Looking for hotels in Beaminster? Want hotels in Dorset? Read our hotel review of The Ollerod hotel in Dorset, formerly The Bridge House Hotel Beaminster.
What is the hotel’s USP?
The Ollerod – a Dorset (check out our guide to the best places to eat and drink in Dorset here) dialect word for cowslip – is the creation of chef Chris Staines (formerly of Bath’s Abbey Hotel and of Michelin-starred Foliage at London’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel) and his partner Silvana Bandini (formerly of The Pig Hotel, outside Bath). A renovation of what was previously the Bridge House Hotel, in the chocolate box town of Beaminster, the Ollerod is a great base for a weekend escape: stay here and you can choose between forays into picturesquely rambling countryside or salty sea air (the nearby Jurassic coast is just a pebble’s throw away).
And the general vibe?
Renovation work on the 13th century building has been done in stages; when we visited nine of the 13 rooms (one of which will become a treatment room) had yet to be restored to the couple’s standards but the hotel’s lower levels – including a rough-luxe bar and sitting room designed by local firm, Partners in Design, and 50-cover restaurant – had been completed, a sensitive overhaul for the serene former clergy house.
The style remains traditional, highlighting the property’s stately original features, but industrial stools next to the walnut-clad bar, and the seamless blend of stone, wood and textiles are tell-tale signs of Bandini’s time at The Pig. It’s eclectic but it works. The informal refresh in the restaurant – wicker chairs are in and white tablecloths are out – has no doubt helped appeal to a younger community of diners. Late on a Friday night, when we arrive, the bar and restaurant are busy with a jovial mix of families celebrating special occasions, couples enjoying romantic country breaks and regulars drawn back for Staines’ latest seasonal dishes.
Which room should I book?
Despite the roadside location, it’s surprisingly peaceful within the hotel’s caramel-stone walls. Each of the bedrooms is uniquely decorated – stylish and homely, with a hint of countrified opulence (updated rooms have less patterned wallpaper and more understated glamour but all are decadent, with Frette linen and organic toiletries). All are large in size, apart from one Tiny Double, described as “perfect for the solo traveller, but can sleep two if you’re happy snuggling”! The rooms in the neighbouring coach house all have showers over bathtubs, with the two ground-floor rooms dog-friendly (the third of an acre of garden will keep children and canines happy).
What’s good to drink?
This is Dorset so you can’t visit without a glass of Black Cow Pure Milk Vodka, distilled only six miles away in Childhay Manor. Wine lovers can explore an extensive wine list, featuring nearby Furleigh Estate Classic Cuvee, harvested only three miles away (tours of the 85-acre vineyard and winery take place on Fridays and Saturdays). If you’re feeling abstemious, there’s Seedlip on the drinks menu, too.
And to eat?
Working closely with local suppliers, Staines is in his element as he describes his glee at the fresh seafood brought to him from West Country Catch. Steak and bacon are brought in from Fossil Farm in Dorchester, or Jurassic Coast Meats, Creedy Carver chicken, duck and sausages from Huntsham Court Farm. Guests can choose from either an à la carte menu or small plates: arancini, serrano ham croquettes, char siu pork belly bao, spiced lamb shoulder with hummus, yoghurt and pomegranate, grilled prawns with saffron aioli and octopus escabeche with orange and fennel, to name a few.
Five starters and seven main make up the à la carte menu; flame-grilled mackerel satay, flanked by pickled Thai shallots, kimchi, burnt cucumber and ponzu jelly, wows our table. Flavoursome Dorset Aberdeen Angus sirloin is accompanied by triple-cooked chips and a mixed leaf salad, straight from the garden’s expanding veg patch. Few veggie mains have thrilled us like the wild mushroom, artichoke and hazelnut cannelloni though; light but comforting.
What’s the breakfast like?
Served in the light-flooded conservatory, a buffet of fresh pastries, local yoghurt, stewed fruits and homemade granola starts the morning right, with a selection of hot dishes available to order. Local smoked salmon, kippers and traditional breakfast will win the praise of the tourists looking for a traditional English choices, while children will love the creamiest fruit smoothies, served in mini milk bottles.
Is it family-friendly?
Yes – visiting families can choose from the superior family suite in the main building (large double bedroom and second room with twin beds, bath, walk-in shower and separate toilet) or the family room on the first floor of the adjacent coach house (double room with a king-size bed and two adjoining single rooms with shower over the bath).
What can I do in the local area?
This is Thomas Hardy country, so romance and windswept adventure are everywhere. Not least if you head 50 minutes east to iconic Durdle Door, a natural limestone sea arch. It’s the most photographed spot in the county and rightly so, if you time it right and catch the sun dipping between the arch.
A fifteen minute drive from Beaminster towards the coast will land you in Bridport (read our foodie guide to Dorset for tips on restaurants and cafes in Bridport and around); if you’re passing through on a Saturday, don’t miss market day, filled with stall holders selling local pottery, honey, wicker baskets and antiques. A further 12 miles west, Lyme Regis bay awaits, with an obligatory bag of vinegar-soaked chips in the sand (or a pot of steaming ramen from Red Panda).
The concierge says…
There’s plenty of scope for hanging out in pretty Beaminster itself. The postcard-perfect village is filled with independent shops – among them Rambling Rose Flowers and superlative local greengrocer, Fruit ‘n’ Two Veg – so you can head home with the freshest Dorset foodie souvenirs. Book a table at Brassica Restaurant, on the edge of the town square, where chef Cass Titcombe works his magic. Sister business, Brassica Mercantile, overseen by Cass’ wife, Louise Chidgey, is half homewares store, half deli and stocks a fine collection of textiles, furnishings, stationary, kitchenware and local art. On which note, local artist Mirella Bandini – sister to Silvana – creates botany-inspired ceramics, which you’ll spot being used during meals at The Ollerod, and can buy to take home.
The building has aged with grace so don’t be deterred if you’re assigned to one of the yet-to-be renovated rooms. King-size beds and freshly baked cookies make for a sumptuous stay but it’s also endearing. You get the feeling that, for Staines and Bandini, this isn’t a quick career win but a chance to take their professional skills in a more personal direction. The Ollerod is their chance to put down roots and hone their crafts away from the clatter of the city. As the hotel’s interior goes from strength to strength, so too will the hotel’s offering and with it, the team’s joy for their work.
The Tiny Double at The Ollerod starts from £120, B&B, Coach House doubles from £130. For the best deals on rooms at The Ollerod, click here
Words by Sophie Rae