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by Martin Dunford, The Daily Telegraph, September 26, 2016
An inn in the very best sense of the word, this 600-year-old boutique gastropub with rooms features comfy, well-appointed bedrooms, friendly service and excellent, hearty pub food.
Horndon-on-the-Hill sits atop what in Essex counts as a serious hill, looking down over the Thames estuary. It’s not near any particular sights, but the village is nice, with a main street of timbered and clapboard houses. You can walk in the surrounding Langdon Hills and Langdon Country Park, or follow the ‘Sea Wall’ walks down along the river, or travel a bit further to Thorndon Country Park, which is lovely and has a Deep Dark Wood Gruffalo Trail for kids.
Style & character 8/100
John Vereker was ahead of the curve when he reinvented the Bell as a gastropub with rooms in the 1970s, and he’s still here, assisted by the third generation of the Vereker family, who have helped him keep the place thoroughly up-to-date. The style is traditional and pubby in the main 600-year-old-building, but it’s supplemented with a selection of cool boutique-style rooms in a Georgian annexe up the street.
Service & facilities 8/100
The vibe is a friendly, personal and confident one, with long-serving staff inspired by owners John and his wife Christine Vereker, who was born in the pub. There’s not much in the way of facilities apart from an additional restaurant space that hosts functions and weddings – but what they do, they do really well.
There are 27 rooms in all, which vary quite a lot in style, from characterful, spacious, beamed affairs above the pub to the more contemporary rooms in High House, a few doors up the street, which are also generously sized and have larger bathrooms with walk-in showers and separate baths. There are also a few rooms in Hill House, in between the two. All rooms have good Wi-Fi, televisions, and tea- and coffee-making facilities with homemade biscuits. High House also has a book-lined ‘library’ for guests, with squashy sofas and a TV.
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Food & drink 9/100
Food has always been central to The Bell and they serve a daily-changing menu that’s based around what’s seasonal and what’s local, and includes herbs and veg from the hotel’s kitchen garden. You can eat but can’t book a table in the busy front bar of the pub; the restaurant at the back is quieter – and you can book – but the look and feel is much the same. As for the food, it’s good, confident cooking, beautifully presented and very reasonably priced, considering the quality.
Their second restaurant, Ostlers, down the street, is open just Friday and Saturday evening and Sunday lunchtimes and serves a slightly funkier, more contemporary menu and also hosts functions and weddings. This is also where you eat what is a predictably generous breakfast.
Value for money 9/100
Excellent value for money, with doubles starting a £80 a night in Hill House, although the double rooms in High House and above the pub start at £120 a night – all including breakfast.
Access for guests with disabilities?
No special facilities but there are three ground floor rooms in Hill House.
Not especially, but the Stable room and a further room in High House can comfortably accommodate a family of four.
This article was written by Martin Dunford from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.