Those who know me well, whether socially or professionally, know that I have an admittedly short fuse. Especially these days. Years of working in catering, you see – it wears down the temper and the patience. I can get quite easily stressed – sadly it runs in my family. So, after a remarkably trying penultimate semester at university, as an early Christmas present to myself, I treated myself to a massage at the prestigious Grand Harbour Hotel near Southampton’s waterfront. Even though I did really need my friend Jon Appleby to push me into doing it – but God, am I glad he did!
The hotel stands out from its neighbouring establishments in that it has a massive glass pyramid structure adjoining it (see pictured), which as you can see is alight with a beautiful blue colour at night.
The Grand Harbour’s “Twilight Spa” deal is perhaps one of the best on their price list – they, like so many other hotels, have numerous packages at varying prices. For this one, it was a choice of one out of three 25-minute treatments, plus full use of the leisure facilities, and a meal in the Hamtun Bar, situated at the foot of the aforementioned glass pyramid, – all for £39. Robe, slippers and a towel are all provided for you.
My appointment was not until 7.30pm, but I went down around an hour early to get my bearings in this gorgeous establishment. The first thing that crossed my mind when I walked into their foyer was “Now this is what a proper hotel looks like!” It wouldn’t be the sort of place I would want to work, though. I get treated badly enough by the customers at The Wessex, and the Grand Harbour is a four-star hotel, attracting a superior clientèle.
After spending an hour in their swimming pool and jacuzzi, I made my way to their Serenity Spa centre, where I had to fill in all my details and medical information. Whilst doing that and waiting to be called in for treatment, I was allowed to help myself to a fridge full of water and juices – Cranberry, Orange and Apple were all available.
I can honestly say that whilst having the essential tension massage on my back, which bears the bulk of my pressure points, I could have slept for 100 years, if that were possible. The masseuse worked true miracles on my back, to a point where I feel like I was never in pain in the first place!
According to the health club’s receptionist, it is normal at the Grand Harbour for people to partake of their meals in the Hamtun Bar in their spa robes etcetera. Surprised as I was by that, I knew I was not going to follow suit. I had come prepared to dine in a nice hotel. Unlike many hotel bars, they operate, at least initially, with table service. I had been given a reserved table, and had pre-ordered my meal for 8.15pm, but ordered a Cosmopolitan (see pictured) to help pass the time while I waited. It was delightfully refreshing, and not heavily citrus-infused, although the flavour of orange was somewhat prominent, not least because of the peel garnish it was accompanied with. Unusual for a Cosmo, which is normally flavoured with lime.
The menu from which you pre-order prior to your Twilight Spa treatment is fairly limited, and from it I selected a Roasted Fillet of Salmon, served with a broth of Bacon and Broad Beans (see pictured). The broth was actually tomato-based, and contained spinach.
Adding the lemon really helped bring the flavours together. Normally I would eat each element bit-by-bit, but not on this occasion. This time I fancied I would experiment with how the bacon combined with the salmon – usually I would never advocate serving fish and meat in the same dish. It used to horrify me when chefs at the Wessex would offer a fillet of fish wrapped in pancetta as a special. But admittedly, in this instance, it did not fail to impress.
Following that, I decided I was not ready to leave, so I ordered myself another drink – a shot of Stolichnaya Vodka and a bottle of coke to satisfy my alcoholic pangs, and a Chocolate Brownie served with Fudge Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream (see pictured) for dessert.
I was most wonderfully surprised at the sheer size of the brownie I was presented with, but did have to groan a little at the ice cream being served in a separate ramequin. I dispensed with that quite quickly and placed it on top of the hot brownie, allowing it to melt as it should. Delectably rich and not at all too heavy or stodgy.
Definitely well worth the £39 for the treatment and meal, plus the £20-odd for the extras not included in the deal, i.e. the drinks and dessert. Jon and everyone else who asked me about it were all very keen to find out if I would go again, and I can say now that, yes, I definitely would. In fact it was such amazing value, I am contemplating it as a Mother’s Day gift to the mother and grandmother.