Ye Olde Bell Hotel and Spa
Katrina Burrill and Claire Weeks visited Ye Olde Bell Hotel and Spa in Barnby Moor to experience the old world charms of this former coaching inn.
It has been more than 350 years since this building first opened as a coaching inn in 1650. Situated on the busy London to Edinburgh route, the inn was a popular stopping place for those making their way north and south. The building has a long and detailed history and many of the rooms are named after famous visitors. The Bradgate Suite took its name from the oak panelling taken from Bradgate House, the former home of Lady Jane Grey who was Queen for nine days – and it is still said that she walks amongst the corridors.
In 1835 on their way to a music festival in York a young Queen Victoria stayed with her mother, the Duchess of Kent, in what is now named the Victoria Suite.
More recently the hotel has played host to famous faces including Charlie Chaplin, Bing Crosby, Oliver Reed, Joan Crawford, Sir Harold and Lady Wilson, Shirley Bassey, Edward Heath, Jilly Cooper and One Direction to name but a few.
The hotel is well known in the local area and is one of the region’s top wedding venues. Couples can choose between one of the five licensed suites, whether for civil ceremonies or receptions.
Our visit was on a Thursday evening and after a swift check-in we were shown to our rooms by Lydia. We both had expansive double rooms on the first floor, with high-end finishes including a claw foot roll topped bath and period furniture.
As we had arrived ready for the evening, we made our way downstairs to the St Leger Bar & Lounge and tried one of the gins from the extensive list, whilst the team brought us the menu and specials board to read. The experience was extremely relaxed, we didn’t feel rushed and were able to take in the ambience of the lounge whilst making our decisions. Although the daily choices on the blackboard looked appetising we both ordered from the main menu.
Whilst waiting for our order to be taken we had our drinks order taken, and asked if they could pair a wine to both our choices. I am always appreciative of team members who can give a pairing to complement dishes.
Once our order was taken we were shown through to the 1650 restaurant, with its own well-stocked bar. Our drinks were brought to us with a sample of the day’s bread, which included rosemary and salt and tomato flavours and served with a balsamic vinegar and butter.
For the next course the waitress brought us an amuse-bouche, crab and tomato filled salmon pocket. This was an extremely light start to our meal and well seasoned. Our starters arrived shortly after. I had opted for the Lincolnshire Poacher Soufflé, served with a sweet pea and smoked pancetta. Claire had chosen the terrine of ham, truffle jelly, foie gras boudin with a smoked cheese bon bon. Although not the prettiest dish the soufflé was cooked to perfection, and the sauce was flavourful without being overpowering. I could easily eat this dish again, with a side salad as a main course.
Our mains followed closely after. I chose the panache of fish, which included salmon, monkfish and seared scallops served on a bed of samphire. Unusually the samphire wasn’t salty, which made a nice change. The fish flaked with any pressure from my fork and tasted delicious. Claire had opted for the escalope of chicken breast baked in parmesan, peas à la Français, parsley potatoes and oyster mushrooms. Chicken is not something I would normally choose when eating out but Claire said the dish worked really well together and the chicken just melted in her mouth.
At this point I could have easily said no to any further food, but I do have a sweet tooth and enjoy finishing my meal with a dessert. The choices on the menu included apple, five spice wantons, caramelised pear and Granny Smith sauce; sticky toffee pudding, feuille de brick and toffee ice cream; and a banana can can, banana mousse and pâte tuile with caramel. However, I opted for their Grand Marnier parfait, chocolate praline truffle, sugar basket and white chocolate ganache whilst Claire choose the cheese board, with Morbier, Comte, Cashel blue, lemon crumble and a Sardinian music bread. Both the desserts offered a great end to our meal, but I have to say we were both defeated. The cheese board would be great between 2-4 guests.
I had to decline a coffee at the end of the evening, as I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it back to my room. The whole experience from our arrival was friendly and very professional. The staff on duty all took time to check back on our meals and offer drinks and although this is a high end restaurant we felt completely comfortable.