Review by Fiona Duncan, published 1st September 2011.
So often good, even great things can come of bad. It's certainly the case at the Beckford Arms, which has just reopened after a night-time fire – probably started by a casually tossed cigarette – gutted two thirds of the building. Mercifully, the 16 guests and duty manager, asleep in the staff flat, all got out safely.
The Beckford Arms, first opened in the 18th century, had just undergone a refurbishment costing hundreds of thousands of pounds, undertaken by new owners Charlie Luxton and Dan Brod. The ground floor was looking gorgeous but the bedrooms, by all accounts, were still nothing special. Now the ground floor is gorgeous once more and so are the eight bedrooms and bathrooms. Small, yes, but fresh and beautifully equipped.
I'd arranged to stay at the Beckford Arms with my London neighbours, Jonathan and Tessa, who fancied a night away for themselves and their daughter Imogen. The night before we left London, Clapham Junction, close to where we live, had been ripped apart by the riots. We were in shock and the Beckford Arms made a perfect haven.
A haven because Charlie and Dan know what they are doing, and they do it very well. It's a country pub, a restaurant and a comforting place to stay in equal measure. It has style, but it also has character. You can eat in a variety of spaces: animated bar, elegant private dining room, pretty conservatory and garden or quiet sitting room. It was the sight of the last, with sofas, fire and table piled with books, newspapers and magazines that told me this place, though undoubtedly a business operation, was one that considered carefully what its customers want.
You eat well: "idealised" bar food (meaning bar food that's deliberately been created to seem ideal), according to Jonathan; hearty but imaginative lunches and dinners; peerless breakfasts, from eggs benedict to baked beans on toast.
You sleep well. Charlie, who learned his trade with Nick Jones of Soho and Babington House, has thought of everything for the modern metropolitan guest: high, deep, luxurious beds; woolly hot-water bottles; digital radios with iPod dock; excellent in-room information; garden flowers; his wife's own prettily packaged Bramley toiletries; great selection of DVDs; charmingly quirky pictures by local artist Zebedee Helm. Little touches pinched from Babington, such as fireplaces filled with logs, are in evidence and why not? Jones is a great hotelier and Luxton has created similar panache in this simple converted inn.
The Beckford Arms really does seem to have it all. Near a station (Tisbury), it's an attractive building in a romantic place (see "Fiona's Choice" right), with a garden that rambles towards something unusual: a professional boules court. Sunday night is movie night, when a film is projected in the sitting room while you eat supper and put your feet up.
Oh, and it's affordable. Heaven.
- Fonthill Gifford, Tisbury, SP3 6PX (01747 870385;www.beckfordarms.com). Doubles from £90, including breakfast.
Not suitable for guests with disabilities