Muddy Eats: The Kings Arms Hotel, Christchurch
After practising her royal wave we sent Muddy's Robyn over to Dorset to check out The Kings Arms Hotel, Christchurch.
The Kings Arms Hotel is situated in this gorgeous Georgian building, just over the border in Dorset. The hotel is part of the illustrious Harbour Group of hotels that also boasts the swanky Southampton Harbour Hotel and award-winning restaurant, The Jetty, in their portfolio. Visitors to The Kings get a lot of view for their buck with its close proximity to some of Christchurch’s most famous tourist destinations, such as Christchurch Castle (photo above) and the River Avon. There’s a carpark right outside and the outside space around the hotel is perfect for a lovely summer’s day.
The hotel also has 20 well-appointed rooms ranging from a bijou loft room right up to a King double with amazing views over the castle and Kings Bowling Green.
Food is a huge pull here and its a previous recipient of the Michelin Bib Gourmand (for three years on the trot, no less) and benefits from The Jetty’s chef patron Alex Aitken working with the team to keep those foodie standards high.
Although it has a pretty grand location, there’s something distinctly unfussy about the place. There’s a lot of nods to its Georgian-era architecture, but the distinct city chic vibe that is associated with the Harbour Group is very much here – particularly in the bar area.
We came for an earlyish dinner with a teen and child in tow and there were a number of other diners doing the same. Despite it being the Summer holidays and peak tourist season, the staff were extremely efficient and really friendly.
As the night moved on it got busier and buzzier in the restaurant, making it an ideal place for a relaxed evening meal. In comparison to other parts of the hotel, the restaurant’s style was simple but more in-tune with the Georgian theme with lots of wood, light bright airy white walls and pictures of yesteryear and the local surroundings dotted around.
SCOFF & QUAFF
There were a number of menus to choose from, including an à la carte, daily specials, vegan and the Market Menu where everything comes from within a 25-mile radius of the hotel.
The amount of choice was excellent without being to the point overwhelming and there was certainly a traditional British-vibe to many of the dishes on offer. They also have a number of sharer options which is great for those who have mismatched appetites with their dining partners.
To start we opted for the Spiced Tempura Veg and Tempura Prawns with Chilli Dip. The batter was spot on and the portion, considering they were from the ‘Nibbles’ section of the menu rather than the starters, was pretty generous.
For mains, the grown-ups plumped for the shared Roast Chicken for 2. This came with some fantastic – and certainly quirky – accompaniments, pan-fried leeks, mushroom duxelles, sweetcorn puree and truffle popcorn. The chicken was cooked beautifully and there was more than enough for two hungry adults to share. The youngest went for the usual crowd-pleaser of the under 7s, tomato pasta (the saviour of many a parent!) and the teenager opted for the rump steak and chips.
There’s a pretty good wine selection with about 10 wines available by the glass and you can ask for sommelier recommendations. There’s also a good cocktail list if you’re stopping for a drink before your meal.
The dessert menu, while looking rather delicious with things such as Apple Crumble Cake and Warm Peanut Butter & Jelly, Chocolate Brownie, felt a bit much following the meal but I’d certainly not be averse to going back and trying some.
OUT & ABOUT
Christchurch is a beautiful little place and not overly far from the Hampshire border, making it great for day trips and staycations. The hotel is literally meters away from the River Avon and Christchurch Castle, and only a short walk away from the ancient Christchurch Priory if you fancy a bit of history during your visit. You’re also only a short stroll away from the River Stour which, along with the Avon, feeds into Christchurch’s famous harbour.
There’s a number of indie boutiques in the town and streets like Church Street and Wick Lane (a very short walk away from the hotel) have some great quirky shops including Bombshell Chic that has vintage-inspired togs for all your flamingo sweater needs and Kimmeridge (named for nearby Kimmeridge) which has lovely, sea-side vibed clothing and accessories.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
GOOD FOR: A nice relaxed meal with a few bells and whistles to the food without going too overboard. If you’re a foodie you’ll be impressed with the excellent quality and attention to detail put into the dishes and there is plenty of simple dishes – done well – for the fussier palate.
NOT FOR: While the restaurant is extremely relaxed and family-friendly, there’s still a slightly formal air to it. Think smart casual rather than casual-casual. Also, if you’re looking for a spot with a super sleek city chic vibe, The Kings Arms is a little more countrified than that.
THE DAMAGE: Pretty excellent value for money. Starters sit at between £7.25 up to £12.95 for a sharer and mains come in at a super pocket-friendly average of about £15. A glass of wine is around £7.50 for a large glass and they have a daily Happy Hour (though there’s actually about 3 hours) where selected cocktails are just £5. An overnighter in a Queen Room will set you back around £117 a night and a King Room is £139.50.
The Kings Arms Hotel, 18 Castle St, Christchurch, Dorset, BH23 1DT. Tel: 01202 588933