Having just passed the halfway stage of a particularly hectic week, in which the stresses of moving house were combining with usual tribulations at work to terrific effect, the announcement from my other half that we had been booked in for a romantic dinner and one night stay at Jersey’s luxurious Longueville Manor was not only welcome but superbly well timed.
Feeling buoyed by the news, I attacked Thursday with a renewed vigour, adamant that things had taken a turn for the better. One late night at the office and two lunchtime furniture sorties later, however, and my natural positive demeanour unfortunately was back under scrutiny. Thankfully though, when the weekend did eventually arrive, our stay at Longueville Manor more than lived up both to my expectations and to its esteemed reputation.
After just about squeezing through the several hundred-year-old stone arch that forms the Manor’s main entrance, we were relieved of our car, my overnight bag and her luggage (yes, luggage!?) and ushered through to check-in. Then followed a brief tour of the hotel’s main amenities (kitchen garden, croquet lawn, the usual) on the way to our charming deluxe room.
At this point I discovered that my competitive better half (or in this case worse, but not by enough points to risk ruining the afternoon) had done some research before leaving the house and subsequently smuggled two tennis rackets into the car, giving us the opportunity to enjoy an ultimately successful hour on the hotel’s apple tree-lined all-weather court.
Had it been a few weeks earlier we might also have made use of the heated pool. Instead, we opted for an activity more befitting the season. Having borrowed a couple of pairs of wellies (Hunters no less, in a range of sizes, available to guests on request) we headed off to explore the hotel’s 16 or so acres of wooded and parkland grounds, with autumn leaves underfoot to complete the picture!
“Now, being the proprietor of a structurally sound but visibly indulged temple of a figure, dinner was always destined to be the highlight of the stay for yours truly.”
Looking freshly polished and presentable, we headed to the cocktail bar to peruse the menus over a gin and tonic. The seven-course Discovery Menu proved tempting but, intent on saving space for the cheese board, I went for the Bonbon of local chancre crab to start followed by the Gressingham duck with pumpkin jam, Savoy cabbage and Jerusalem artichoke main from the à la carte.
Cyrille Azemard, Longueville’s sommelier kindly came over and gave his expert advice on suitable accompanying wines for my dinner. He suggested a Borthwick (2009) white for my starter and the red Château Val Joanis (2007) which is a little more spicy to complement my meaty main. Having the rare opportunity to chat to a top sommelier I probed him about his favourites from the menu and after some coaxing (apparently asking a sommelier to choose a favourite wine is like asking him to choose a favourite child) he said that if he was celebrating at this time of year he would usually opt for a bottle of the Meursault Premier Cru (2005).
We had been advised to reserve a table in the Oak Room, as its grand fireplace and dark wood panelled walls give a slightly more intimate setting. The quality of the food and service was fantastic, as you would expect, whilst the portions surprised on the upside! The array of cheeses leaves you spoilt for choice, yet my fondest memory is of the Pandora of dark chocolate. They present it as a gold shimmering chocolate sphere then pour warm custard over it to reveal banana ice cream nestled inside; it really must be seen (and tasted) to be believed!
Longueville Manor has an abundance of extraordinary little touches that make staying there quite magical.
Incredible service is so rare that on the few occasions throughout life when you do experience it you feel passionately enthused to tell everybody about it, luckily, on this occasion, I have a media platform from which to do that.
As we were being shown around the grounds and our beautiful large room I was ecstatic (and I’m not exaggerating) to see that their complimentary cosmetic products were by Bamford (think Crème de la Mer but more exclusive), this really put the icing on an already very impressive cake!
Once our bags had been delivered to the room we got changed and headed straight to the tennis court, past a beautiful rose garden. I have been having a few tennis lessons, and I knew my partner hadn’t seen a tennis ball since it had been compulsory for him at school, so I was feeling rather confident. However it turned out (as with all sporting activities it seems) that he was captain of the school tennis team and all I could do was quiver from behind my racket as he fired aces past me for an hour. I genuinely believe he is going to be one of those dads who wins every time against his young children.
After this macho display we headed off to explore the grounds, which were stunningly showcased in all their vivid autumnal beauty. It was great fun seeing around the Kitchen Garden that supplies their restaurant with fresh produce, they even have their own smoke house set in an ancient crypt.
Following our afternoon of activities we ordered some gin and tonics to the room, chose a great old movie from their selection behind reception and played quite a heated game of Scrabble. For me it was true relaxation, and I think that’s what sets Longueville Manor apart; they seem ready to cater to your every whim, so all you need to do is unwind.
Before dinner I had a seriously indulgent candlelit bath with Bamford natural sea salts combined with essential oils of geranium, lavender and peppermint.
“lying back, being careful not to knock over my chilled complimentary champagne, I thought ‘this is utter bliss’.”
We then headed down to have drinks before dinner. Whilst my partner put the sommelier through his paces I opted for something all together easier, a Singapore Sling! Now the last time I had one of these I was sitting in the Raffles Bar in Singapore where they were invented, so the bartender had quite a challenge to impress me. By the end of it I was convinced they were up to par, however I ordered a second one just to make sure.
Dinner was lovely, the service was unfaultable, not too fussy, but perfectly attentive. My mouthwatering red mullet main was served on black squid ink risotto, which looked very high impact as there aren’t really many black foods about (unless you count my mother’s ‘blackies’, basically a mistakenly burnt version of the traditional ‘brownies’).
Wallace and Gromit have nothing on my love of cheese, and the Longueville Manor cheese board is the stuff of legends; two tiers with over 30 to choose from. They have a bit of everything from a mild goat to a terrific Jersey blue (now a new favourite of mine). The best part of the meal for me was listening to the affineur talk all about the different delicious varieties they had.
We headed up to bed happily full and ready for good night’s sleep in the emperor size bed.
With a new lease of life following our wonderful stay we made our way down to breakfast in their light and airy Garden Room. Everywhere I went in the Manor I was struck by the elegant interiors, which are apparently, the artistic handiwork of Patricia Lewis who, together with her husband Malcolm, are the third generation of the Lewis family to run Longueville Manor.
Still full from the night before we couldn’t take proper advantage of the vast array of goodies laid out for breakfast, not to mention their cooked options. I couldn’t resist trying their leg of Serrano ham and then I tried their homemade jam on hot buttered toast. After the first bite I got one of the staff immediately over to find out if I could buy some, it was scrumptious! Luckily their homemade preserves are such a hit that they do keep some behind the front desk to sell.
We left Longueville Manor energised and ready to face the week ahead with new gusto.