When booking my recent weekend break away to Center Parcs, Elveden Forest I was looking for reviews relevant to a couple in their mid twenties and I don’t think I found any. This concerned me slightly and I was then convinced the trip was going to be a disaster, luckily I was wrong. With that in mind I knew when I came back I wanted to write an honest review that may help other couples out when looking to book a Center Parcs break.
This was both mine and Sam’s first ever trip to Center Parcs, we had both said a few times that it looked like good fun when we’d seen adverts on the TV and so decided to book for his birthday mid-January. January was a very affordable time to go on a Center Parcs break as a few days over Christmas or in the summer time can sometimes be well over £1000. We paid around £350 for a weekend break Friday-Monday, this price included our accommodation which was one of the new Breckland Apartments and unlimited use of the swimming facilities.
The Breckland Apartments were absolutely stunning, decorated to such a high standard and immaculate too. The decor and style of the accommodation was modern and suited our tastes perfectly. The apartment consisted of a separate toilet, shower room, kitchen, living space and balcony – it was a very luxurious studio apartment style.
The apartment was absolutely perfect for us but it may not be to everyone’s taste as there wasn’t a sofa in the living space but instead there was a table and chairs, we found we didn’t spend much time in the apartment so it wasn’t an issue for us. We were in apartment 23 on the second floor so had a balcony, I believe the ground floor apartments had patios. Having the private outdoor space would be great in the summer especially as our apartment looked out on the golf course and we often saw deer in the evening. There was something quite unusual about the layout, I loved it as it was all open plan and it fitted in with the whole style of the apartment block, however the unusual thing is that the bathroom is open (toilet is in a separate lockable room). There was an option when booking to book two single beds instead so the fact the shower isn’t behind a lockable door could be an issue if you were visiting with friends. The shower room consisted of a sink, a dressing table and then the shower itself. The shower is behind the wooden panel you can see in the photo. I thought I’d mention and explain it in this review as I was unaware of this until we arrived, luckily it wasn’t an issue for us. The kitchen consisted of the usual plates, cups, cutlery etc… but also a wine fridge, Tassimo Coffee machine and a dishwasher. I would bear in mind that although you are self catering in the apartment the oven wasn’t the best and it wasn’t that big either, we managed to cook a pizza and garlic bread in it but I’m not sure we’d of managed a meal from scratch. Center Parcs supplied the apartment with milk pods, tea bags, coffee, a couple of Tassimo pods, a sachet of washing up liquid, a dishcloth, a dishwasher tablet, a tea towel and bin bags… a lot more than I was expecting in comparison to other similar breaks we’ve been on. There was also an optional daily housekeeping service where they provided fresh towels, gave the space a light clean and provided new toilet roll … this was a service included in the price which I thought was really impressive.
If you’ve not been to Center Parcs before then its important to note that if you want to do any specific or go to a particular restaurant then you will NEED to book in advance. For the dining we actually only booked one meal in advance which was the meal we had on Friday when we got there for Sam’s birthday and then we presumed each other day we could just go wherever we fancied. We presumed wrong, we fancied going to Huck’s which is an American diner in the main village on Saturday night but it was fully booked with 640 diners booked in! We were a bit naïve with it being our first time and thought there wouldn’t be many people staying in January, we were definitely wrong. We managed to make a reservation for Hucks for the next day and instead enjoyed a meal at Foresters Inn on Saturday night. This was the only pub on site, it was further away from the main village near the Aqua Sana Spa but about a 5 minute walk from our Apartment whereas the village was a little over 10 minutes away.
On Friday we dined at Rajinda Pradesh, we booked the Rajinda Experience in advance which was a set menu including a poppadum platter, starter platter, a classic curry each, a naan and rice to share and a glass of wine or a Cobra, this was great value at only £24.50 each. It wasn’t the best curry we have ever had and agreed that it tasted like the curry sauce was out of a jar but everything else tasted freshly made and authentic.
