Our bedroom was spacious, with beautiful harbour views, but despite the comfortable bed we didn’t sleep too well due to the lack of air conditioning. The slightly dated décor was also a disappointment. The whole point of checking into a spa hotel is to stay somewhere more luxurious than your own home, so you don’t expect tatty carpet. On the plus side, the marble-tiled bathroom had both a large shower and a roll-top bath.
The terrace of the Upper Deck restaurant, overlooking the harbour, offers the kind of alfresco dining summer nights were made for. The menu was a joy to sample, with an emphasis on local seafood, of course, and lots of classic dishes to please most palates. We tried the Chunky Mudeford Fish Soup, which was rich and aromatic, and Alex’s Twice Baked Cheese Soufflé (that’s Alex Aitken, who has overseen the menu), and then the Loin of Lamb with Dauphinoise potatoes (almost criminally calorific but oh so delicious) and the Cod & Crab served with crushed peas and mash. The extensive wine list offered perfect pairings for our food, including dessert (panna cotta and sticky toffee pudding). We walked it off with a night-time stroll along the harbour, admiring the moonlit water and starry sky.
Who goes there?
It was definitely an older crowd enjoying the breakfast buffet, but at dinner there were also younger couples and families dressed in their Sunday best. The spa offers a good range of treatments and seemed to be popular with mothers and daughters and groups of girlfriends enjoying a spot of pampering.
Out & about
There are kayaks and paddle boards available to borrow for those who want to explore Christchurch Harbour on water, otherwise a walk to Mudeford Quay, just five minutes from the hotel, is recommended. There you can enjoy a spot of crabbing or hop on the ferry over to Hengistbury Head with its sandy beaches and multi-coloured fishing huts. The many delights of the New Forest
(picture-postcard villages, nature trails and wild ponies) are a short drive away.
The worst thing
Sadly, the room. We were told ours was one of the best and, sure, the view was lovely but the room itself and the corridors need refreshing to match the rest of the hotel, which overall is very well-presented.
The best thing
The food and the location. A coastal hideaway just two hours’ drive from London is always a good thing, and we’d definitely return for a meal in the hotel restaurant.