It was a yoga retreat in Italy this summer that led me to Dorset a few weeks ago to celebrate my wedding anniversary. Although we usually favour Devon for a weekend getaway, one of my fellow yogi’s had been full of praise for the west Dorset town of Bridport, and The Seaside Boarding House in nearby Burton Bradstock was, she said, the best hotel to stay at.
We followed her lead, making a stop first at Bridport, where we mooched around the Saturday morning market and sampled a delicious lunch at an Asian-fusion restaurant called Dorshi, before taking the Cliff Road to our hotel. The commanding white-clapboard building on the cliffside was originally built in 1890 as a private house; however, over the years, it has been transformed from hotel to retirement home and back to a hotel again. When the Groucho Club’s former managing director Mary-Lou Sturridge and her business partner Tony Mackintosh bought it in 2008 it was The Burton Cliff Hotel . “We had to pretty much gut the building, taking out all the old wiring and the ancient plumbing,” says Sturridge.
The result is the elegant nine-bedroom Seaside Boarding House. To me, the new name still suggests an establishment that is somewhat down-at-heel, at odds with the huge beds, generous bathrooms and a relaxed atmosphere redolent of the Groucho Club. I love that some elements have been salvaged from the London members’ club: red velvet curtains that used to grace the windows of The Soho Room; “Gang Show” posters from the 1990s and early 2000s; while works by Groucho Club habitué Peter Blake are dotted throughout.
Meanwhile, the restaurant revolves around boat and seascape themes, with tranche of turbot, fish soup with rouille and half lobster with garlic and herb butter all featuring on the menu. Everything we tried on our first evening was delicious, as was the breakfast of homemade granola with berry compote and yoghurt the next morning. The weather, however, was less pleasing; it rained for the best part of our stay, with streaks of salty water obscuring the hotel’s spectacular views. But by mid-morning, with the rain in abeyance, we walked out from the hotel straight onto the South West Coast Path, which leads to the The Golden Cap, the south of England’s highest coastal point. But five or so miles in, the rain started up again, so we cut our walk short and ducked into the charming coastal hamlet of Seatown for a hearty lunch at The Anchor Inn.
In the taxi back to the hotel, the thought of luxuriating in the freestanding bath in our room was all that was on my mind. Luckily, The Seaside Boarding House, with its laden bookshelves in lieu of televisions, is a cosy spot to hunker down. Relaxing on the magnificent terrace in rattan chairs and strolling down to Chesil Beach below will have to wait till next time.