Review: The Crown Hotel at Blandford Forum
PUBLISHED: 15:59 05 November 2018
Jake Eastham, © Jake Eastham
The Crown Hotel at Blandford Forum offers wonderful riverside walks, stylish bedrooms, deeply satisfying suppers and even a dandy highwayman
Any dog owner will tell you that top of the list for any trip away is easy access to a great dog walk. Well both Scumpy and Rosie – our lively working cocker spaniels – gave the Crown Hotel in Blandford Forum full barks on Nip Advisor. Not only is there a cracking walk within seconds of this handsome Georgian coaching inn, but there is also doggy ice cream, Pawsecco and Dog Beer available, and a warm welcome from the friendly staff.
Situated just a stone’s throw from the Hall & Woodhouse brewery, the Crown Hotel is reputed to be one of the oldest inns in Dorset, it has been a residence since the 10th century. The inn joined the Hall & Woodhouse family in 1931 and in 2017 the company spent over £3 million on refurbishing the 27 bedrooms, bar and dining room, resurrecting this centrally located coaching inn back to its former splendour.
We arrived on one of those glorious golden afternoons that late autumn sometimes delivers. Though tempted to take tea on the patio, we decided to do right by our dogs and popped over the road to explore Stour Meadows. What an absolute gem of a location this is. We met many doggy friends, as well as others like us simply strolling along the lovely riverside walk.
After an enjoyable dip in the Stour – the dogs not us! It was back to that sunny patio where Stu enjoyed a pint of Badger’s new seasonal beer Red Ramble. This rich ruby beer was inspired by autumnal woodland walks across Dorset. It certainly hit the spot with its deep biscuit malt flavours and hint of chocolate. I enjoyed a nicely chilled glass of Viognier, Domaine De Vedilhan, with apricot and peachy notes. Meanwhile Scrumpy and Rosie tucked into Carrot Crunch dog ice cream with bone-shaped wafer.
As the sunset we made our way up to our room. As with all Hall & Woodhouse bedrooms everything has been thought of to make your stay a home away from home, but with the luxury aspect turned right up. Super comfy bed, crisp linens, stylish décor, and a bathroom with fluffy towels, mellow lighting and a deep bath tub you just want to luxuriate in.
However supper was calling. So we fed the dogs and settled them in their baskets, put Classic FM on the room’s radio to lull them to sleep, and made our way to the dining room.
The autumnal menu lured us towards ‘comfort’ food options. My discerning vegan dining companion was impressed with his starter of baked flat mushrooms stuffed with puy lentils with a citrus, caper and sunblush tomato dressing - a sophisticated combination.
I had my eye on one of the famous Hall & Woodhouse award-winning pies for my main (there was also a mutual desire for a side of triple cooked chips with malt vinegar mayo), so I went for a light starter of brown and white crab meat, delicately blended with fresh chives and mayonnaise, served with malted sourdough.
For my main I opted for the steak and Tanglefoot Ale pie (British Pie Awards 2017 Silver Medal Winner). The signature pie was packed with yielding chunks of steak in a rich gravy, encased in crisp golden pastry; this star turn was supported by creamy mash and braised cabbage with leeks and bacon.
Stu was in vegan heaven with an expertly seasoned Provençale ratatouille served with rice and red chimichurri dressing; a thoughtful vegan option that made a refreshing change from what can often be a lacklustre selection when dining out. Drinks wise we repeated our sundowners which worked well with our choices.
After that long afternoon walk, we eyed up the dessert menu greedily but wondered whether we could enjoy them in our room? Not a problem…
Ten minutes later our waitress knocked at the door carrying a tray with dessert and coffee. Sitting in bed we tucked into a vegan chocolate and coconut torte with almond cream, and apple and beer soaked sultana oat crumble with a salted toffee and Fursty Ferret beer sauce – both deliciously decadent and exactly what we hoped for.
I was quite excited by the added intrigue of bumping into one of the resident ghosts. These include an 18th century highwayman who was shot dead when trying to rob the hotel. But by 11pm any highway man, dandy or otherwise, would have found me fast asleep.
The following morning after a slap up breakfast, and another airing of paws in the nearby water meadow, we swung by the Hall & Woodhouse HQ to pick up some Badger beers from their onsite shop. There was also the opportunity to go on one of the guide tours of the brewery. But certainly as far as Scrumpy and Rosie are concerned, a trip to the Crown Hotel ticked all their boxes and ours. It was waggy tails and ice creams (including doggy and vegan options) all round.
To find out more please visit crownhotelblandford.co.uk or call 01258 456626