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Sherborne is the sort of place I’d like to retire to one day. That’s not to say that its only residents are OAPs, but the yellow-stone buildings, medieval landmarks and rural backdrop mean you’d never be short of a beautiful view or somewhere to stroll. The Eastbury is the perfect amalgamation of Sherborne’s best qualities: the staff are friendly, the atmosphere is peaceful and they’ve managed to whittle that feeling of cosy luxuriousness down to a tee.
Why it’s great
Walking into the traditional – and dare I say dated – foyer, you’d be forgiven for thinking that The Eastbury is like any other run-of-the-mill B&B. But what sets the hotel apart from its counterparts lies out the back: carry on through and you’ll find a large walled garden framed with age-old trees, a hidden spa and a collection of quaint little ‘potting shed’ suites.
The spa is set amongst the surrounding trees and covered in a moss-topped roof, so it looks like something you’d expect to see in The Hobbit. Inside, you’ll find a jacuzzi, sauna, steam room, mini gym and a therapy room where you can book in for a variety of treatments.
What’s the food like?
The Eastbury’s Season’s restaurant is as much of a lure as the hotel itself. Head chef Matthew Street has worked in the kitchen for 12 years developing an elegant modern British menu featuring lots of classic flavours.
My starter consisted of three generous blobs of whipped goat’s cheese sitting in a thick, puréed beetroot soup and sprinkled with a modest crumbling of candied hazelnut granola. The presentation was vibrant, artistic and refined, layering salt with sweetness and smooth textures with crunch.
For main, I chose monkfish which arrived on a bed of super salty n’duja. It was served with a creamy romesco sauce, charred leeks, leek oil and crushed roasted almonds which, again, demonstrated Matt’s ability to combine well-matched flavours and textures.
On to dessert and the show-stopping option came in the form of a chocolate cremeaux. It had a crunchy, sea salt-studded biscuit base, a rich and silky topping and was accompanied by a quenelle of hazelnut ice cream and sharp, tangy bursts of passionfruit. My only complaint would be that the monkfish was a little over-cooked for my liking, but otherwise the entire meal was innovative, delicious and, at times, surprising.
The next morning, you can choose to dine from the impressive breakfast buffet or opt for a cooked breakfast off the menu (or both). For the former, expect a selection of cereals, toast, spreads, ham and cheese, croissants, muffins and crumpets. Or, if you prefer something hot to start your day, try the ‘Dorset Breakfast’ (eggs cooked to your liking on toast) or ‘The Eastbury Breakfast’ which is essentially a Full English. There are also a few temptingly-named ‘indulgent options’, such as waffles, pancakes and fried sandwiches.
What’s in the rooms?
The hotel offers 21 rooms in the main building as well as five ‘potting shed’ suites. The latter are designed to resemble a garden shed from the outside while boasting a comfortable and luxurious interior. Each suite is named after a garden herb (I stayed in ‘Sage’), is decorated in a traditional style – think tartan-covered chairs and distressed furniture – and peppered with lots of modern touches.
The room sported a large flat-screen TV (that doubled as a mirror), a Smeg mini fridge and kettle, Nespresso coffee machine, heated flooring and impressive tri-folding glass doors that lead to a private outdoor area. The ensuite bathroom was warm and modern, too, featuring a large walk-in shower and complimentary amenities. And homely finishing touches included homemade shortbread biscuits and complimentary sloe gin (you can request a refill for £6, if you like).
The hotel is a five-minute stroll from the town centre where you’ll find a mass of independent shops, cafés and markets. A few minutes’ walk from both the centre and hotel is the medieval abbey and to the east you’ll find Sherborne’s two castles: the ‘old’ castle dating back to the 12th century and the ‘newer’ 16th century one.
What’s not so great?
If you prefer to revel in the luxury of super modern surroundings, then The Eastbury isn’t for you. The décor in the restaurant feels a little-old fashioned, but I think it’s all part of the charm. Yes, I felt a little like I was eating dinner in my gran’s conservatory, but it didn’t take away from my experience at all and it certainly didn’t take away from the food.
What’s the damage?
Rooms start at £195 for a double, with breakfast.