The Old Hall in Ely has modernised the concept of a traditional manor house - a luxurious B&B and now with a fine dining restaurant

PUBLISHED: 16:51 20 August 2020 | UPDATED: 16:53 20 August 2020

Like many businesses, The Old Hall, near Ely, has been forced to adapt its offerings because of the coronavirus pandemic. Pictures: The Old Hall. Ely

Like many businesses, The Old Hall, near Ely, has been forced to adapt its offerings because of the coronavirus pandemic. Pictures: The Old Hall. Ely

Archant

Most businesses have had to adapt since Covid-19, and The Old Hall in Ely is among them. Louise Hepburn found out how during an overnight stay.

The Old Hall, Ely

Close to the village of Stuntney, The Old Hall’s entrance is off the A142 within a mile of Ely itself.

If travelling by train, it would take less than 10 minutes to get there by taxi from the railway station.

Prices listed on The Old Hall website for September 1 start from £115 per night (discounted from £135 at time of writing) and includes breakfast.

We stayed in The Cathedral Room listed as £145 (discounted from £165 at time of writing) per night.

Restaurant diners do not need to be bed and breakfast guests but a reservation in advance is required.

When we stayed, the price for a two-course evening meal at The Old Hall was £26.95, three courses £32.95 (some meal choices did come with a supplement).

The Old Hall can also be booked in its entirety for weddings, parties, conferences and private dinner parties.

For more information visit www.theoldhallely.co.uk.

More than 10 years ago now, maybe longer, I used to pass The Old Hall on the outskirts of the historic city of Ely when visiting family in the area.

Whether I was driving past it on the A142 or looking out across the Fens from a train window, this stunning manor house always caught my eye.

From afar, I noticed the building’s restoration progress into the stunning location it is today.

The Cathedral Room at The Old Hall, in Ely. Pictures: Gary Rowsel PhotographyThe Cathedral Room at The Old Hall, in Ely. Pictures: Gary Rowsel Photography

At the time, I never thought I’d have the opportunity to experience an overnight stay after it had been tastefully renovated.

And since arranging our visit, I’ve been really interested and intrigued about what it’s going to be like there.

A property from the Jacobean-era and the birthplace of Elizabeth Stewart, Oliver Cromwell’s mother, the Morbey family bought the manor house and surrounding estate in 1860.

The interior features of The Old Hall, near Ely, have been modernised but still have a traditional feel. Pictures: Louise HepburnThe interior features of The Old Hall, near Ely, have been modernised but still have a traditional feel. Pictures: Louise Hepburn

Over the years, the house had fallen into disrepair and later generations of that same family have been working on its renovation since 1997. In 2010, it first opened for guests.

Like many businesses in the current climate, The Old Hall has had to shift its positioning slightly because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It is very geared up for weddings, which the government has said can still go ahead with certain measures in place.

Haddock fishcake (starter), chicken ballotine (starter) and lemon parfait dessert served in the restaurant at The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Louise HepburnHaddock fishcake (starter), chicken ballotine (starter) and lemon parfait dessert served in the restaurant at The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Louise Hepburn

But the family at the heart of this property are now promoting the luxury bed and breakfast side of the business more, and also offer fine dining in its restaurant.

It means those living nearby get to enjoy The Old Hall in all its splendour, and dine with a wonderful view of Ely Cathedral over the Fens.

My husband and I arrived late afternoon on what was the last evening of a recent spell of hot weather.

Reporter Louise Hepburn enjoying a pre-dinner drink at The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Louise HepburnReporter Louise Hepburn enjoying a pre-dinner drink at The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Louise Hepburn

As we turned off the A142, our approach to the manor house felt very grand.

There’s a gated entrance, the surrounding landscaping is structured and precise and the property itself becomes more impressive the closer you get.

It has been tastefully restored and modernised in a way that respects the building’s character and cleverly celebrates its history.

The gardens at The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Fountain Photography.The gardens at The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Fountain Photography.

From the welcome we received at the very start of our stay to the final farewell, the staff were warm, helpful and kind throughout.

Their sentiments are genuine, and on reflection I think this comes from The Old Hall being a true family-run business.

We’re shown to our room - The Cathedral Room - and offered complimentary coffee and cake on the terrace.

Views of Ely Cathedral from the terrace of The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Fountain PhotographyViews of Ely Cathedral from the terrace of The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Fountain Photography

However tempting, our table was booked for dinner at 7:30pm and a sweet treat would have spoilt our appetites.

