But – and I hope Polish readers don’t mind us saying – driving in Poland can be challenging (he says politely.) Anyway, that’s a story in itself, all you need to know is, we have arrived at the ideal spot to unwind.
The Herbarium Hotel & Spa in Chomiąża Szlachecka in the Kuyavian-Pomeranian region, in north central Poland, is quite isolated – around an hour’s drive from the nearest city of Bydgoszcz – which for a spa hotel is no bad thing. It occupies a beautifully tranquil spot overlooking a large lake, with plenty of lush green gardens, ponds and water features, a herb garden (hence the hotel’s name), and even a lavender hill. Now, if that doesn’t sound like the ideal place to relax, then I don’t know what does?
The hotel is divided into a series of elegant period buildings, including the original mansion house, but that’s where the historic elegance ends. The interior is all about being contemporary, light, bright and very chic. There’s an air of luxury and exclusivity as soon as you enter, which is immediately accentuated by a very polite porter (so much so he refuses a tip) carrying our bags. And, once we are in, we don’t even have to step foot outside again, as our room is connected via an underground passage.
It’s sleek and stylish, but doesn’t have the same feel of luxury as the rest of the hotel. Plus points are the large powerful shower, and the wall-mounted touch pad lighting control (I mean who wants to break into a sweat stretching for the light switch anyway?) Negatives? Well, the room’s a little on the small side, and a full length mirror would certainly be useful. Anyway, there’s far more important things to be doing, like slipping into our soft, comfortable robes waiting on the bed, and heading for the spa.
The good stuff
Prepare to be wowed – the spa is spectacular. The Herbarium Hotel & Spa is blessed with an eye-poppingly beautiful backdrop, which the spa takes full advantage of. Its centrepiece is a stunning indoor infinity pool, which is surrounded by floor to ceiling windows providing a near 360-degree view of the landscape beyond, while flooding the room with light. Once you get tired of swimming and gawping at the view (if you get tired) there’s a toasty Jacuzzi to slide into. Luckily for us, we have arrived after the weekend rush, which means we have all this to ourselves.
If all that splashing around seems too much like hard work, then head below the pool to the sauna and steam area, where there’s a steam room; sauna; relaxation room, replete with deckchairs; and a back therapy room. More relaxation required? The spa also offers an array of treatments, many of which utilise the fresh herbs from the garden.
Despite the hugely impressive spa, for us, what really makes this place truly special and memorable, lies outside, beyond the lush green grounds. Today, Poland is still basking in a heatwave, and with the mercury touching 30ºC, lake Jezioro Chomiąskie, which sits at the rear of this 15-acre property, is perfect. Guests are free to take out one of the hotel’s pedalos for a spot of exploring (great for the kids), sunbathe amongst the trees next to the clean, clear waters, or take a swim off one of the jetties. We stay around long enough for the last embers of sunlight, and the near perfect view of the sunset.
Dinner is served
The large dining room is an extension to the main mansion house, with large windows, and views out over the grounds. Once again, the hotel makes use of its home-grown herbs in its sophisticated cuisine, as well as “locally” sourced products. Not only are the ingredients very good, but they are combined with imagination, and presented with genuine flair and skill.
Our food includes thick, chunky bread with a delicate mousse and delicious truffle-infused butter; mackerel with an asparagus sorbet, and pickled strawberry (£8-9/39 zloty); and for the main course, guinea fowl, with corn, chestnuts, and polenta (£12-13/59 zloty). There’s also a good selection of wines to choose from. Admittedly, the prices are high, but for this level of quality, it’s hard to argue with them. Word of warning, come in earlier rather than later for your dinner – we arrive at 8.30pm, which is clearly too late, as the chef has closed the kitchen before we can order dessert.
All to quickly we are back to the restaurant the following morning for breakfast, not that I’m complaining. There’s a vast selection of dishes awaiting us covering the entire length of the room, including Polish classics such as herring, smoked meats, sausage, as well as cereals, poached eggs, cheeses, fruit, and pancakes. As always, the food is well cooked and presented, and the staff are polite, quick, and professional.
All too soon, it’s time for us to check out, say our goodbyes, and get back on the road – if only that experience could be as relaxing.
In the summer, prices at the Herbarium Hotel & Spa start at £90 (around 400-450 zloty) per night, per room, including breakfast.