Monday, 22 August 2011

Hedonethical Holidays: The Montagu Arms, Beaulieu (and Terrace Restaurant)

Anyone who follows this blog regularly (and I know from the stats page that it's not just my imagination, there are a few of you!) will have noticed there's been a bit of slacking going on this month.

This is because I went on holiday. As we're trying to live with hedonethics in mind, we extended these principles to our holiday this year. I'm not going to lie, it did "help" that the boiler packed up a few months ago: replacing it ate all the savings we'd put together for a trip to Italy. Hey-ho we said and set our sights on the new forest.

I've got two Hedonethical Holiday posts to make, at each end of the price scale - the first week is at a high class hotel, the second one, camping in a "tipi" in Dorset. This post is about the hotel we stayed at during the first week. Photographs are at the bottom.

We stayed at The Montagu Arms, in Beaulieu (pronounced B'yoo-lee). Some things about this hotel were spectacular from a hedonethicists point of view, particularly the michelin starred restaurant headed by chef Matthew Tomkinson. Other things made me wonder why they hadn't done them, such as the lack of that now familiar little card, which usually informs guests that they should put their towels in the bath if they want them changed, or leave them on the rack if they will use them again.

So, here are the main ethical positives:
  1. The obvious: their location in the uk. 
  2. There are 28 healthy, free range chickens onsite supplying the hotel's eggs, which you can visit if you love chickens as I do, puckuuuuck! 
  3. They compost the hotel food waste. 
  4. They are reclaiming waste ground to create wildlife-friendly organic gardens. 
  5. They source some of their ingredients from their own organic kitchen gardens. 
  6. Wherever possible they use local meat and fish. 
  7. They bottle chilled and filtered tap water, rather than serving imported products. They carbonate it for you if you request sparkling. 
  8. There's a lot of happy wildlife around - there were loads of fat birds in the garden, along with bees and butterflies. 
  9. There is sustainable fish such as gurnard on the menu. 
  10. The menu makes the most of seasonal produce. 
  11. Double glazing has been installed behind the traditional windows, to conserve energy. 
  12. The hotel's newspaper of choice is The Independent, which is available for free.
And the main hedonistic ones:
  1. Sumptuous surroundings with a lovely victorian feel. wood panelling, grandfather clocks, gorgeous wallpaper, interesting paintings and historical artefacts, good weight linens, soft towels, moulton brown and organic toiletries, wooden loo seats etc.
  2. Incredibly good food. 
  3. Beautiful, well-kept garden with a fountain and fat, friendly little wild birds.
  4. Fabulous service and extremely friendly staff, these guys are great and will tailor their approach to your reactions: be informal and so will they (without compromising service), be formal and they will follow suit. The night porter stays awake all night, ready to provide you with wines, spirits, tea, coffee or sandwiches at any hour.
  5. Complimentary coffee or tea and a newspaper every morning.
  6. They have a truly huge cheese selection, some cheeses I'd never even heard of before.
  7. There are nice smoking areas provided at both the front and back of the hotel.
  8. The pub next door, Monty's, serves excellent food, local beers and is very comfy with a pool table, darts boards and other games available from behind the bar on request.
  9. The sommelier is a lovely young man, just into the job and very keen to share his knowledge and funny stories if you ask him. I wouldn't say the cellar is extensive (I've seen the wine list at the Ritz), but there are a lot of choices on there.
  10. There are a wide selection of teas, including fresh mint, gunpowder and russian caravan. The coffee is also very good.
  11. When we checked out, the receptionist handed us a paper bag containing "goodbye" water and apples for the road. When we got to our car, we discovered a note letting us know that our windscreen had been washed in advance of our homeward journey.

There are still some ethical items that I hope they will rectify over time:

  1. There's no option for you to retain your towels for more than one night.
  2. I didn't see evidence of them using energy saving light bulbs, however I could be wrong - I know there are energy efficient bulbs for sale that look like ordinary bulbs.
  3. I suspect that cleaning and laundry products are not going to be eco-friendly. If a hotel paid the extra for these products, they'd probably tell us about it.

And a few hedonistic ones:
  1. A cup of tea in your room costs £8.95, that's £4.95 for the tea and £5 to deliver it. However, you can get around this by requesting a hospitality tray which makes sense if, like us, you get a suite with a living room and want to spend some time in there.
  2. The shower in our suite was brilliant. The shower in our second room, a four-poster superior room, was less excellent. Plumming isn't standard across the hotel.
  3. You do need to dress up a bit for dinner, which is fair enough but be warned that it has to be done even if you don't feel like it - a proper dinner from the restaurant menu isn't available in your room.
  4. The lounge is likely to be hushed and make you whisper. You get used to this atmosphere just in time to be disturbed by a loud, wealthy family or obnoxious twit making a big fuss of themselves. The hotel can't do much about that, but at least they try.
  5. We didn't get bedside tables in the suite, although we did in the superior double.

We got the 3-nights-for-2 package, which included a bottle of Laurent Perrier champagne, a cream tea, breakfast and dinner in the michelin starred restaurant. We opted to stay an extra day because we liked it so much and they were very accomodating; our request was handled directly by the manager as soon as it became apparent our current suite wouldn't be available.

The local area offers, by way of attractions, a very sweet community garden, Palace House and grounds, Buckler's Hard (Nelson's ship building yard) which is reached by a beautiful 2 mile walk along the river, Exbury Gardens, the otter and wildlife sanctuary, Milton-on-sea shingle beach with a view of the Isle of Wight, Highcliffe beach and Lymington high street, which has proper charity shops selling good items at an affordable price.


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