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
- Credit: 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.
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.
At the time, I never thought I’d have the opportunity to experience an overnight stay after it had been tastefully renovated.
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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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And if you haven’t had a chance to visit yet, it is well worth the special treat.