“ Address: Great North Road / Stilton / Peterborough PE7 3RA / Cambridgeshire / England „
I first stayed at the Bell Inn over 15 years ago when I was a young trainee accountant and was sent to Peterborough on an audit visit. It was very different, in a good way, to the usual type of establishment I was booked into on an audit visit and for that reason I have never forgotten it. So last weekend, I was due to head up north to visit my dad and decided that it might be nice to break the journey up by staying somewhere along the way Friday night. Noticing Peterborough was on the route plan, I decided to see if I could find the Bell Inn. Five minutes, one google search and a phone call later and we were booked in for Friday night accommodation and dinner.
The Bell Inn is an old fashioned coach house situated in the village of Stilton just outside Peterborough. According to the inn's own website the current buildings (or part thereof) date back to 1642 but previous incarnations of the inn date back to the 1400's. There are 22 individually styled bedrooms and the inn offer bistro style as well as more formal dining options. I was very excited to be going back and I hoped it would be just as pleasing the second time as it was the first. I must admit in the back of my mind I was thinking perhaps I would go back and be thoroughly disappointed as well as a bit embarrassed as I had been raving about the place to my husband for days.
First impressions and room ~~~
W arrived at about 6pm on Friday night, had no problem finding the inn at all as it is prominently situated on the main road through Stilton, we didn't immediately find the entrance to the car park, but when we did there were plenty of spaces available so we parked up and went inside to reception. There was nobody at reception, however we rung the bell and were soon being attended to. Within minutes we were on our way to our room on the first floor.
I did not have very distinct memories of the inn from that first visit but I vaguely recalled large rooms, low ceilings and exposed beams and brickwork. My memory served me well. We were delighted with our room, which was of a very generous size, had all these features as well as a huge open fireplace. The large bay window area was occupied by a couple of armchairs and coffee table and on the other side of the room, in a large alcove there was a desk and tea and coffee making facilities. The furnishings in the room were of a very high quality and still in excellent condition as if new.
Unfortunately the high standards in the bedroom did not extend to the bathroom. We were very surprised to open the door to an extremely small and cramped space complete with a 1980's style peach coloured bathroom suite. The tiles on the wall were white plastic squares and the grouting looked grubby at first but on closer inspection we realise it was actually a peach colour, presumably at some point someone thought it a good idea to match grout to suite. The room was clean and tidy but not somewhere I would linger and I definitely would not have taken a bath here. The shower was a rather rickety thing over the bathtub. An update is long overdue.
Eating and drinking~~~
After a quick look round we decided to head down to the bar for a quick pre-dinner drink. It was a very pleasant bar, in keeping with the rest of the inn with stone floors and more exposed brickwork. Clearly popular with the locals, we struggled to find somewhere to sit and ended up perched on low stools at a table that was a little bit in the way for people walking past. The bistro area is nearby on the ground floor and although we planned to eat in the restaurant we took a quick look at it and the menu. We noted a good selection of starters and main courses, at least ten of each and the prices appeared to be around £5 - £8 for a starter and £10 - £15 for a main.
The restaurant was unusually situated on the first floor of the inn and was quite near our bedroom. There is a small lounge just outside with big leather armchairs and a fireplace and if you wish you can look over the menu and place your order whilst you are sitting here and will be called through to the restaurant when the starter is almost ready. As we had already visited the bar downstairs, we decided to go straight to our table.
The style of the restaurant was very much like the rest of the inn, only here the tables were covered with white linen to create a more formal look but it didn't go over the top. I like tables to be well spaced out in restaurants and was therefore very pleased with the layout of this one. The menu is not as extensive as downstairs in the bistro and the only offering was a three course dinner for £30 a head. There were about five options for each course. I opted to start with pate and chose guinea fowl for my main, I cannot remember what my husband had for his starter but he selected pork for his main course.
I enjoyed my pate starter, which was served with toast and some chutney but there was nothing inspirational about this cuisine. My guinea fowl was delicious but the vegetables it came with did not seem very fresh and there was a square of something unrecognisable on my plate, which my husband thought was some kind of fat, like crackling, not something I would chose to eat anyway. My husband thought his main course was a bit plain. Desserts were good though, I had a passion fruit crème brulee and my husband had something chocolaty. I would not complain about the meal, it was pleasant enough, but I had hoped it would be something special and it was not. For the standard, I thought it was a little overpriced.
The next morning, I didn't feel like breakfast so my husband went by himself. He reported back that it was the usual kind of breakfast offering, help yourself to cereal followed by a made to order cooked English breakfast. He also commented that the lady working in the restaurant was one of the most pleasant and cheerful individuals he has ever come across working in a hotel. As he left he asked could he bring me some tea and toast back to the room and she readily prepared me a tray.
We paid £110 for our room including breakfast and VAT. There were slightly smaller rooms available for £100 and four poster rooms available for £130. We had a lovely stay in this gorgeous inn and I would love to go back another day.
This inn dates back to 1500. It offers accommodation, dining and conference facilities.