(Not) Working 9 to 5…
Meet the Team at Doxford Hall
Doxford Hall’s enviable location and fine Georgian architecture might be the hook that entices guests to book a stay, but it’s the closely-knit team at the heart of the hotel that makes them return, not the bricks and mortar.
The hotel’s 4 AA red stars puts them in the top 200 of UK properties who go the extra mile to provide outstanding levels of hospitality and service and it’s an accolade that the team is extremely proud of.
With many members of the team having personally clocked up over 20 years’ hospitality experience there’s very little that fazes them – even a global pandemic. For behind the masks, there’s still a smile and a warm welcome. In the interests of a reduced-contact experience we wanted to take a few minutes to introduce the team. Here’s a glimpse into what makes Doxford Hall and the local area special for us, our favourite haunts, our most memorable moments.
Chris Main, General Manager
Favourite spot on the estate?
This is an easy one, the gardens to the front of the Main Hall. I often walk down there when I need to clear my head, sitting looking up at the Hall while I gather my thoughts, I find it a very tranquil place especially during summer months.
Motto you live by?
Never judge a book by its cover, always lead by example, never ask anyone to do a job you wouldn’t do or have not done before yourself (my door is always open)
Most amusing guest experience?
There’s far too many to choose a favourite, the inside walls of any hotel will have a story or two to be told, however, being the professional that I am and not wanting to embarrass anyone, I feel these secrets are best kept as they are in my head!
Best place to take the children locally?
Has to be Seahouses, the kids love to spend their money in the arcades followed by a round of crazy golf and a session in the soft play area at The Bunker. Lunch in Neptune’s Fish Restaurant followed by a walk along the pier to enjoy the fresh sea breeze.
Advice for someone entering the hospitality industry now?
Never give up, anything is possible if you set your mind to it. I started my career in Hospitality as a Night Porter working my way through the departments learning every aspect of the hotel along the way. I wouldn’t have wanted to move through the ranks any other way.
Tell us something not many people know about you?
It’s not something I talk about very much, but with my parents’ combined service of over 100 years to The Royal National Lifeboat Institution I guess it was enviable I would also do my stint and join the RNLI. I joined the Newbiggin by the Sea Lifeboat at the tender age of 17 years old. As I was under the age of 18, I needed my parents to sign the consent forms to allow me to join. In total I served 10 years as a crew member of Newbiggin Lifeboat and feel a great sense of pride for the lives we saved during this time. There is no better feeling or adrenaline rush than the feeling of saving someone’s life!
Nicola Nelson, Deputy General Manager
Favourite bedroom in the hotel?
For me, it’s room 17 ‘Dilston’ which is an Executive Double room. It’s a lovely big room with great views over the gardens, a king size bed and a large bathroom with a roll top bath.
Favourite walk to take the dog and family?
We’re spoilt for choice along the Northumberland coast, there are some great beaches and walks. Walking on Bamburgh Beach is pretty special with the castle peeping out over the sand dunes, the views out to the Farne Islands and miles of golden sand.
Number one recommendation to do while staying at the hotel?
Taking a boat trip to the Farne Islands from Seahouses. It’s a must if you’re staying in the area – there’s so much wildlife that can be seen from the water.
Favourite dish on the menu?
Pan Roasted Chicken Supreme on our current menu.
Favourite season and why?
Autumn. I love the autumn colours and log fires.
Jon Allan, Wedding & Events Manager
Favourite season for a wedding?
Favourite view or hidden spot?
The original external stone staircase, perfect for intimate photos.
Most memorable narrowly averted disaster?
We had two singing waiters at Doxford that the bride had arranged but it was a secret to everyone else in the room apart from the operation team who allowed them to blend into the wedding service. The plan was for the two singing waiters to cause a scene and start a fight which they did. At that point the father of the bride and three wedding guests who were unaware this was all part of the act, grabbed the waiters and everyone ended up being bundled into the outside corridor where we explained this was just an act. Once all was explained the waiters pounced into action and burst into song. The father of the bride, feeling very embarrassed, eventually bought the two singing waiters a drink to apologise!
David Quinn, Head Chef
Best season from a chef’s perspective?
Most chefs would say the spring – young vegetables and bright colours – but for me it’s definitely the autumn – I love the rich warming flavours, hearty portions and robust comforting dishes. Slow cooked meats and braised red cabbage make me nostalgic and serve as a cheerful reminder that Christmas is just around the corner!
Your favourite dish on the menu?
We have a shellfish chowder on the current a la carte menu that I love. Fresh local seafood and lightly smoked haddock. I’ve always tended to eat more fish than meat and with the colder weather and darker nights it’s a dish that combines the warming comforts of a hearty soup with the fantastic flavours of the fish.
Your favourite drive/ view locally?
Growing up in the south I’m still a relative newbie in the North, living so far from home has its down sides but I am still in awe of the views and countryside that are all around us in Northumberland. I love to drive up to Thrunton Woods with the dogs, passing Cragside and the Cheviots along the way. From the higher ground you can see so far and yet so little, just miles and miles of unspoilt countryside.
Your cooking inspiration?
I believe we should eat food to feel good, sustenance is just a bonus. So, I love creating dishes that provoke emotions, bring back memories or bring a smile to someone’s face. To do that I think using seasonal produce is really important, nature provides the right ingredients at the right times to allow us to evoke these kinds of reactions with our dishes, whether that’s a theatrical mini rabbit picnic in the spring, or slow cooked venison with roasted roots in the depths of winter.
Ricky Brown, F&B Manager
Favourite tipple and best place to enjoy it within the hotel?
A Negroni cocktail (Campari, Vermouth, Gin) sitting on the terrace on a summer’s evening.
Most unusual drinks request?
A double gin and coke in a pint glass with blackcurrant! An interesting choice!
Most enjoyable part of the role?
Hosting and organising wedding days! There’s a great buzz and it’s a privilege to play a part in such a special day.
Most challenging moment of your career?
Having to separate a fight at a wedding and trying to continue the day as planned after three guests were taken away in police cars. Thankfully it was memorable by fact that it’s a rare occurrence.
Leanne Clark, Head Housekeeper
Most enjoyable part of your role?
Having the friendliest, fun, flexible and hardworking team members who are able to keep spirits high on even the hardest of days.
Favourite spot in the hotel?
The Flower Room is such a lovely area to sit and relax with afternoon tea. There’s lots of natural light from the beautiful arched windows.
Little known fact about the hotel?
It used to be a nursing home from 1953-1990. The hotel is actually three stories tall – there’s an extra floor deep underground.
Claire Davison, Spa Manager
Favourite treatment on the Spa menu?
Pink Himalayan Salt Scrub as it purifies and refines the body leaving you with silky smooth skin and it also incorporates a back neck and shoulder massage so it’s the ultimate treatment.
Little known fact about you?
I helped to design the Spa at Doxford years before I even came to work here.
Strangest request from a client?
I was asked if I could paint a guest’s dog’s nails to match theirs!
Best way to spend a weekend?
Post-Covid my perfect weekend would be spent at a log cabin with pals having home-cooked food, lots of alcohol and giggles and some good old-fashioned fun with my closest friends.