We woke to some lovely spring sunshine and started our day with a hearty breakfast at a window table of the hotel’s restaurant overlooking the marina. As we tucked into our delicious breakfasts we watched the crew of one yacht preparing to set sail.
The buffet had an excellent choice of hot and cold dishes with omelettes, pancakes and smoothies being freshly prepared to order. I’m a big fan of smoothies and my glass of fruits of the forest, honey and oats was sublime. It was a leisurely start to the day and it took us some time to make a move as we lingered over cups of frothy cappuccino and glanced at the complimentary morning papers.
There was so much more of Hull for us to explore so we got ourselves ready and strolled through the marina and along the waterfront a short distance until we reached The Deep which is one of the world’s most spectacular aquariums and home to 5,000 animals including seven species of sharks and rays.
The dramatic building was inspired by nature and appears to rise out of the water like a leaping fish complete with scales. The aquarium opened in 2002 and operates as an educational and marine conservation charity. Its landmark building is internationally recognisable and has even featured on a Royal Mail stamp. Standard adult admission to the museum is £14 at the door or £12.60 if pre-booked on-line. Tickets are valid for one year so visitors can make return visits at no extra charge if they wish.
Our visit was on a Sunday morning and it was still reasonably quiet when we arrived, enabling us to view all the exhibits and tanks easily. We noticed however that it became much busier later so if you are able to visit early at weekends or during school holidays then I think this would be a good idea.
A lift takes visitors to the top floor where the exhibition starts with a geological time line along a gentle downhill slope taking visitors through 4 billion years of oceanic history with a fossil wall complete with skeletons and carcasses of ocean creatures. At varying intervals there are useful information boards and interactive screens to learn about the marine past.
Having reached the end of the lengthy slope our self guided tour led us to the huge tanks. The largest of these is called Endless Ocean and I don’t believe that I’ve ever seen such a huge tank. It has two main viewing areas including a giant sized glass wall. A guide gives a live commentary here several times daily pointing out the various species of shark, rays and loggerhead turtles. The fish happily swim around together and we learnt that the sharks don’t eat the smaller fish because they are well fed and are not tempted into doing so. It was very interesting viewing the marine life and I especially liked the rays and turtles.
Continuing, we walked through an ice tunnel on our way to visit the penguins. The Gentoo penguins are one of The Deep’s star attractions and can be viewed from two different levels both above and below the water. The penguins looked so cute waddling around slowly and then enjoying diving into the pool and playing together swimming around rapidly.
The penguin enclosure boasts climate control and natural lighting cycles to provide natural behaviour for breeding and moulting. Gentoo penguins moult once a year but unlike other birds they lose all their feathers very quickly to remain waterproof. Before the moulting starts they have an increased appetite and gain weight to enable them to live off their excess fat on dry land whilst waiting for their feathers to drop off and new ones to grow. I loved watching the antics of these penguins and it was hard to tear myself away and move on. Hopefully one day I’ll get an opportunity to view some penguins in their natural habitat, that would be amazing.
There was still lots to see including jellyfish in the Cool Seas and Twilight zone and in the Lagoon of Light we viewed an array of colourful tropical fish, corals and mangroves reflecting where the rainforests meet the reef in the western Pacific Ocean.
Towards the end of the tour visitors walk through an underwater tunnel and then in order to exit the museum one can either take the underwater bubble lift to the top or climb the stairs. Although it would have been an experience to take the lift we opted to walk as there was a lengthy queue of prams and pushchairs and we would have needed to wait quite awhile. We didn’t miss out too much though as we were able to see into the enormous tank through large glass viewing walls located on each of the landings.
The Deep also features a cafe, restaurant and gift shop and I would recommend allowing a minimum of two hours for a visit. I was very impressed as unlike most aquariums it doesn’t have lots of small tanks but instead has just a few enormous ones containing many varieties of marine animals.
After leaving the aquarium we followed signs along a boardwalk to the nearby Fruit Market district on Humber Street. During the 19th century most of Hull’s fruit traders were based in this area and the abandoned warehouses have now been transformed into Hull’s Cultural Quarter.
Strolling along the cobbled street we discovered that these former disused warehouses are now home to restaurants, bars, art galleries, a micro-brewery, a gin distillery and a chocolatier. There’s a vibrant feel about the place and on one corner there’s even a dinosaur experience centre called Dinostar to keep children amused.
Wandering through the old town we spotted some telephone boxes painted cream rather than the traditional red. Cream phone boxes are unique to Hull as it is the only city in the U.K. to have kept an independent telephone provider. The company was formerly known as Kingston Communications and now uses the abbreviated title (KCOM). This pair of telephone boxes are located outside the old General Post Office which is now a J.D.Wetherspoon pub.
After some lunch we turned our attention to shopping and took a look in the beautiful Hepworth Arcade. This Victorian glass roofed passageway is now home to a variety of quirky independent retailers selling goods that one might not be able to track down on the high street.
It was then back to our hotel for a short rest followed by a pre-dinner drink in the hotel before going out to eat. Exploring the Fruit Market district earlier in the day had been interesting so we decided to return there and enjoy a meal in one of its converted warehouses. We opted for Ambiente a Spanish tapas restaurant and weren’t disappointed.
Entering the restaurant we received a warm welcome and were shown to one of the cosy booths on a raised section of the restaurant. Giving a nod to the former warehouse, Ambiente has a chic industrial feel with high ceilings. Our waitress suggested that we might like to have some nibbles whilst selecting from the menu and our large squares of focaccia bread served with a dipping bowl of oil and balsamic vinegar was delicious as were our large, juicy olives.
There were so many interesting dishes on the menu it was hard to choose but we finally narrowed our selection down to two meat, fish and vegetable dishes. These were brought to the table as they were prepared and we feasted on beef and pork meatballs in a chorizo, tomato and olive sauce along with a pork fillet stuffed with Serrano ham and garlic.
All of the dishes transported me back to Catalonia with authentic Spanish cuisine but the stand outs were my charcoal roasted fillet of sea bream that had been cooked in a Josper, a white hot charcoal oven, and the tiger prawns in a lightly spiced tempura batter served with aioli.
In true Spanish style the drinks menu contains an extensive list of sherries with sherry flights and suggested tapas pairings available. Although these seemed quite tempting, we opted instead for glasses of Rioja which complimented our tapas beautifully.
When the dessert menu was offered we couldn’t resist the temptation and my fruit and nut kebabs with dates, nuts and cacao nib balls was delectable with its accompanying dark chocolate dipping sauce. Across the table, the cheesecake went down a treat too.
Our evening at Ambiente had been a relaxed affair with superb cooking and attentive service. We were looked after by Becky and Thomas who were knowledgeable, professional and friendly helping to make our visit one to remember. I’d recommend a meal at Ambiente if you are visiting Hull or perhaps at one of their other branches in either York or Leeds if you are in the vicinity.
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