The Bell Inn, in the heart of the New Forest in Hampshire has been in the same family since 1782. There’s obviously been few modernisations along the way but they’re tried hard to keep it’s old rustic charm and tradition.
There’s 27 rooms, some of which are dog friendly, which is always an appealing factor for those not wanting to leave mans best friend home alone. There’s also an 18 hole golf course, if you’re so inclined and large garden area for the summer months.
For me the setting is idyllic, the new forest is gorgeous at any time of year and the appeal of the roaming New Forest Ponies is something special – we could even see some from our window.
The reception area is very welcoming, and the bar area, complete with flagstone floors and roaring open fire is a perfect place to relax for a couple of hours.
We stayed in one of the Manor Rooms, overlooking the garden area and out towards the front of the hotel. It was a lovely large and spacious room with King Sized Bed which was ultra comfy.
If had a seating area (although this was right under the TV so you had to watch from the bed if you wanted), separate desk area and complimentary local water. There was a good selection of hot drinks and teas, presented nicely in a tea chest as well as a little jar of jelly beans which was a nice touch.
Again, the bathroom was spacious with a large bath, waterfall shower, heated towel rails (very important in the winter!) and toiletries.
We had dinner in a low lit, wood panelled dining room which created a nice atmosphere. Unfortunately there were quite a few things not available from the menu, but due to it being a Sunday night I guess they had sold out over the weekend and weren’t due any deliveries until the following day.
For starters Lee chose a Rabbit Pithivier with Carrot Salad and Apple Puree. He enjoyed the flavours of the rabbit and the pastry was really well cooked. I chose the Tempura Prawns with Mango & Chilli Salsa and Coriander Salad. I was a little disappointed with the size of this dish, 3 small prawns to me seemed stingy and there wasn’t much of a coriander salad, but the flavours of the mango and chill mayonnaise were very nice and the prawns very well cooked.
I liked the sound of all the very traditional sounding mains. I chose the Duo of Lamb with White Onion Puree, Fresh Peas and Braised Little Gem. I couldn’t complain about this at all, the lamb was cooked really well, it was hearty and well seasoned and very satisfying gastropub style food. The same could be said about Lee’s Pork Tenderloin with Black Pudding, Mash and Kale.
For dessert we opted to share the cheeseboard, which was said to comprise of 6 local cheeses; Barkham Blue, Isle of Wight Soft, Somerset Brie, Lyburn Winchester, Isle of Wight Blue, Rosary Goats Cheese. Unfortunately when it arrived there were only 4 cheeses ( 2 of which had extra slices of) so it looked like 6. We did question this, to be told they had run out of two of the cheeses. It would have been quite nice to know that before ordering, particularly as it was the two I was most looking forward to. They came with some Jacobs crackers and frozen grapes. I’ve never seen frozen grapes on a cheese board before (it was deliberate, we checked) I’d love to know if this is a thing as I didn’t feel they looked very appealing. So if there’s anyone in the culinary know reading this please do tell me!
Breakfast the next morning was in the light and airy garden room, and with the winter sun shining through the windows it was a lovely place to eat breakfast.
There was a table full of cold options, including a nice selection of fresh fruit, yoghurt and pastries. We both opted for a full English to get us set for the day which was really excellent, The meat quality was second to none, with perfect eggs and even some fried bread which I haven’t seen for ages!
Overall we loved our stay at The Bell. The food was decent pub style, although I think we suffered a little purely because it was a Sunday night. The room and communal areas are excellent and the service throughout was really friendly and helpful, especially the reception staff. The location couldn’t be better for exploring the area around the New Forest and South Coast.
They currently have some fab Winter offers starting at around £99 per room per night for Dinner B&B
Disclosure: Our stay and dinner at The Bell was free of charge but we paid for all our extras & drinks.