Yalbury Cottage is a popular restaurant with rooms in a good location. By today’s standards it’s realistically priced.
Our upstairs bedroom, No.8, was spacious and decorated in a nicely uncluttered way. There was a comfy double bed, a single bed, a large wardrobe and good tea and coffee facilities. There wasn’t a proper desk for a laptop though WiFi was free and fast. We didn’t like the bathroom which was old-fashioned and awkward to use. The shower-in-the-bath suffered from weak pressure so my wife was unable to wash her hair. The lack of mixer taps and the shower curtain put it firmly in basic B&B territory. Also, the landing by our room was stacked with rubbish, things in bags, and a vacuum cleaner. And outside in the otherwise pretty garden the kitchen’s propane gas cylinders were a bit of an eyesore.
Yalbury is really about one person, Ariane, the wife of the chef, Jamie. Ariane runs the show, she meets and greets, handles everything, takes your orders and chats. She asks where you are going that day and remembers where you went when you get back. We’ve seldom encountered a more charming or capable hostess - and it must be a struggle to remain so upbeat, to cope with the vagaries of the catering industry, and raise two young children. Yet she seems to. There’s an amusing notice above her little desk in the somewhat ramshackle reception - “Be nice,” it says, “or go home.”
The restaurant is in the oldest part of the building, the thatched bit, which in local lad Thomas Hardy’s time, was four cottages. The decor is not quite rustic and a little short of quaint, almost like a tearoom - at breakfast they use plastic tablecloths with bright spots, the sort everyone had in the 1970s and which always felt sticky.
The food at dinner with certainly pleasant and perhaps erred on the bland side - a starter of crab was advertised with chilli yet lacked any trace of heat and the skin of a chicken breast was colourless and flabby. But there was also good loin of lamb and a juicy duck breast. For such a small place you think they might have opted for a set menu. But, commendably, there were about six starters and mains which changed just enough the next day to make it interesting. Cooked breakfasts were excellent, including a tasty kipper, beautifully presented scramblers with smoked salmon as well as grilled lambs’ kidneys with poached eggs and brioche toast.
We paid about £400 for two nights, DB&B with all drinks. That was excellent value and since Ariane’s charm was thrown in for free we thought it a bit of a bargain.