Oh my goodness, I have just returned from the most wonderful day out at the Aztec Hotel and Spa, just North of Bristol. Breakfast, a swim, a spa treatment, a masterclass with chef, Marc Payne and then an eight course taster meal from the new winter menu in the Curious Kitchen restaurant. Yes, I said eight…
(This was a gifted visit for my review of the Aztec Hotel and Spa. All opinions and words (except for the menu, which I had to copy because I would never remember everything and there were some words in there I’ve never actually seen before!) are my own.)
The morning began by meeting the other bloggers and the team from the Aztec hotel, and a surprise breakfast delivered by the hotel’s chef, Marc Payne. It was steak and scrambled egg with truffle and chives in a brioche bun, and seriously, it was utterly delicious. My only complaint was that I couldn’t quite manage it all.
We then divided for our spa treatments and use of the facilities, and I had time for a swim. The pool, by the way, was perfect – just the right temperature and long enough for a decent length (some hotels have swimming pools so short you’re half way through one stroke before it’s time to turn round again!); and so relaxing with the ambient blue light and gentle pan-pipe music in the background. There was also a sauna, hot tub and steam room that some of the other ladies took advantage of, but I get uncomfortable with the heat, so I continued with my breast stroke in the hope to burn off the second breakfast!
I chose a Caudalie express facial for my spa treatment as I’ve never had one before, and I’m really glad I can now tick that off my list of experiences. Caudalie, by the way, is a natural, plant based and cruelty free beauty product range. I absolutely loved the facial experience. I recommend asking for Evie as her calming energy (Is that an oxymoron? Can you have calming energy? You know what I mean though!…) immediately passed through her fingers and I felt so relaxed.
Having not had much spa experience before, I had been expecting to feel uncomfortable and tense with someone else touching me, but it wasn’t nearly as awkward as I thought it was going to be. The completely naked old people in changing rooms that you often hear comedians talk about though; well that’s completely true as it turns out!
I recommend the express facial if you’re short on time and want to feel pampered and relaxed. However, I think to receive the benefits of the Caudalie products, I would want to go for a full length facial next time.
I wish I’d taken more photos of the spa facilities, but there were several people wandering around in swimming costumes or robes who probably didn’t want to feature on my blog!
After the relaxing time at the spa, we gathered in the garden room of the Curious Kitchen restaurant where we met head chef Marc Payne again, where he showed us how he creates two of the starters that are currently on the winter menu; smoked and pickled beetroot (as pictured at the top) and marinated beef with wasabi, black garlic and Japanese radish. I tasted the beef and the flavours were stunning; it had a real kick to it!
I was particularly impressed with the attention to detail with these dishes, both in the flavours (the mellow nuttiness of the black garlic; the wasabi heat; the freshness of the creme fraiche…) and the presentation – Marc individually placed each leaf and flower with a pair of tweezers! We learned that all the ingredients; everything is made at the hotel restaurant; they bake their bread, make their ice cream, preserve their chutneys; they even churn their own butter! All the meat is farmed locally; Marc knows the name of the boat the fish is caught from, and the vegetables are of course seasonal.
Now, be prepared for some serious food porn. My apologies if it makes you hungry, but we were then treated to an eight-course tasting lunch/dinner, and it was amazing! We began with homemade farmhouse loaf with buerre noisette butter. If I lived locally, I’d go there every morning just for that! Followed by:
Crispy goats cheese, curry sauce, pickled onion & nigella seed.
Barbecue onglet. Pickled shallot and nasturtium. The onglet is a cut taken from the underside of a cow, bottom of the rib.
Celeriac risotto. Jerusalem artichoke and more of that insanely indulgent black truffle.
Chicken served with gochujang, ponzu, bok choi, napa cabbage, charred spring onion, sesame and miso.
Chocolate and coffee entremet served with delectable roast banana ice cream and caramel sauce made using gold leaf.
And lastly, petit fours. Macarons, chocolate fudge and white chocolate and berry truffle. Mmmm…
Everybody was impressed with the unusual mix of goats cheese and a curry flavoured sauce, and that was either my favourite dish, or possibly the celeriac risotto, which was also delicious. Or possibly the pudding…the toffee sauce had actual gold leaf in it to make it shimmer for goodness sake!
We then stayed for a while, chatting to each other, and to Marc Payne, whose passion for what he does really shows in the quality of the food we ate. He runs foodie workshops for adults, and there are also events for children during the school holidays. Have a look at the Aztec Hotel and Spa website for details about all their events.
All the staff I met at reception, spa and restaurant were friendly and helpful. The decor of the Aztec hotel is mainly modern without being too trendy; stylish without being too try-hard. I liked the artwork everywhere, and the addition of the antique-looking furniture in the spa and hotel room areas. Some of the rooms can very cleverly convert to meeting spaces with bean bags, comfortable modular settees and space for a table. Definitely go and check out the Aztec Hotel if you’re after a luxury spa experience; some delicious food, or somewhere comfortable to stay near Bristol.
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