It was one of those spur of the moment, “let’s get away this weekend”, decisions. The 50 miles or so through autumnal East Sussex seemed about right, and Deans Place in Alfriston seemed to be well favoured by other Trip Advisor members. We were looking for good food, a country setting and comfortable accommodation. We were not disappointed.
We were greeted by a helpful and friendly receptionist (who seemed to be on duty all weekend), and we quickly made our way upstairs (no lift – but just 14 steps) to Room 44 – which we discovered also incorporated Room 45. Were we going to be joined by someone else during our stay? No. We were assured that 44 & 45 was all one room. The double (45) was a very pleasant room, with deep armchairs. My wife deemed the bed very comfortable (an accolade rarely bestowed!) The twin (44) was a bit small, with just one upright chair, a sink and peeling wallpaper. The view from both rooms was picturesque: over the fields and woods to the south of the hotel. The bathroom was not large, but it was sparkling and entirely adequate. However, I was a bit nervous of the red-hot towel rail, which was just inches away from the toilet. The towels (“The Supreme Towel”) were gorgeous.
The hotel promotes itself as “the perfect rural setting”. The only thing that detracted from this was that our room was just above the restaurant – and I suspect the restaurant’s air conditioning unit. This whirred away for most of the evening until about 10:00 PM, just after the restaurant closed. Not a deafening sound, but it did distract from the peace of an evening.
Our lasting memory of Deans Place will undoubtedly be the food. I shall long recall the joy I witnessed spreading over the countenance of a fellow diner (almost certainly on the same dinner, bed & breakfast deal that we were on) when the waiter told him that he could choose three courses from anywhere on the menu. And what a menu. Firstly the day’s specials, then a separate vegetarian menu, then a standard menu (apparently changed monthly) and finally a dessert menu. Over the two meals, we enjoyed calves liver, rump of lamb, leg of duck and bream – all cooked to perfection and excellently presented “nouvelle cuisine”. An unusual starter was cuttle fish on pearl barley. Amongst the desserts, there was only one word to describe the chocolate marquise – “wicked”! It was pleasing that the waiting staff were happy to serve tap water – and even suggested this – rather than assume we wanted an expensive designer water. The meal was unhurried, but with attentive, convivial, service throughout. Try to choose from the specials if possible.
After dinner, we were invited to take coffee in the bar lounge: comfortable sofas surrounding a roaring fire, and deep coffee (and tea) pots. Returning to our room, how pleasant it was to find that our beds had been turned down.
For some odd reason, the breakfasts did not quite match the magnificence of the previous evenings’ dinners - the staff seemingly not adapting to the brisker tempo needed at breakfast. On our first morning, we were seated and left a menu. Nobody explained it was a buffet. OK, we were intelligent enough to work this out for ourselves eventually. After the initial orders were taken for beverages and toast, there was no subsequent offer to take orders for cooked-to-order items or enquire whether we needed more toast. This was all the more unsettling when we later overheard the otherwise charming waitress explain all this in great detail to a larger party on the other side of the restaurant. On the second morning, I decided that I wanted just toast and bacon. Surprisingly for a buffet, there was no guest-operated toast machine. Obviously my request for six pieces of white toast (for me) and for two pieces of brown toast (for my wife) completely fazed the staff - I had to ask for these three times, and even then, only one brown piece arrived. In mitigation, the weather was dreadful on the second (Sunday) morning, and I think all the hotel’s guests copied our bright idea of descending for breakfast at 9:00 AM.
Deans Close does not offer five star luxury (with lots of services that I would never use), but virtually everything it does, it does exceedingly well (with a slight lapse at breakfast!). I’m told it’s a great area for walkers, with the South Downs Way passing through the village. Deans Close is more than a country hotel and restaurant. It offers that old fashioned commodity, hospitality, and in buckets.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- With its origins in the 14th century this hotel is situated in one of England’s prettiest villages, set in extensive gardens with a stunning backdrop of the South Downs. An ideal retreat when visiting Glyndebourne, walking the South Downs, or visiting the attractive towns, villages and stunning coastline of East Sussex. The hotel has a heated swimming pool available from May to September and has direct access to the South Downs way. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Deans Place Alfriston
- Deans Place, Country Hotel And Restaurant Alfriston, East Sussex