Hotel review: An Inspector Calls at.. The Queen's Arms, Corton Denham, Somerset
The Mulberry outlet store in Shepton Mallet is only 20 minutes away from the Queen's Arms. From my experience, the lure of an outlet store never fails to excite even the most frugal of women.
Such visits just before Christmas are fraught with danger. We duly stop, shop, then climb back in the car - and the damage isn't half as bad as I'd expected. Which is a good reason to celebrate arriving at this thriving inn at the heart of Corton Denham, a small village on the Devon/Dorset border.
The Queen's Arms: A fine slice of British countryside tradition
We plonk ourselves down in squashy chairs by the fire with a good view of the Harry's Dry Cider pump and the pork pies neatly laid out on the bar. I opt for both, the pie made even tastier thanks to some homemade spicy chutney.
A bright-eyed brunette asks if we'd like to see our room. Her delivery bears an uncanny resemblance to the girl who'd had taken my phone booking.
'Everything here is so nice,' she'd told me. I'd asked if Room Two was available because I'd seen it on the website. She'd said it was and that the bathroom is 'so nice'.
Now I realise she sounds a lot like Kate Middleton in her engagement interview, when she said her wedding was going to be 'so nice'.
Room Two has a beautifully carved oak bed. The free-standing cast iron tub next door is boutique-chic. But someone has forgotten to fire up the heating.
My wife jumps straight into bed and refuses to move. Then she starts wishing she'd bought the sheepskin coat in the Mulberry shop. This is an emergency.
I rush down to reception. Kate Middleton assures me the immersion heater will be switched on immediately. 'Give it 15 minutes and all will be well,' she says. And it is.
In the Domesday Book of 1086, the Corton estates were valued at £11 - exactly the price of the delicious pork belly with fennel, which we both choose for dinner. The menu is British: roasted wood pigeon breasts, shot game terrine and Brixham crab-crusted brill with sauce vierge. The Queen's Arms promotes local and does it brilliantly.
There's bags of atmosphere at the bar. It's packed with villagers, young and old. In addition to a wide selection of ciders, a full beer menu includes Anchor Steem, from California, and Thomas Hardy Ale.
Breakfast is a communal affair, taken in a room close to the rear entrance. We scoff the full works, including haggis. Just as we are about to leave, a call comes from a girl at the bar.
She's still here - and she hopes to see us again soon. Don't worry, I think to myself, we'll be home later for tea.
The Queen's Arms
Doubles from £100 B&B
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