Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Valentines Weekend at The Celtic Manor

Before we go any further, I feel like I should add a disclaimer. I think Valentines Day is great. We do say I love you everyday, I do get random flowers for no reason and I don't believe you need to splash the cash to be romantic. BUT I do like to have a specific day dedicated to being smushy. I like occasions. I'm the girl who plans birthdays months in advance.

Last weekend, I got completely spoilt by Mr P and was whisked down the M4 to one of my favourite places, The Celtic Manor.

We arrived about 3pm, and luckily we were able to check in early, so we ran to our room, threw on our swimsuits and headed to the pool. Naturally. After a quick dip and a lounge in the sauna and steam rooms, we reluctantly went back to our room to change for dinner. Helped by a few bubbles, of course.

Last time we stayed, we were facing the front of the hotel and the golf course. This time however, we were looking out of the back of the hotel, onto the motorway. Although not as obviously relaxing, there's still something calming about watching the lights flying past at night with the Manor all lit up, and the Welsh colours billowing in the wind.

Our dinner reservation was at Rafters, which is in the Twenty Ten Clubhouse. We've dined here before, and had a fantastic meal, so we knew we were going to be looked after.

There are two things that sometimes put me off dining out on Valentines night. More often than not, you get a tiny set menu, generally with the nicest item being a sharing item. There's nothing romantic about sharing. Get off my dinner.

And then there's the set dining times. Your reservation was for 7pm, and you're dawdling over a coffee at 9pm, and then you have to leave for the next couple to jump in your seats. Not particularly conducive to a relaxing evening either.

Rafters had none of this. The tables were all preset for the night, and there seemed to only be one sitting. There was no rushing about, no cheesy decor, and the only sharing item was a dessert, which I'll let them off because I didn't fancy it anyway.

Mr P and I both went for exactly the same thing, from start to finish. For starters, we had smoked Severn and Wye Salmon with asparagus, poached egg and hollandaise sauce. A very pretty dish, and the smoked salmon was beautiful, hiding under a sprinkling of samphire.

Next course was a roast fillet of Welsh beef, sat on a bed of buttered spinach and a wild mushroom ragout. A chunky slice of crispy pancetta sat atop a thyme potato fondant, it's smokiness pervading the dish.

The beef was easily the standout item of the whole night. I've never tasted beef so buttery soft, and the sweetness of the Madeira jus brought it all together. Completely melt in your mouth beautiful.


The night was rounded off with a dark chocolate tart, with caramelised oranges and honey and whisky ice cream. I'm not the biggest dessert fan in the world, but I do love my ice cream. And whisky of course.

Neither of us could finish it all, as the chocolate tart was very rich and decandant, but I made sure that I polished off all the velvety ice cream.

Despite the over indulgence, we were both up with the birds the next morning, and hurried down to breakfast before all the other lovebirds got up. Not only did this mean we had a chilled out breakfast and the freshest eggs, but most importantly we managed to get down to a virtually empty spa nice and early.

We stayed in the hot tub looking out at the misty morning, until our fingers turned pruney enough to leave. I dragged myself away from the spa with the promise of a walk and a game of crazy golf. My competitive side can't ignore that offer.

Safe to say, the result now stands at 2-1 to me. To be continued, no doubt.

Much rejuvinated after a weekend spent wandering about the grounds and chilling in the spa, we headed home. Thanks once again to the wonderful staff at the Celtic, with what must be one of the busiest nights of the year we still received such wonderful service, from every moment between checking in and checking out.

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