A perfect staycation in the Essex countryside at Channels Hotel.
I’m a Londoner through and through, and for me, life in the city has many advantages. During lockdown though, I’ve longed for a break in the countryside and plenty of fresh air. Since restrictions have been lifted and the hospitality trade has reopened, I’ve particularly enjoyed being able to take a few staycations within easy reach of the city. There’s so much to see within an hour of town.
On this occasion, I took a trip to Channels Country Estate in Little Waltham, Essex. Channels is 10 minutes from Chelmsford, an hour from London, and just 30 minutes drive to Stansted Airport. Set in the quiet countryside, it’s perfectly situated to explore Essex with the 18th-century Hylands House set amid vast parklands in Chelmsford and Chelmsford City Racecourse both nearby.
We were staying in Channels Lodge Hotel which provides boutique rooms in what was originally a 15th century Tudor farmhouse before becoming a family home. The rooms inside the main house are traditional with original 15th-century features, but if you prefer contemporary styling, the courtyard bedrooms are modern although still individual, with no two rooms the same.
We stayed in a spacious suite in the main house. Arriving after dark we were given a key and let ourselves into a beautiful peaked roof, wood-beamed bedroom, which was stylishly decorated in tones of beige and muted blues with a mix of old and contemporary furnishings in dark wood. The large king-size bed was resplendent with velvet striped headboard in shades of blue matching the soft furnishings, adorned with crisp white linen sheets and a soft fur throw adding a sumptuous feel.
The room was well equipped with a mini-fridge, tea, and coffee making facilities, and a large TV. The huge bathroom was pretty spectacular, with lovely old wooden floorboards and wooden shutters with a central claw foot rolltop bath, shower, and even an armchair and a pair of soft fluffy white gowns, perfect for luxuriating. Outside, there is a pretty courtyard garden furnished with a large table and chairs, and in better weather, you could enjoy the BBQ and sun loungers. There is also a landscaped hot tub large enough for up to six guests to unwind and relax.
Dinner was served in Bar & Brasserie restaurant, currently housed in a stunning historic brick-built barn that is normally used to host wedding parties. High peaked roof and stripped back beams hung with fairy lights give it an airy rustic feel. The expansive space makes it easy to keep tables at a good distance from each other and the staff were all wearing masks. We were given a warm welcome and the service was very friendly and helpful.
Motown was playing on the sound system as we browsed the Autumn Brasserie menu which offers a selection of classics as well as daily specials, together with a plant-based menu available for vegetarian diners.
Hungry from our drive, we tucked into a bowl of Sicilian green olives and some crusty grilled malted rye sourdough with a creamy Marmite butter which had an essence of umami.
Our meal was accompanied by a chilled bottle of Pouilly Fuissé, David Fagot 2017, a dry lean wine, with good minerality and notes of citrus.
We started with a sophisticated seafood plate – a mix of subtly cured seaweed salmon and authentic homemade soy and honey taramasalata with creamy buttermilk which was given a nice kick from the wasabi granola.
And, some delicious warming roasted butternut squash soup which was rich and velvety with a hint of sage – perfect hearty autumn fare.
For mains we ordered the miso blackened cod – a great piece of fish served with bok choy and soba noodle in a delicious spicy broth with crisp lotus.
And, a substantial 10 oz ribeye steak with thick-cut rustic chips, and a dainty jug of creamy peppercorn sauce on the side. This dish was normally served with vegetables but they happily gave me a mixed salad instead.
Puddings arrived in generous portions. My cherry Bakewell tart had springy almond sponge laced with glacé cherries topped with vanilla ice cream and a crisp caramel honeycomb.
Carrot cake is so yesterday… how about Parsnip cake instead? An unusual combination of parsnip caramel, light sponge, a crunch of honeycomb, and rich chocolate mousse made for a delicious mouthful.
After a good dinner, it was lovely to be available to walk across the courtyard back to the main house and settle comfortably for the night in our gorgeous room.
Breakfast was grab and go for us. There is an area downstairs in the main house which offers coffee teas, juices, fruit, cereals, toast, and pastries. We took ours to our room where we were able to relax before hitting the road.
Channels Hotel makes for a perfect staycation and would be ideal for a family gathering, or romantic break. It would also work well as a place to stay if you were flying from Stansted and wanted an overnight stop before an early flight or on the way home from an evening flight.
I would love to have had more time to explore the local area and beautiful surrounding countryside but hey ho, London called. Until next time!
Chelmsford CM3 3PT
Phone: 01245 440003
Looking for something different? We can also recommend Down Hall Country House Hotel in Essex
Disclosure: We were guests of Channels Hotel, but all content is editorially given.