The last bank holiday in August always sneaks up on me - as in, I forget that it exists. By the time I do realize we have a free Monday off, I'm in a total indecisive panic about how I'll spend this precious time: shall I sleep in and spend the rest of the day luxuriating in bed, reading magazine after magazine? Or go on a shopping expedition with a girlfriend who isn't out of town? Or go out of town? Or stay in town but visit a London landmark I've never been to? Or watch back-to-back DVDs if the weather's bad?
The problem with going out of town is that places fill up really quickly. But John and I thought we deserved a treat (as if we haven't had enough already this year) for just the two of us and he found this amazing place, Tuddenham Mill, online. It's a restored mill in the Suffolk countryside, just outside of Newmarket, which has been transformed into a Mr. & Mrs. Smith boutique hotel with minimal rooms and lots of peace and quiet - just what we needed after this very hectic (but fun!) summer.
It's slightly annoying to get to - the train ride to Newmarket isn't far (an hour and a half or so?) but once there, you have to take a cab to the Mill itself, which proved to be the most expensive cab ride I've taken in my LIFE. £40 roundtrip, and I wasn't smiling.
Having gotten over that though, we settled in for lunch by the pond when we arrived, as it was a gorgeous, sunny day. I ordered a delicious roast beef and horseradish sandwich on homemade bread, plus a glass of prosecco, just for kicks. We had triple-cooked fries and enjoyed the sounds of ducks quacking and a swan getting semi-aggro about its territory on the side.
When we were shown to our room, Mill Room West, I was smitten: fresh orange juice sat waiting for us in the fridge and a delicate decanter of sloe gin was perched enticingly on the bedside table. The floors were all white wooden floorboards and the high-beamed ceilings gave an airy, loft-like feeling to the room. I, of course, fell immediately in love with the Missoni bathrobes hanging by the oversized tub and couldn't wait to sink into the incredibly feather-soft bed.
Dinner that evening was nothing short of amazing: the restaurant is a real delight for foodies as the head chef, Paul Foster, is well known for his "cutting edge culinary skills", as described on the Tuddenham Mill website, and his past experience at Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir and Restaurant Sat Bains in Nottingham.
I started with the organic salmon at 40°C, served with gooseberries, elderflower, and crispy rice and moved on to a mouthwatering main of Cumbrian beef, oxtail with cabbage and turnip pickled in horseradish. Dessert tasted like fresh snowfall in a pine forest (yes, truly): English raspberries, white chocolate, celery sorbet, and pistachio. I spent most of the evening amazed at the taste sensations hitting my palate and felt so lucky to dine there.
After dinner, we checked out a couple of DVDs from the hotel's extensive library and chilled out in our room for the rest of the night before waking around 8 a.m. for a refreshing (read: long, hard slog for me, running circles around me for John) run through the Suffolk countryside followed by a hearty cooked breakfast.
My verdict? Tuddenham Mill is definitely worth a visit in good weather, but could do with hosting some activities. It has plenty of beautiful acreage to host outdoor (or indoor) yoga classes, for example, or even an small spa area with treatments. I loved the surroundings and the whole experience, but it left me wanting a bit more. Perhaps that will come in time - and the taxi fares will come down in price as well. But I won't hold my breath. In the meantime, folks should enjoy it for what it is: a star restaurant with comfortable rooms, perfect for a mini-retreat.