Rewind to the noughties and as a group of school friends we’d mark life events, like 21st birthdays, graduations, and the fact it was Friday, by downing neon shots and going to bars where you could get drunk for a fiver. Great times, from what I can remember....
Now we’re well into our thirties, however, and with my friends all married off I’m the last of the shot downers, meaning our group drinks are a lot less lurid and we do altogether more civilised celebrations.
With my friend expecting her third child, we decided to wet the baby’s head with a twilight spa at the Serenity Spa at Seaham Hall.
The offer - which includes four hours’ use of the spa until 10pm and a two-course meal in Ozone for £54.50 on weekends - is perfect for group celebrations and runs all week, just make sure to book ahead for a weekend slot. We bagged the last remaining slots on a Saturday night, despite booking six weeks in advance.
With full use of the spa facilities, still one of the best in the North East despite not being the newest, it’s a great chance to switch off your mobile and slough off the stresses of the day. We made a beeline for the outdoor jacuzzi - though my pregnant friend had to settle for merely splodging her feet - where you can recline amidst the hotel’s palatial and perfectly-manicured grounds. Just don’t expect to be popping any prosecco around the jacuzzi, after a few rowdy past experiences, drinking is now limited to the dry areas of the spa only.
Time flies flitting between the pool, the hydrotherapy, saunas and steam rooms and after a couple of hours it was time for tea.
You can dine in your robes, but it felt a little inappropriate for a Saturday night, so after a swift change, we took our seats in Ozone.
It’s a restaurant that always slips my mind when choosing a place to eat, but it really shouldn’t. With its round dining room, domed roof and central bar it’s a place with a sense of theatre about it. Though not quite as formal as sister restaurant Byron’s, it still feels special.
As a continuation of the spa, it’s Asian-themed and has those rich burnt orange hues that evoke a taste of the Orient, along with feature bamboo partitions and panoramic windows overlooking those stunning grounds. Pick it up and plonk it in London and you’d pay top dollar to dine somewhere like this.
The Asian theme flows though the menu and for the Twilight package we’d selected our meals on arrival at the spa.
I’d asked for some edamame as an additional side, but was told they didn’t have them, which seemed odd for an Asian restaurant - like a carvery without any mashed potatoes.
Despite the bean faux pas, there was no mistaking this was an authentically Asian eatery. I chose dim sum to start and was presented with three tightly-packed parcels of moreish pork wrapped in a skin so light it was almost translucent.
For mains I chose a ramen soup which was one of the best dishes of this ilk I’ve had in a long time. I was presented with a deep bowl of soup, brimming with springy noodles, succulent belly pork, boiled egg, crunchy greens and slivers of seaweed paper for extra texture.
We couldn’t fault the friendliness of our service throughout, but our final round of drinks (not included in the spa package) seemed to have been forgotten about. As soon as we asked about their whereabouts, it was corrected with a free round, which certainly took the sting out of the wait.
It was way past twilight by the time we’d finished nattering and we were the last ones standing at the restaurant in what was a perfectly calming alternative to our Saturday nights of yore.