Looking for hotels in Durham? Check out our review of Seaham Hall Durham, a luxury 5* hotel and spa serving afternoon tea and traditional British cuisine, overlooking the North East coastline.
If you’re looking for more bars and restaurants in Durham, read our guide to the best places to eat and drink here.
What’s the vibe at Seaham Hall?
A short amble away from the rugged Durham Heritage Coast lies Seaham Hall Hotel, a beautiful hotel and spa just outside the village of Seaham, around 30 minutes’ drive east of Durham. The imposing Georgian country house is home to 21 huge suites as well as a luxurious Asian-themed spa. We stayed in an executive suite, which ticked all the five-star hotel boxes: a huge king-size bed with a ‘pillow menu’, a beautiful white-tiled bathroom with walk in shower, freestanding bath and fancy Elemis toiletries, and the fluffiest robes and slippers. In the separate lounge area, squishy sofas, a Nespresso machine, a fridge with free soft drinks and huge windows out onto the garden meant we had everything we needed for a good few hours’ lounging.
What’s the food like?
For dinner we visited Byron’s Restaurant. This is Seaham Hall’s fine dining offering and the vibe is one of opulent indulgence (Lord Byron has history here – he married the daughter of a past owner). A pewter-topped oak bar sweeps along one side of the grand high-ceilinged room. Prized tables are the velvet-lined curved booths in the corners of the room and the rest is made up of intimate small tables. The lighting is soft and twinkly with two huge gold plated chandeliers throwing a sparkle over everything. The purple and gold colour scheme was apparently inspired by Byron’s costume in the portrait that overlooks the room.
Chef Damian Broom has revamped the menu recently, bringing in traditional ingredients such as wild sea trout and lobster from Whitby Bay and Yorkshire Wolds duck and giving them his own modern twist. Heritage lamb came as both slow-braised pressed shoulder and a perfectly roasted pink saddle with a delicate mix of glazed gem lettuce and baby turnips and nasturtium. Starters are equally inventive – on our visit we tried Whitby crab with cultured cream, grilled cabbage and a garnish of crisp salty chicken skin.
Puds are light and incredibly pretty with herb and floral touches – macerated strawberries came with meadowsweet, rose petals and an icy milk sorbet. Throughout the menu there is a lovely balance on the plate with each element working harmoniously. The portions are on the lighter side so we easily demolished three courses as well as a little pre-dinner nibble of creamy croquettes.
Afternoon tea at Seaham Hall
Afternoon tea is a highlight at the hotel. Served in the lounge at the back of the hotel, overlooking immaculately tended gardens, it’s not to be missed. We went for the classic version (there is also a Chocolate Afternoon Tea and a Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea).
As well as delicate finger sandwiches of smoked salmon, cucumber and egg there were puffy, light scones with homemade strawberry jam and clotted cream, a deep chocolate torte, little carrot cakes with buttercream, almond frangipane tarts and mini jars of chilled gooseberry custard topped with crumble. It’s an incredibly generous spread and the waiters have little boxes ready to pack up any leftovers for you to take home.
What else can I do while I’m at Seaham Hall?
After a brisk walk along the coast (a path at the back of the hotel leads you directly down to the sea) we attempted to burn off some more calories before dinner with a trip to the Serenity Spa. Even if you are not booked in for a treatment the spa facilities are great. As well as a huge pool surrounded by loungers there is a separate hydrotherapy pool, plunge pools, salt sauna, Indian steam room, jacuzzi and outdoor hot tub. You can even pop into the next-door Ozone restaurant in your robe for a coffee or a glass of fizz.
Service is charming, friendly and attentive but without any smart hotel stuffiness and this is reflected in the whole hotel experience. It’s a perfect place to take your mum for a special occasion, a date for a quiet fancy dinner or to stay longer and have a proper luxurious weekend break.
Words by Janine Ratcliffe
Photographs by Sean Elliott photography