We also wanted time to settle and admire the view of Ely Cathedral from the comfort of our bright and spacious room.

In that time, we found ourselves admiring the decorative features where the combination of old vs new is balanced, and works well.

The House Bar at The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: The Old Hall, ElyThe House Bar at The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: The Old Hall, Ely

For example, the large leaded-style windows and traditional brickwork around the window frames made us feel as though we were living in history.

Yet the new traditional-style furnishings helped us transition into the 21st century where the decor is fresh and modern.

To make the most of the last warm weather, we decided to enjoy a pre-dinner drink.

The Lakes Dining Room at The Old Hall, near Ely where diners can enjoy the restaurant's food. The room can also be booked for private parties. Pictures: Gary Rowsel PhotographyThe Lakes Dining Room at The Old Hall, near Ely where diners can enjoy the restaurant's food. The room can also be booked for private parties. Pictures: Gary Rowsel Photography

Each table and seating areas throughout have been thoughtfully placed at a safe distance from one another and, while apparently fully booked that night, we both felt very safe and at a comfortable distance away from other guests.

In fact, I don’t think we passed anyone outside or in the corridors.

For dinner, dishes on the menu were again a mix of the traditional with an updated feel to them. Much like our setting, which seemed very appropriate.

The lemon parfait dish from the menu at The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: The Old HallThe lemon parfait dish from the menu at The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: The Old Hall

I enjoyed the haddock fishcake with pea veloute and a poached egg to start. It looked colourful and pretty as a picture when it arrived.

The flavours of the fishcake were distinctive and fresh, the veloute smooth and velvety and the poached egg perfectly cooked.

My husband had the chilli chicken ballotine which he thoroughly enjoyed to start.

One of the lounge areas at The Old Hall where visitors can relax, or enjoy a drink. Pictures: Fountain Photography.One of the lounge areas at The Old Hall where visitors can relax, or enjoy a drink. Pictures: Fountain Photography.

For our mains, we both had the pork fillet served with a smoked bacon rosti. We agreed it was the best rosti we had eaten in the UK.

I chose the lemon parfait for dessert and it was tart in flavour and refreshing. Ever the fan of retro classics, hubby went for the black forest gateau. Like our surroundings, the flavour was traditional with a modern look.

After dinner, we retired to one of the sitting areas for a digestif before retiring to bed.

Eggs Florentine for breakfast at The Old Hall near Ely. Pictures: Louise HepburnEggs Florentine for breakfast at The Old Hall near Ely. Pictures: Louise Hepburn

Thankfully the outside temperature had dropped significantly by then and we were able to have our first comfortable night’s sleep in days.

Breakfast was also very relaxed and for me it’s always a good sign when you’re served decent coffee to start.

I had the eggs florentine which were again perfectly poached and served on a fluffy English muffin. Hubby had ‘The Cambridgeshire’ breakfast, which was The Old Hall’s take on a full English. Both set us up for the day and as we walked around the grounds before heading home, I reflected on how far this beautiful setting has come along since the start of its restoration just short of 25 years ago.

Pork fillet with smoked bacon rosti from the restaurant of The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Louise HepburnPork fillet with smoked bacon rosti from the restaurant of The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Louise Hepburn

And if you haven’t had a chance to visit yet, it is well worth the special treat.

Lemon parfait dessert served at The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Louise HepburnLemon parfait dessert served at The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Louise Hepburn

Outside at The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Louise HepburnOutside at The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Louise Hepburn

Outside wedding area at The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Louise HepburnOutside wedding area at The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Louise Hepburn

The gardens at The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Louise HepburnThe gardens at The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Louise Hepburn

Another view of The Cathedral Room at The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Louise HepburnAnother view of The Cathedral Room at The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Louise Hepburn

The vast grounds of The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Louise HepburnThe vast grounds of The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Louise Hepburn

Lakes at The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Louise HepburnLakes at The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Louise Hepburn

The structured yet precise landscaping at The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Louise HepburnThe structured yet precise landscaping at The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Louise Hepburn

The chicken ballotine started at The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Louise HepburnThe chicken ballotine started at The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Louise Hepburn

View of Ely Cathedral from The Cathedral Room at The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Louise HepburnView of Ely Cathedral from The Cathedral Room at The Old Hall, near Ely. Pictures: Louise Hepburn


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