The Black Horse Inn
I recently visited the Black Horse Inn for a long weekend in Virginia Wine Country with another couple. Overall the Inn was very charming, and we had an enjoyable visit. Would I come back again? Maybe, but definitely not for the price they are currently charging.
• Friendly/caring staff
• Charming room and beautiful historic building
• Great location and proximity to local vineyards
• Breakfast offers no selection in what is served
• Food/wine at cocktail hour is just so-so
• Innkeeper was scattered, and at times too comfortable/personal with guests
• Overall they need to refine their process and incorporate “extra little touches” to accomplish the high-end feel they are advertising
We arrived in the early evening and were delighted by the charm of the old Civil War building. We were greeted by the innkeeper who while very nice and welcoming, was quite frazzled and seemed a bit overwhelmed. She showed us the first couple’s room and gave them their key, which was on the dresser. Next we all went to our room, which was the Jeffersonian. It was a lovely room with a very comfortable queen size four-poster bed, a claw foot tub and a great view of the stables and front yard where we often saw the horses grazing. The problem however, was that the innkeeper neglected to mention that the thermostat (which controlled all four rooms in our wing) was in the hallway. Someone had turned it off so we had no heat that night and we thought were going to freeze to death! The other issue was that unlike the other couple, we had no room key on our dresser. I didn’t ask for it right away because we were being given a tour of the building and the innkeeper seemed so frantic I almost felt bad asking her for anything. I forgot about it until the next morning when we were about to leave for the day. When I mentioned it at breakfast I was a little surprised when she inferred I had lost it but I said nothing and she gave me the spare key. Also, for an inn that claims to be high-end, there were not a lot of amenities, or really even the basics you find in other hotel/inns. We had no water bottles in the room, and the soaps, which to me were not very luxurious, were not replaced after use and there were no water glasses in the bathroom. I also did not care for the “tip” envelope left out for the maid, especially given that I do not believe they changed our sheets/towels but rather just refolded them. That being said, I really did like our room and thought it was very comfortable and would enjoy staying in that room again, especially now that I know where the temperature control is!
Breakfast here was really not enjoyable. The inn claimed several times to have gourmet food, and we read dozens of excellent reviews online. However, we did not agree with what we read – while there was certainly an abundance of food, it was not appetizing to us, or what we consider to be fine dining. The first issue was that breakfast isn’t served until 9am. For those of us who are early risers, it was a bit annoying. It would have been nice if coffee and bread/pastries/fruit were set up early for those who wanted to eat before 9am. There was a Keurig (but often the water was empty), as well as some cold cereal, but no milk set out.
The other problem was that you do not have a choice in what you are served. It is not a continental/buffet breakfast where you have a selection of several items set out on the table (such as fruit, cereal, eggs, meats etc.). Instead, you are served whatever the kitchen is preparing that day and if you don’t care for it, there are no other options (and there is no menu so you have no idea what that will be until its served). The first day we were served a plate of store bought pastries and muffins. This was fine, but again not gourmet nor what you expect from a charming B&B. Home made muffins or scones would have added a level of sophistication to the meal, for not much extra effort. The second course was a baked apple stuffed with cinnamon and sugar. Unfortunately, it was very undercooked and hard to eat. The next course was an egg casserole with peppers and spinach. Two of ours were completely cold and another in our group detests peppers so most of us went hungry that day. The next day we had warm grapefruit, which was nice, (although really did not need the brown sugar loaded on top!) followed by French toast and sausage. The French toast was made of two slices of bread stuck together to make it look thicker. Unfortunately, this meant that the eggs in between the slices did not cook and were raw and unappetizing. Mine was also cold again. It was upsetting to see how much food was unnecessarily wasted because we didn’t’ t like it.
We were also taken aback when one of our party members requested a couple of scrambled eggs as he did not care for the option being served, and the response was “we can’t do custom orders that’s why we asked you the night before if you have food allergies.” Well, they never did ask us that, and while we don’t have allergies, we didn’t think it was an unreasonable request given that there were only 4 other guests and they had already been served.
I think a better option would be to serve a buffet so that guests can help themselves to what they prefer. Having an egg/protein and pancake/waffle option in addition to some cold cereal, fruit, hard boiled eggs and meat/cheeses would likely appeal to most people.
In the evening, there was a simple cocktail hour, which was nice. It was your basic cheddar cheese and crackers, some Valentine’s Day sweets, inexpensive wine and a fridge with waters and sodas. We enjoyed sitting with a glass of wine in the porch and talking with one another, however the food was lack luster and the wine served was lower end from a large bottle (as the innkeeper implied she did not have time to open so many regular size bottles). The fridge was almost never stocked either, I twice went for a diet coke only to find none. Again, if they are touting themselves as gourmet, homemade cookies and a gourmet cheese selection would add ever so much more to the presentation. I also think real plates versus paper would give a higher-end feel. Another suggestion would be to invite local winery representatives to come in at cocktail hour to serve their wines (thus negating the innkeepers need to open so many bottles), and have bottles available for purchase. We saw this done in Napa and it was very well received and provided great exposure for local wineries. We are wine enthusiasts and were there to visit several local wineries so enjoying wine from a local vineyard would have been much more appealing than the average quality wine served. We also ran out of wine glasses at one cocktail hour and they couldn’t seem to find any more. Because the innkeeper was so frantic looking for glasses, we were asked to open the bottle of wine ourselves. Also, while she was sitting with us during the cocktail hour (which if she was so busy I don’t know how she had time to do) we felt that she was a little too personal with us and actually badmouthed another guest, which we found distasteful.
Throughout the day there was always music playing in the background that was nice at first, however the playlist was too short and rather eclectic (everything from Adele to classical Mozart) so by the end of the weekend we had heard each song a dozen times.
Overall we had a nice time at the inn, but found it to be lacking in the little touches that separate high-end from average (and again, they were claiming to be high-end). While they did seem to genuinely care about their guests, they just weren’t quite getting it right and really did not seem open to any of the suggestions.
I think that the Black Horse Inn has the potential to be a really great B&B, but they need to fine-tune their process, amp up their professionalism, research standard practices of other hotels and inns and be open to suggestions from guests. As it stands now, I would only stay here again if the prices were about half of what they are charging.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Black Horse Inn, Warrenton, Virginia is the ideal escape for business meetings, brainstorming sessions or revitalizing retreats. The natural solitude of this historic, hunt-country estate encourages effective meetings and creative thought. Just 45 minutes from Washington, D.C., this spectacular setting will lead to creative ideas and a clear mind to tackle even the most difficult tasks and problem-solving sessions. Ten rooms with private baths, corporate center for 200. Lunches and dinners upon request. Team-building activities, WiFi & televisions. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Black Horse Hotel Warrenton