Jesmond Dene House
Where: Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England
Long story short: A hotel in the city and the country, for stylish recreation and re-creation.
Short story long: You know what it’s like; you’re a young person in a nondescript London suburb, dreaming that one day you might stand before an oval sink applying Mandarin & Mint moisturiser to your weathered face, whilst your vast stylish bedroom awaits you... No? ...Well, that moment has arrived and it’s in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. I’m stood there, with the sweet sounds of the countryside tweeting into through the open window... old-skool ‘tweeting’. Like the actual birds do.
You arrive outside Jesmond Dene House Hotel - a Georgian/Modern hunk of beauty – and you immediately realise that Google-Earth don’t do it justice. And what a setting: atop the Jesmond Dene itself: a wooded valley with lapping river. And all this just two miles from Newcastle city centre – five minutes in a taxi or ten minutes on the Metro... Yet you could be about to enter a country house hotel, hoping its ruddy-faced proprietors aren’t too weird...
Once inside staff are fun, friendly and abundant - there’s loads of them - all in a hotel with just 40 bedrooms. And the decor’s all re-imagined 1920s glory from the brains behind this project; a group of North English engineers and investors. I soon learn the reason for staff-abundance as a packed, boozy afternoon tea is in full swing... “A place to bring your Mum isn’t it?” ...I hilariously say to the waiter (nods towards restaurant)... “Yeah.” comes the enthusiastic reply; “It’s FULL of Women!” We both grin and nod – Top Banter!
Did I mention the old oak panelling? Well, there’s lots of it... Everywhere... Even more panels than waiters. This handsome retreat was once home to Captain Andrew Noble, an engineer of the Victorian variety and a name fit for Sunday night costume drama. From 1871 Cap Nob recreated the interior in the upcoming Arts n' Crafts style – much as it appears today.
Up the original staircase I go, passing panels all the way, to find my vast bedroom with broad windows overlooking garden and dene. I couldn’t be happier; the noise from the mid-afternoon revelry has faded to leave the sweet sounds of the outdoors.
Dinner time, and I join the calm couples and families drinking responsibly. Nice, but maybe not the best place for a single man doused in fragrant moisturiser. But anyway, I start on my three courses, including small ball of goats’ cheese and beetroot spruced with wispy flora and fauna. Salad wisps adorn each plate, probably prepared by the pixies of the Dene. Don’t say they didn’t.
Come breakfast time, I opt for that great culinary celebration of northern literary genius; Omelette Arnold Bennett – He of The Old Wives’ Tale and Anna of the Five Towns. I ate his omelette; it was tasty, it was folded over haddock and cheese. I felt clever.
The walls of Jesmond Dene House are adorned with paintings and works from local artists – all for sale. Down in the Dene valley, along the riverside, you can soak up the natural beauty - though I later learn it’s far from natural. Captain Noble thought the flow of the river a little dull and began dynamiting the rock with great Victorian bluster to create a series of twists, turns, rapids and waterfalls, all to delight the senses. Its nature re-created; which is pretty much how I feel.
Small quibble; it's a vast bedroom with a bijou galley shower room with toilet and you must step over the toilet to enter the cubicle. But we are in a world shaped by great Victorian ingenuity and if I can’t step over a toilet to take a shower, then what kind of man am I? Don’t answer that... I’m a man whose two-night stylish stay will shortly, sadly; come to an end.
Champagne tastes: A ten course tasting menu at the hotel will set you back £75.
Shandy pockets: The hotel moisturiser is free.
Review by Stuart Locke
Jesmond Dene House: