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Was it special or just run of the mill?
Mill House Hotel (Ashington)
Member Name: koshkha
Mill House Hotel (Ashington)
Advantages: Nice bedroom, good price
Disadvantages: Awful food and appears to have only one member of staff
The hotel is in the tiny village of Ashington, about ten miles north of Worthing and just off the A24. If you don't know it's there, you'll struggle to find it as it's located down a pot-holed track off a poorly sign-posted side-road to the dual carriageway. Luckily someone led me to the right road as I think it would have been very easy to miss.
First impressions were that it looked very pretty, rural and twee but on closer inspection the rather verdant gardens were a bit too overgrown - beyond the level of the intentionally sewn 'wildflower meadow' look and veering towards almost as weedy as my garden. There are two car parks and I pulled into the first but it was so badly laid out that I really worried about my car being hit by another guest and I actually went out and moved it to the second car park after dinner. I'm not normally paranoid about such things but I could so clearly 'hear' in my mind the crunch of metal on metal and imagine having to leap out of bed in my PJ's and confront another driver.
Heading to reception, I was impressed again by the Johanssens sign on the door - their guidebooks are usually a guarantee of quality so I swung back from thinking 'a bit messy' to 'hmm, maybe this is something special' but swung back again after several minutes trying to work out how the heck I was supposed to check in when there was no sign of human life. I left my bags in the lobby and blundered about until I found a very nice girl with zany eye-shadow who checked me in and led me up to my room, telling me to let her know if I wanted dinner or some sandwiches later in the evening.
The hotel has just nine rooms and they are named rather than numbered. Mine was called 'Barley' so I guess it's a fair bet that the others have similarly crop-inspired names. It was on the side of the house, overlooking the lane and benefited from having windows on the two exterior walls which - since it was a sunny June day - lit the room so that it almost glowed. The room was L-shaped with a tiny en-suite and this shape meant the only way the four-poster bed could be fitted in was at 45-degrees across the middle of the room. This was quirky rather than annoying. The colour scheme was fresh and pretty in pale blue and white with toile de jouy wallpaper on several walls - a look that was very trendy a couple of years ago, will probably be extremely dated in a few more but for now, looks very nice. The blues of the pattern were picked out in the pale blue bedspread and mound of pillows on the bed, the matching over-long curtains and the old and slightly shabby blue carpet (I hate blue carpets). There were two prints on the wall, a Degas ballerina scene and a woman on a horse - neither in colours that went with the overall colour scheme.
The paintwork was all bright and white with a large painted chest of drawers, a giant white wardrobe with a massive mirror front, and an alcove with coffee tray and a white fret-work fronted something or other below (it looked like a radiator cover but I didn't inspect too closely). Each side of the bed had a white painted bedside table and a lamp. There was an uncomfortable-looking boudoir chair, a large trouser press and a folding suitcase stand.
The TV was very small and tucked into a corner of the chest of drawers where it was quite hard to see and there was no remote control. The hairdryer was wall mounted and next to the tea tray with a mirror behind - I cannot think why anyone would want to crouch over the tea-tray to dry their hair when a mirror on the wall above the hairdryer would have been a much better layout. The bathroom was disappointing, being little bigger than the wardrobe and very squeezed together. There was a loo, sink and shower all in the absolute minimum amount of space.
Back to the bed - it was a standard sized double and gave the impression of a cheap four-poster that had been dressed up quite nicely with plenty of white gauze. A bit of a teen-dream princess look that might well irritate the heck out of a male guest but I quite liked it. The bedding was sheets-and-blanket which I find quite bizarre and the pale blue quilt/bedspread was quite thin and looked like it would be hard to keep clean and I did wonder how often it went in the washing machine. I think I've become habituated to German hotels with their identical white cotton duvet covers that can be blasted on a hot wash at the local industrial laundry so you know they are always freshly laundered. I'm not saying at all that this wasn't clean - it just set my mind to wondering about how practical it was.
Good news for business travellers - there's free wi-fi and all you have to do is hunt down the nice lady with the eye-shadow and the pigtails to get the code number for access. The signal was good and with little else to do in the area, it kept me busy for the evening.
===The Rest of the Hotel===
If I were being kind (well, slightly kind) I could say it's a bit dull or drab. If I was trying to say something in its defence, I could call it 'retro' but it's hard to dress up the fact that it's actually just a bit old and shabby. There are a couple of small lounge areas that reminded me of an old people's home (with chairs arranged round the walls) or a neglected old pub. The bar area has a fantastic old inglenook fireplace that could be made into a nice feature but has instead gone a bit too much in the 'old-brass and nick-nacks' direction. The restaurant is large, allegedly well respected but decorated with just too many 1980s-style nudes. Sorry guys but I'm there to eat, not look at bad nudes - it really was quite distracting, even more so at breakfast time.
They have a meeting room on the back of the hotel that seems to be popular and was used by at least two different groups whilst I was there (which was only one over-night stay). There's a very pretty outside terrace but it wasn't quite warm enough to use when I visited.
I went down to order some dinner at about 7.20 pm. As before, it took a while to find any sign of human life other than a retired couple sitting on the sofas in the bar ignoring each other. I went into the garden and out to wander around for ten minutes before coming back again and eventually finding eye-shadow girl. I ordered a juice and sat in the bar area, watching the couple and wondering why people who long ran out of things to say to each other still go out to dinner when they could save money and stay at home ignoring each other instead. She was a nice soul, twittering away about anything and everything whilst he silently tolerated her. I asked the waitress if she could find me a magazine or a newspaper or something to read but after ten minutes she returned to say she's asked the manager and they didn't have anything. OK, so I'll sit here in silence and wait another twenty minutes for you to take my order.
The menu was not particularly exciting but the prices were - for the setting - quite expensive. Two courses for £24 or so, three for a couple of pound more. I ordered a chilli prawn starter and a tuna steak with 'wok-fried' noodles to follow. By this point, the embarrassment of watching the couple as I sat staring at nothing in particular (yes, should have gone back to my room and got a book) was getting too much for me. I felt so bad for the ignored wife that I started a conversation which she, like a drowning man catching sight of a lifeboat, grabbed at enthusiastically.
Time to eat and I was led into a corner of the restaurant. As the place was so empty, it would have been nice to have been offered a choice of where I could sit but I was just taken to a small table and left there. It might have been nice to have had the option of eating in the conservatory.
My starter came with a basket of bread which was one of the best bits of the meal - warm and tasty. The chilli prawns were simple but pleasant - I assume just half a bag of large frozen prawns poached in coconut milk and that orange chilli sauce. I wasn't impressed by the creativity but I enjoyed the dish. Waiting for the tuna I did start to think that it probably hadn't been a good choice. Tuna has to be really fresh or it goes straight through me with fairly devastating speed and I couldn't imagine that a restaurant with so few customers would be buying fresh every day. I should also have twigged that there might be a problem when the waitress didn't ask how I wanted it - surely a sign that I'll get it the way it comes which - if it's been rapidly thawed in a microwave - means any sign of pink is unlikely.
When it came, I wondered if it was actually from a whale rather than a tuna - the fish steak was enormous, probably twice the size I'd have wanted. It was much too thick, rather tough and stringy in places, smelled slightly 'off' and had too many of those dark bits that you know will taste just a bit too fishy. The 'wok-fried noodles' looked like the stuff students make when trying to dress up a packet of 19p economy noodles. The only good thing was the tray of vegetables which included some very nice little roasted baby potatoes and some broccoli. The vegetables weren't matched in anyway to the dish but at least they distracted from the tuna. I cut off the nasty bits, and chopped and fiddled in an attempt to make it less obvious that this was a really bad bit of tuna and I'd eaten hardly any of it. I just felt depressed and the waitress who came to take the dishes away sensibly didn't ask if I'd enjoyed it.
Talking of the waitress, I think I'd been in the restaurant area until half-way through my main course before I saw any other staff at all. This poor girl was buzzing around doing everything without any support at all. On the table next to me, the wife continued to witter away and he became animated only when she started talking about defrosting one of their freezers to make way for their garden produce. I'm aware it's not nice to talk about other people but I would have been so bored without them to entertain me. It's also fair to say that they didn't enjoy their main courses either so it really wasn't just me being picky.
Breakfast the next morning was in the conservatory and the lady serving was very nice. She brought me coffee and whipped up a nice vegetarian breakfast that was not too big to make me feel guilty for the rest of the day, but was just enough to fill me up. I asked her about the nudes on the walls and she said 'oh yes, that's Kim' so I was left wondering if she meant 'Kim (the owner) collects them' or 'Kim takes her clothes off and these are pictures of her'. That was just a bit too disturbing a thought at breakfast time. Then I wasn't sure if Kim was a man or a woman and it was just too confusing.
===Check Out ===
This was quick and easy. My bill had been prepared in advance, all typed up nicely on paper with a picture of the hotel. I paid by credit card, asked for instructions to get back to the dual carriageway, and was on my way. My room was £59 for the night which I thought was great value although double occupancy would have been a lot more. So if you need a nice little country hotel, this might be a good choice - but don't use the restaurant. I should have followed my instinct and driven down to the sea for fish and chips out of newspaper
Summary: Nice place but the restaurant is best avoided
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