We chose the Bell very carefully, using Trip Adviser (and other) reviews, and particularly for its well-praised AA** restaurant, "Briscoes", as we enjoy quality food.
We had booked in January via Booking.com for 3 nights over Easter at standard room rate of £90pn, inc breakfast. Arriving at 2.30pm on Good Friday, we were given a small, plain room, nothing like the photo on the web. When we complained, we were told it was already an upgrade to "Traditional" from the "Cosy" offered by Booking.com. We knew nothing of such gradings, and stuck to our guns that it was not as advertised. Without too much fuss (maybe they expected it?) we were offered a much larger, nicer room, which we were very pleased with.
We had booked a table for dinner on arrival, but when we went to look for "Briscoes" and couldn't find it, the Receptionist admitted it no longer exists, and has been "integrated" into the pub, likewise its menu. We were devastated by this, as it was a crucial part of our choice.
However, we thought we'd give it a chance, and picked a nice table in a side area furthest from the bar. There were few diners. We sat down at 8.30, ordering at 8.40 from the rather meagre menu, but when we enquired as to the delay at 9.10, the waitress admitted forgetting to put our order in. By the time we received it at 9.35, we were past it, and didn't enjoy it - it was nothing special anyway. In recompense, they waived the wine bill, and, subsequently, the meal itself, but it spoiled our evening.
We avoided it on the Saturday evening by going to the excellent Green Dragon, just across the road, enjoying a lovely meal in a nicely-buzzing pub atmosphere, but their food service finished at 6pm on Sunday, so, without driving, we had no option but dine at the Bell again.
I'm delighted to say it was a totally different and thoroughly enjoyable experience - a better menu, well-presented and timely.
Throughout our stay, even with the problems, we found all the staff friendly and anxious to help, with none of the reluctance mentioned by other reviewers. I feel rather guilty writing this critical review, because everyone was so nice.
In summary, I think something major has changed. Although they denied a change of management, we heard rumours of big changes in the food arrangements, and they were turning people away on Sunday evening, although there were lots of empty tables, because the kitchen was overstretched.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Welcome to The Bell Inn, which has been part of my family since 1782. Inside we have made stylish updates to our historic New Forest hotel without spoiling any of its traditional and rustic charm. With open fireplaces, flagstone floors, elegant reception rooms and two superb 18-hole golf courses we are unlike other hotels in Hampshire. With nature’s larder on the doorstep our team of talented chefs create seasonal specials, mouth-watering menus, and have unique access to game from our family’s New Forest estate – a true ‘Estate to Plate’ dining experience. Whether staying in one of our 28 tasteful rooms, enjoying local ale whilst relaxing on comfortable sofas in our dog friendly bar, dining with us exploring the flavours of the New Forest or playing a round of golf on our New Forest Hotel's oldest course, we look forward to welcoming you to this timeless and magical place. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
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- Also Known As:
- The Bell Hotel New Forest