The Foresters Inn served nice pub food and we enjoyed this on Saturday night, I went for Foresters chicken and Sam had the Ham, Egg & Chips both of which were really enjoyable. It was the most affordable meal we had and its a great place to dine and have a few drinks… it felt very laid back and comfortable. We also went to Foresters on Sunday morning for a traditional English breakfast and the most delicious hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows.
We finally got to try Hucks American Bar & Grill on Sunday night, we were eager to go here as it was ranked as one of the best restaurants to eat at in Center Parcs. The food and cocktails didn’t disappoint, they were the best cocktails sold on site in my opinion and also the best value for money – others I tried tasted very strange and were £10+. These cocktails tasted like they were made by somebody skilled to do so and the menu was right up my street, I love American food. I had the Nacho Hot Dog and Sam had the shrimp and fries both of which were extremely tasty.
The next morning we checked out this was really simple, you just have to throw your wristbands (used as the key and for swimming lockers) in the box at the sports plaza or at the exit. We then went for breakfast, we both enjoyed a traditional English breakfast at the Sports Café. We had a few drinks in here the night before and were sad to discover it on our last night as the drinks were really affordable and the atmosphere was great.
We didn’t take part in that many activities over the weekend mostly because it was expensive but also because it was really cold and a lot of them are outside. We played mini golf on the Island in the middle of the lake, this was good fun and actually one of the most affordable things to. It was around £8 each but this price might depend on the season. I don’t think we needed to pre-book this as I saw people just walk up and pay at the window. Although I don’t think pre-booking is always necessary for the activities I do think its worthwhile to do so if you are on a budget as you pay online before the holiday. I booked an hour of bowling for us which was around £40, at first I thought this was quite expensive but I actually think the way they charge for a certain amount of time rather than number of games works well when there’s only two of you. We managed to play three games in our allocated hour which actually made this price fairly reasonable.
We took part in two activities at the Outdoor Activity Centre, we had a go at Laser Clay Pigeon Shooting which was actually really difficult but nearing to the end of our session we were told sometimes the lasers on the guns don’t work and so even if we were hitting every single one if our gun wasn’t working we wouldn’t get any points. For this reason I wouldn’t recommend this as it’s definitely the least fun activity we did and I felt like we had wasted our money as it was around £60 for the two of us. The other outside activity was the Segway Experience, this is easily the best thing we did over the weekend. I’d recommend trying this to anyone and at roughly £70 for two people it’s not cheap but it is definitely worth the price. I was really worried about falling off and had barely any balance when I got on the Segway but after a few minutes I felt completely comfortable going through the forest up and down hills and over bumps on them and it was great fun. The activities aren’t cheap at all, if you know anything about Center Parcs you’ll know it’s not a budget holiday but if you have the money I think its definitely worth trying something new whilst there.
Near to the exit and outdoor activity centre there was a wildlife hide, I’d recommend trying to go here even if it’s just for a few minutes. It’s free to enter and we saw some baby dear amongst a lot of other animals.
Overall I really enjoyed our weekend at Center Parcs and both Sam and I said we would love to return in the future. We spent a small fortune over the few days we were in Elveden Forest and at times when we ordered a round of drinks we looked at each other and said Really?, things were expensive but you just kind of have to accept it to get the most out of the holiday. I think perhaps the lodges would have had bigger and better equipped kitchens in order to eat in, this is definitely something that would save you a lot of money especially if going as a family or a group. It’s definitely not a cheap holiday as you could get an all-inclusive deal in Europe for the same price as the accommodation and spending money at Center Parcs but you’re paying for the location, the experience and the chance to make memories. It was actually lovely to spend time together walking through the forest, putting our phones down and not having to drive anywhere for the whole weekend. I’d really recommend booking a break a Elveden Forest especially if you’ve never been to a Center Parcs village before, it definitely exceeded my expectations.