bond before the big day. But let’s not be sexist here, there are plenty of treatments for the men too, and with men increasingly understanding the need for moisturiser this would also be a good place for the chaps to ready themselves for a big day.
We were staying , though, and took advantage of dinner in Forelles restaurant. We started with an aperitif in the bar whilst we scanned the menu.
If you are a fan of ‘The Great British Menu’, you may have seen Head Chef Andrew Birch on a recent episode. There are a variety of tasting menus on offer, both with and without matched wines. We opted for the 3-course menu, but were offered lots of little ‘extra’ courses! To start with we were presented with some dainty cheese choux pastries and pork croquettes with an apple sauce. What can I say? They were delicious, especially the little croquettes.
And then, were spoilt again with braised quinoa, smoked yoghurt and aubergine. This was simply stunning, and again completely additional to the meal that we hadn’t yet officially started! This dish appears on the vegetarian tasting menu.
I chose hand-dived Orkney scallops, with Ras el Hanout, cauliflower, apple and coriander. These were large, sweet, caramelised slightly on the outside with a cumin coating, and so soft in the middle. I was worried that the coriander might be overpowering, but all the flavours were very delicate and it was utterly delicious.
Alex was curious about the Welsh Wagyu and opted for the Welsh Wagyu steak tartare served with cured egg yolk, chives and capers. He declared himself impressed.
We were then presented with a palate cleanser before being served our main courses. A tiny lemon meringue, with the meringue reminding me of the iced gem sweets of my childhood.
After my scallop starter I had wanted something meaty, and conversely after his meat starter Alex wanted fish. I chose loin of venison served with cavolo nero, Jerusalem artichoke, Chestnuts and Ceps. This was a perfect earthy autumn dish and sums up modern British food for me – great ingredients and great flavours combined with skill.
Alex chose the plaice, which was served on a bed of smoked bacon, baby onions, girolles and Mustard Velouté. This was both delicate and very rich simultaneously.
I’m a huge lover of British cheeses and so chose 5 from the selection of 10 on offer; my only minor criticism was that I thought that they should have be plated in order of strength from mild to strong. They were very good though, particularly accompanied with a glass of tawny port.
Alex couldn’t resist the salted caramel fondant, and it did look pretty spectacular.
It was a lovely meal, and certainly, a restaurant that I would be visiting in its own right if I lived in Ludlow vicinity. Despite the lovely dinner, we did manage the Shropshire breakfast too!
The hotel is about a mile from the town centre, so the next day we went into town and spent some time in the many antique shops, this has to be one of the prettiest town centres in the country I think.
There is also a foodie market, and a butchers shop specialising in game where I bought 3 brace of pheasant for £10, which works out as £1.66 per bird. In London I’d have to pay a lot more than this.
We also window shopped for properties in the area. This one is on the market currently for £1 million; it boasts Catherine of Aragon as one of its past residents and is next to Ludlow Castle. I wonder if planning permission to turn it into a B&B would be granted? I can dream, can’t I?
We were guests of Fishmore Hall.
Fishmore Road, Ludlow
Shropshire, SY8 3DP
Telephone: 01584 875148
Fax: 01584 877907