An fab evening of food and friendship at Champneys Tring Evening Spa

I was given a wonderful Christmas present by one of my friends this year- she had booked an evening at Champney's Spa near Tring in Hertfordshire for four of us to enjoy some much-needed pampering.

Between us the four of us we have 18 children. We all work part time and add into that voluntary work, kids activities and, well, life, frankly we are permanently exhausted.

There was much excitement as the evening drew closer. I spent a significant time in the bathroom the day before removing my winter coating of fur ready for disrobing at the Spa.  I didn't want to risk reports of a Yeti sighting in Tring.

 I'm not saying it's been a while since I tended to my hairy zones but I destroyed two brand new razors and some of my skin in the process. I wouldn't look too closely at the plug hole in my bath  if I were you.

The day of our evening spa arrived and as the clocked ticked towards our planned departure - the Chamney's Spa Evenings run from 5pm-10pm-I tried hard to ignore the building pressure in my head signifying an imminent migraine.

A lie down and some prescription drugs didn't help much so I decided to throw caution to the winds and take a few more tablets. It was that or cancel and I could not bear the thought of missing out.

Drugged up, pale and a tad nauseated I arrived at Champneys hoping a session in the jacuzzi would sort out my head. We started with a catch up in the cafe - a beautifully moist piece of cake slipped down very well and I started to feel a little better.

We braved the outside jacuzzi - it's more fun if it's witheringly cold outside -and then dashed inside to  the warmer inside bubbles.

A sauna ensured we were fully warmed up and then as the younger members of our group swam some lengths I lounged with a magazine in my cosy Champneys robe and flip-flops chatting with my friend. By the way you get to keep the flip-flops. (but not the robe unless you pay for it.)

You can book treatments, attend classes or use the gym but we tend to use the time to relax, chat and cackle like witches  laugh a lot together.

A fabulous 3 course dinner is included in the £40 cost of the Champneys Tring Spa Evening (other branches cost £35 or £40) and I would say this alone is generally worth the money. I have been several times and never had a bad meal.

This time was no exception when it came to the food. We started with a selection of gorgeous breads served wth garlic dipping oil and a red pepper spread - you can ask for butter.

We also ordered a bottle of wine which was reasonably priced. Still and sparkling water is supplied free or you can order a variety of soft or alcoholic drinks.

Then I enjoyed a lovely smoked salmon starter with plenty of salmon. If I was being fussy I would say it might have been nice with a dressing but I squeezed lemon juice over and it was zingy and fresh. My friends chose the chicken tikka starter -this came with nice yoghurt and mint dressings.

I opted for the lamb rump with garlicky greens and red wine jus for my main course- it did carry a small surcharge (£5) but the portion was generous and cooked perfectly.

One friend joined me in choosing lamb while the other two went for the (huge) duck leg with hoisin sauce. There was no surcharge for this.

You have to ask for vegetables on the side but they don't cost extra. We were asked by our waitress if we wanted them and there were plenty of new potatoes, al dente broccoli and carrots to make a substantial meal.

Desert had been recommended by ladies we met in the changing room - sticky toffee pud which was as good as it sounds. Sticky and moist. Now, now!

My only gripe would be that service was not top notch. Mostly the people serving were smiley and friendly (apart from one rather brusque woman) but standards of service were not great.

Food was passed over and across us, requests were not met and we were not made to feel like special guests as on previous visits.

The dining room was relatively busy (our reservation was for 8.30pm which is quite popular) but not excessively so but service was so slow we missed out on our after-dinner coffees.

In fact despite going straight to the changing room we found it locked and had to find someone to let us in to retrieve our belongings. Checkout was not terribly efficient either and we felt a little let down after such a lovely evening.

I wish the cafe and shop would stay open a little longer- first time visitors probably miss out on these as they are generally keen to use the facilities. This was our first time using the cafe but I would definitely plan to visit again as both the coffees and cakes were gorgeous and made the wait to dinner much easier!

On the whole though I very much recommend the Evening Spa experience - it's a very cheap way to enjoy the facilities at this world famous spa and a nice meal.

Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way for reviewing Champneys Spa Evening- the experience was a gift from a very lovely friend and views and opinions as always are honest and my own.

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