Staying in a nice hotel is always fun, but the experience takes on an extra significance when, like my family this weekend, you are marking a special occasion.
As part of their golden wedding celebrations, my parents chose to return to The Old Bridge Hotel in Huntingdon, where they held their wedding breakfast 50 years ago. It’s a place that is loaded with family memories: both of my maternal grandparents worked here: my grandmother in the Still Room and Gramps as a porter.
Much has changed in the intervening years, but The Old Bridge remains beloved in the area and has attracted a considerable following for its Michelin-style food and diverse wine list; its Wine Shop, managed by Wine Master John Hoskins, regularly holds sold-out tastings.
This weekend was charged with emotion. On the one hand, we were celebrating a very special occasion; on the other, I was aware that the last time I had visited The Old Bridge was on the evening of my grandfather’s funeral, when we toasted his 92-year-long life. I was worried, also, that the hotel wouldn’t live up to expectations, especially as we were returning with a new generation: my 10-year-old niece and six-year-old nephew.
It was a beautifully sunny afternoon when we arrived and our welcome was equally warm, the staff at Reception congratulating my parents on their special milestone. Upstairs in my new home and hungry after my journey from London, I was chuffed to find an assortment of tea, coffee and home-made biscuits – and pleased to learn that free wi-fi was available. The room itself was on the small side, but comfortable and spotlessly clean, as was the bathroom, which was well-stocked with luxurious toiletries.
Back downstairs, ensconced in the comfortable lounge, we kicked off the celebrations with a glass of chilled white wine: an interesting Torrontes-Viognier blend that I’d never tried before and which both my mother and I would heartily recommend. Our poached salmon sandwiches were great, too: just what was needed after our respective journeys.
Situated on the banks of the River Ouse, the hotel is just a stone’s throw from Huntingdon town centre and we took full advantage, exploring its market and making the most of the sunshine. Before long, however, the lure of our complementary afternoon tea proved too strong and we forsook the shops to return to the hotel. Happily, we were able to sit outside, my niece and nephew proving willing accomplices as I struggled to eat the ginormous home-made scones with which we’d been presented.
Our evening meal would prove to be the highlight of our stay. I arrived flustered, having spent a challenging half hour dealing with a broken shower, one of whose taps had broken while I was using it, leaving the water pumping out full blast and me powerless to stop it. Two visits later from the reassuringly calm (unlike me) hotel manager, the problem was resolved without too much damage to bathroom or person. But I was somewhat rattled by the time I made it downstairs to dinner – and I’d also missed out on the celebratory Bellinis: most annoying.
[Note: the above is in no way a criticism of the hotel. The tap breaking was an unfortunate accident and the staff responded promptly and professionally: I can’t speak highly enough of how well-looked after we were during our stay; nothing was too much trouble].
Normal equilibrium was soon restored: how could it not be, by the lovely surroundings of The Old Bridge’s restaurant? I’m told that people come from all over the county to dine here and I can understand why: its surroundings are beautiful, the menu ambitious & exciting and the food of the highest quality. This post isn’t a food review, but it would be remiss of me not to showcase some of the dishes that we ate, given that the restaurant is integral to the reputation of the hotel.
Above, you can see the Grilled Halloumi with Green Salad, Chilli & Watercress Dressing starter, together with the Char-grilled Aberdeenshire Steak with Triple-Cooked Chips, Caesar Salad and Peppercorn Sauce. The recipients of each dish extolled its virtues and quickly wiped their plates clean.
Somehow, we managed to fit in dessert: the Affogato (a scoop of vanilla ice-cream served with luscious PX Sherry) was a big hit, and the younger members of the party loved their chocolate brownies.
The anniversary truffles were a much-appreciated and special touch, and disappeared instantly.
All of the above was washed down by two very fine wines: a 2017 Gavi Di Gavi, Terre Antiche, Piedmont, Italy and a 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve Collection, Tokara, Stellenbosch, South Africa. Speaking of wine, earlier on we had tried out the Wine Shop’s enomatic machine, which allows you to taste up to 24 wines, many of which also feature on the restaurant’s wine list. Needless to say, I couldn’t leave without making a purchase and treated myself to a half bottle of Wild Sauvignon Blanc, which I’m very much looking forward to trying.
You won’t be surprised to hear that, after such a fine feast, we all slept like logs in our highly comfortable beds. In fact, it’s just as well I set my alarm, because I might have well missed breakfast otherwise – and that would have been a crying shame. Eggy brioche, granola, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, fruit salad and home-made pastries…mmm.
It was with heavy hearts that we bade farewell to this elegant, ivy-clad 18th century town house, to embark upon our next adventure. I suspect we will return long before my parents’ diamond anniversary: there’s the remainder of that wine list to work our way through, after all…