Initially we weren't supposed to be staying at The Beckford Arms, they didn't have any rooms available when I first inquired and unfortunately a stay at The Lime Wood was on the cards.
Like a super-hero being in the right place at the right time, a tweet from The Beckford, indicated that their new lodges, known as The Splendens Pavilions were now open and there was an introductory offer. A quick email and call secured the room and ensured I wouldn't be subjected to The Lime Wood's hospitality.
The Splendens lodges are newly built, located on The Fonthill Estate about a 10 minute walk from the pub. There are two adjoining lodges. Each has its own kitchenette, a couple of swish TVs and most importantly a wood-burning stove, allowing me to light a fire and BE A MAN. I was also pleased to see I had no mobile service, a rare treat indeed. This was spoiled somewhat by the wifi. But there was a roll-top bath overlooking the fields to make up for the inconvenience of being able to receive emails.
The pavilions are meant to provide a bit of splendid isolation, away from the vague hubbub of the bar and hotel. The kitchenettes are there to fulfil your culinary needs and in particular to break the arduous hours of fasting that generally accompanies asleep. Usually the fridge is stocked with the ingredients for a full english. Eschewing pig, they offered us smoked salmon. And eggs, yoghurt, bread made in the restaurant, wonderful jams, orange juice, decent coffee, milk and a couple of chocolate bars. It was a big breakfast.
There are a couple of odd touches to the room, first among them being the lack of anywhere to put your clothes away. There was no cupboard or drawers, which meant living out of a suitcase. It turns out none of the rooms have this basic convenience. The owner reckons guests don't stay long enough and it takes up space. But still. I'd also have liked a super king size bed rather than just the king-size. I am greedy I know.
As for the the pub, the most striking thing were the sweet staff. From those behind the bar, only too keen to ply you with their excellent bloody mary (mixing the tomato juice and herbs is the first job of the day for the bar manager) to the waiting staff, nothing was too much effort. And they didn't give the impression that anything was any effort at all. Just so long as guests were enjoying themselves. Many of those guests seemed to be doing what we were, relaxing, unworried by a dress code, eating and drinking too much.
All of this wonderfulness made up for food in the restaurant that could be a bit hit and miss. The crispy duck egg, dandelion, beetroots, turnips, radishes
with wild garlic and walnut pesto read well on the menu, but needed a good salting and peppering. The pesto rather underwhelmed. However, fish and chips was at it should be - well battered with nicely steamed, flaky fish.
A surprising hit was the curried Israeli couscous with halloumi. As someone who regularly looks to the veggie options on the menu, it was good to see something slightly different. This dish was not too far from kedgeree and similarly comforting. No problems with seasoning here. Whitebait were large, lightly fried and served with an aioli that wasn't embarrassed by its garlic heritage.
Overall, it was a great experience and one I would strongly recommend. The Beckford Arms was everything that Lime Wood was not. There was hospitality, there was an eagerness to please and serve and there was enormous generosity of spirit. Which, when I go somewhere for hospitality, like a hotel or restaurant, is what I want.
The Beckford Arms, Fonthill Gifford, Tisbury, Wiltshire, SP3 6PX, UK
Tel: +44 (0)1747 870385