The Bell is one of those places whose names seem to make people smile and nod. We mentioned the hotel/restaurant/pub, in Alderminster, near Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire, a few times on our trip to Shakespeare’s England. Everyone had good things to say about it. Deservedly so, in our opinion.
The Bell is set on a quiet road – the A3400, which runs into the pretty village of Alderminster. All that remains from the pub’s origins as an eighteenth Century coach house is an iron ring, preserved at the back of the building. Travellers would tie their horses here, while going inside to sup an ale or two. Although the decor of the pub/restaurant/B&B is underscored by tradition, there’s a distinctly modern, hipster edge running through the place. It was a pleasant, relaxing space, with a few elegant twists.
Inside the pub
The pub’s fireplaces both featured a musky stack of logs, and hunting-trophy antlers. One was set against a feature wall painted in this season’s favourite shade: aubergine.
The other fireplace (shown in the picture at the top of this post) came with beat-up leather armchairs, adorned with funky ‘gentlemen’s’ cushions.
Quirky little touches popped up everywhere, like the jaguar-print wallpaper in the hall, and the eyes which peered over your shoulder in the ladies’ bathroom.
The Bell is set on the edge of fields, which run down to the River Stour. There were plenty of places to sit on the patio, from rattan loungers to iron chairs. I imagine that in summer this would be a glorious place to while away a few hours, with the children roaming safely within view of the garden. A little shack, the ‘Baby Bell’, serves snacks in the warmer months of the year. On the Autumn afternoon of our visit, it was useful to have the outside space for the youngsters to burn off some steam while we waited for our food to arrive.
The Bell’s restaurant has won awards, including the AA Rosette Award for Culinary Excellence. We arrived early, and walked from the cosy pub, with its wooden beams and soft leather furniture, through to a light-filled, airy atrium, with high ceilings and a piano tinkling away in the background. I wasn’t able to take decent photos of the space, because within minutes it was full. The Bell clearly has a formidable reputation among the Cotswolds set. It was packed with diners, wearing smart/casual clothes and tucking into some delicious lunchtime grub.
And that grub truly was delicious. D and I ate from the lunchtime prix fixe menu, available for lunch Monday-Friday, 12-2.30pm and dinner Monday-Thursday, 6.30-9pm. Three courses would have cost £17, two courses £14.50. While we waited, the waitress brought a plate of delicious artisan bread, including slices from a warm olive loaf that just melted in the mouth. I was driving, so I turned down the offer of paired wine with the meal. D opted for an Alscot Ale, brewed on the country estate which The Bell is part of.
To start, I chose crispy squid with sweetcorn salsa and sun blushed tomatoes. The squid was light and spicy, and the piquant salsas offset it perfectly.
D is vegetarian, and ate carrot and coconut soup followed by a dill gnocchi, roasted butternut squash, coconut and butternut velouté. He said the gnocchi was light and delicious. I tried a smidgen of his soup, which had a delicate, subtle flavour.
My main course was a triumph. Panfried rump of lamb with truffle mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables and a red wine jus might sound like a straightforward dish, but the flavours running through it were memorable and complex. The mash was quite possibly the most delicious I’ve ever eaten, and the lamb was astonishingly tender. Afte such a filling main course, I hoped the crème brulée with homemade shortbread wouldn’t be too heavy – and it was a gamble that paid off. The brulée was light and almost fluffy, and the shortbread was buttery, with just a hint of salt.
Like my main course, the children’s menu sounded straightforward, but the food was top-notch, and delicious. My daughter chose the 5oz rump steak, with crisp cut chips and garden peas. My son enjoyed tucking into battered goujons of light, flakey cod. Then, included as part of the £8.95 two-course meal, they picked ice cream over the second choice, a chocolate brownie.
Staying at The Bell
We didn’t stay at The Bell this time, but the hotel offers nine boutique rooms on a bed-and-breakfast basis. Prices start at £100 per night for a midweek stay in a double room.
The Bell is around 30 miles south of Birmingham, close to Stratford-Upon-Avon. It lies on the A3400, which can be accessed via the M40 (if you’re heading from the south), or M42 (heading from the north).
We ate lunch as guests of The Bell. All views are my own. For more information see The Bell’s website.
Read more about our trip to Shakespeare’s England here:
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