An Inspector Calls… The Bell at Skenfrith is in an enviable location – but it needs a ‘lick of paint and atmosphere’
- The Bell at Skenfrith is located on the River Monnow in Monmouthshire
- The Inspector said it needs ‘some attention to detail’ and a ‘lick of paint’
- His rack of lamb at dinner was ‘delicious’ – but the breakfast buffet was ‘derisory’
The Bell at Skenfrith sits on an enviable spot on the banks of the River Monnow in sweeping Monmouthshire countryside.
It’s been owned for the past five years by Richard Ireton and Sarah Hudson — but the person who seems to be in charge is a bubbly Bulgarian called Maria, who happens to be the girlfriend of the chef.
A friend had recommended it, with a caveat about ‘that was some years ago — no idea what it’s like now’.
Enviable: The Bell at Skenfrith sits on the banks of the River Monnow in Monmouthshire
It’s fine, up to a point. What it badly needs is some attention to detail, a lick of paint and atmosphere.
We’re paying £210. On arrival at 3pm we ask if we can get a sandwich or a scone but Maria tells us the kitchen is closed. Acceptable if this were a bed and breakfast, but for somewhere billing itself as a hotel you might expect to get something to eat at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon.
We look overtly crestfallen, which prompts Maria to say she’ll make us a sandwich herself, which kindly she brings to our spacious but dull room (brown carpet, faded prints, dreary lighting) with views over a pretty stone bridge.
We put our dirty plates outside our room, where they remain for the duration of our stay. Sloppy.
And it’s dispiriting to find newspapers from a week ago strewn over the table near the fire, where limp cushions long to be brought back to life.
The dining room is soulless and overlit. All it needs is a warming rug or two here, a candle there and curtains that fall all the way to the floor rather than merely covering the windows.
Spacious: Pictured is one of the bedrooms at The Bell at Skenfrith
I go walkabout to three empty tables before finding a pepper grinder with any peppercorns in it. Which is a shame, because my rack of lamb and my wife’s steak are delicious.
The breakfast buffet is derisory. At one point, I’m prompted to ask Maria if the place is on the market. ‘Absolutely not,’ she says.
But, sadly, that’s the vibe it gives off.