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Gourmet Getaway, The Belfry Hotel & Resort

Dine and snooze at this 4* top golf, leisure and spa resort in the North Warwickshire countryside. Like we did...

Known for its world-class golf and 1 AA Rosette fine dining, this 319-room ivy-covered 4* country house set in 550-acres of beautiful North Warwickshire countryside on the West Midlands/Warwickshire border has a knock out 6-course gourmet Tasting Evening once a month. Muddy checks in…

 

THE LOWDOWN

The Lobby

Famous for hosting the Ryder Cup four times, the first thing you notice about this award-winning resort hotel is just how big the place is. You can get virtually get lost. Inside there’s two restaurants, The Ryder Grill offering fine dining and more relaxed Ryder Kitchen serving a 3-course buffet, as well as Rocca’s Pizza Pasta restaurant in the Leisure Club, Sam’s Club House – the sports bar, the Brabazon Bar, (best for champagne, cocktails, afternoon tea and coffee), and Bel Air Nightclub. The Belfry Spa underwent a £1m refurbishment in 2014 and includes 16 treatment rooms and a Fire & Ice experience (*I’ll be reviewing this separately).

Outside is one of the top 100 UK and Ireland ranking golf courses which is wonderful to look at. The Belfry has been named England’s Leading Resort at The World Travel Awards for 4 consecutive years.

 

THE LOCATION

On the West Midlands/Warwickshire border in the North Warwickshire village of Wishaw, close to Sutton Coldfield. A stone’s throw away from Birmingham (around 20 mins), 40 minutes to Rugby, Leamington Spa, Warwick and 45-minutes to Stratford-upon-Avon. The most convenient train station is Birmingham International from where you can get a taxi (roughly £20 -£25 each way).

 

THE VIBE

A modern red brick resort hotel with manicured gardens, fountains, conference facilities and three world-class golf courses. It has a county-clubbish feel to it in places with doormen in the entrance lobby but it’s relaxed and unpretentious with super-helpful staff. The friendly, informed and welcoming staff make the experience.

The vibe is very different in the daytime to evening. During lunchtime you can barely get a seat in the Brabazon Bar – The Belfry’s domed champagne and cocktail area. Dotted on tables throughout this large cafe/bar were business meetings, remote workers on laptops drinking coffee and groups of ladies enjoying Afternoon Tea. The Spa was a hive of activity too with groups of friends and mums and daughters on a pampering mission sitting outside in white robes enjoying the hot sunshine, and the odd bottle of Prosecco. There was also a big golfing day event underway while we were there, predominantly all-male, but I did spot quite a few wives and girlfriends.

The bar was pretty lively in the evening, even though it was mid-week. Regular entertainment includes live lounge and tribute nights – Boyzlife (comprising of former Boyzone & Westlife members Keith Duffy and Brian McFadden) are already booked for Christmas party season on December 21.

Outside the hotel, it’s a breath of fresh air – literally. Fields and greenery as far as the eye can see across the golf courses and grounds.

 

PILLOW TALK

I took my mum away for the night here. We stayed in the well-appointed Wentworth Suite on the second floor, which was massive, and really well thought out. You walk into a roomy lounge with corner sofa in front of a large HD Freeview flat-screen TV and patio doors opening out onto a balcony terrace with views across the golf course. It’s screened by a row of trees, giving a feeling of privacy. Here’s a sneak peek…

I worked my way through some reading material on the balcony terrace…

Our modern luxury bedroom was L-shaped with a second wall-mounted flat-screen TV, wardrobe and the comfiest, biggest bed evahhhh.  The sleek en-suite had a bath and fab walk-in shower. Styling, neutral with light coloured walls, and coordinated patterned furnishings. The only thing I had a slight issue with was the coffee machine, as the instructions weren’t too clear. A very jolly chambermaid demonstrated how it worked and even made us a cuppa which we enjoyed on the sunny terrace before a trip to the spa. There’s 24-hour room service, slippers and Belfry robe in the wardrobe so you can kick back and chill.

Complimentary ESPA toiletries

Opposite there’s fabulous walk-in shower

 

SCOFF 

My mum and I weren’t here to perfect our swing but to check out the seasonal 6-course menu held once a month in the à la carte restaurant. Executive Head Chef Robert Bates has previously worked in several Michelin starred restaurants and hotels across the UK, France and Monte-Carlo, he was also a consultant chef to top French-born restaurateur Albert Roux.

His new head chef is Tamworth lad, Ryan Swift. He spent many happy years working at Leamington Spa’s Mallory Court with Simon Haigh, as well as head chef roles at Hampton Manor’s Michelin starred Peel’s restaurant, the Edgbaston hotel, and pastry chef at Michelin Star restaurant Hambleton Hall in Rutland, East Mids.

The Ryder Grill is a light, airy and attractive modern space with high ceilings, a mix of plain light sage green walls, patterned wallpaper and tiling decorated with picture frames, rustic circular mirrors and my favourite design feature – these very striking glass bottle light fittings. Food is locally-produced and seasonal.

Photo courtesy of Louise-James-Weddings-by-Nicola-and-Glen

It was a gorgeous balmy evening and we sat by the window overlooking the Brabazon golf course, which runs as far as the eye can see, and a buzzy open-air Golfing Day BBQ and drinks on the outdoor terrace. There was a gorgeous sunset. We were staying over on a Thursday evening, so it was less busy than normal with a family celebration and a splattering of couples enjoying a romantic dinner. Over the weekend, Friday – Sunday, you need to book a table as it gets pretty busy, Friday and Saturday night in particular.

Mamma Mia: My mum admiring the view…

When it comes to the Tasting Menu oooh, you’ll be spoilt. Strap yourself in for a wild gastronomic ride…where new Head Chef Ryan exercises his imagination with flavoursome dishes.

We started with Ricotta, garlic and watercress. The freshly-made pasta was smooth, fresh and buttery – perfect with the crisp watercress.

Our second course, Salmon, Beetroot and Horseradish looked like a carefully composed painting. I’ve never had freshly sliced Horseradish before but it was really refreshing, the salmon was Japanese sashimi-style. Light and tender, this dish was just right for a summer’s day.

Skate is a fish I’m not very familiar with, and my mum needed to be converted. It was crispy on top, tender and cooked with sweetcorn and capers in a delicious tasty sauce. We were both pleasantly surprised. Carlos, our Portuguese waiter, told us growing up in a harbourside fishing port, Skate was one of his favourite and the best part was eating the bones. Mum and I didn’t go that far…

My mum loved the fourth course – Lamb, Peas, Mint and Feta. The two pieces of lamb were cooked in different styles, one was rare and the other was Pulled Lamb. She said it melted in the mouth and enjoyed the pea puree. Chef had also knocked up a stunning alternate dish for non-meat eaters, Bangalore Curried Monkish, with steamed spinach, charred cauliflower and coconut slices. It was out-of-this world!

The first of two desserts was Cherry, Kirsch and Vanilla Ice-cream…

Lemon, Blueberry, Earl Grey on an Almond base was the very pretty and slightly unusual sixth and final course. You can tell just how warm it was as the ice-cream had already started to melt. The subtle Earl Grey Bergamot flavours really seeped through. The contrast of flavours throughout the Tasting Menu was exceptional and the small portion-sizes mean you don’t walk away feeling mega-full.

A buffet breakfast offering continental and Full-English choices, was served in the Ryder Kitchen, with its huge barrel lights and white wood beamed ceiling the next morning.

 

QUAFF

Carlos, our warm, knowledgeable, enthusiastic (oh and did I mention, rather good-looking!) waiter had worked out a wine flight to complement each dish including an Italian rose, Marotti Campi, Lacrime Rosata, with our pasta starter and a glass of £108-a-bottle of Laurent Perrier Cuvee Rose Brut NV Champagne (pictured below) with the salmon.  The Ara Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand went very well with the Skate and we had a French red, Les Roches Beaujolais to accompany the Lamb/Monkfish, rounding off with a sweet dessert wine and cocktail – Bellini or Pimm’s with lemonade.

Carlos did a superb job of looking after us. He has a real expertise and passion for food, especially seafood and previously worked in Estiatorio Milos, the Greek fish restaurant in London’s Regent Street that originated in Montreal in 1979, and has opened outposts in New York, Athens, Miami and Las Vegas. He and his wife made the decision to move over here from Portugal with their son are very pleased they did.  It was one of his last shifts as he was moving onto pastures new and am sure he’ll be greatly missed!

 

KID-FRIENDLY

Keep the mudlets entertained at The National Sea life Centre in Birmingham city centre

A resounding yessss! Considering a child-friendly break over the summer holidays?  If you take up the summer holiday offer adults can stay from £55 and kids can stay and eat for free in Rocca’s Pizza Restaurant, plus a complimentary round on the Ryder Legends Mini Golf pitch-and-put course. Signature Family Rooms are stylish lodges close to the playground, a 2km woodland walk and playing field. There’s also a fully supervised indoor swimming pool, sport holiday camp (for ages 6 – 13) and Ofsted-registered crèche (for children between 8 weeks and 7-years-old).

 

OUT & ABOUT

The Mailbox

Nearby local family attractions include Cadbury World, Drayton Manor Theme Park (includes Thomas Land) and Twycross Zoo. Birmingham is 20 minutes away with the National Sea Life Centre, the iconic Library of Birmingham, Symphony Hall and Town Hall, and the excellent contemporary art gallery Icon (below).

It’s great for the NEC, Genting Arena & Resort World. theatres, shopping, gigs, comedy, museums, indie cinemas, Jewellery Quarter and the independent creative quarter, Custard Factory. The RSC’s Matilda is currently on tour at Birmingham Hippodrome over the summer holidays until September 8. Just up the road from The Belfry in sought-after Sutton Coldfield is one of the largest urban SSI parks in Europe. It sprawls across the suburb with wild deer roaming its 2,400 acres. A good resource with maps, guides and latest what’s on in the UK’s second city is: visitbirmingham

MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Overnight escapees, a romantic gourmet weekend, golf lovers, Sunday lunch, girlie spa days and nights away, a mini-family break and afternoon teas if you’re looking to treat your mum.

Not for:  If you’re after small, boutique or urban-edgyThis is a ‘big hotel’ buzzing with life, lots of amenities, luxe rooms, spa and added extras.

The damage: It’s certainly not budget, but this is a premium experience. The 6-course taster evening is £45 per person and an additional wine flight, £40.  A Signature Suite is around £290 a night. Family break packages with tickets to local attractions can also be arranged from £159 per room. Drinks are £5+, even a coffee which is a tad pricey.

thebelfry, Lichfield Road, Wishaw, Sutton Coldfield, B76 9PR, Tel: O1675 238600/enquires@thebelfry.com

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