“ Address: 65 High Street / Arundel / West Sussex / England / BN18 9AJ „
I'd never been to Arundel before which is a bit of a shame as it seems to be a lovely little town although I'd have to admit it seems a bit over-supplied with antique shops and speciality little stores selling things you don't need, like a whole shop just selling walking sticks for example.
I nearly didn't stay at the Town House and visit Arundel at all due to a bit of a 'cock-up on the communication front' with the lady who was helping to book me a room. She told me that the Town House wouldn't take a booking unless I told them when I was going to arrive and I got in a bit of a snit, fuming "It's not a bloody dentist, why do I need an appointment?" Exasperated, I told her to tell the hotel to take a hike and asked her to book me somewhere else (in fact the awful Mill House in Ashington). Only after she told me that the Mill was 'All booked up' did I relent and ask her to tell the Town House I'd be there between 6 and 7 pm.
Ironically it turned out that when she said 'all booked up' she meant she'd booked it - not that it was completely full.
So even though everything seemed to be conspiring to send me somewhere else, I did indeed get to the Town House. It had been recommended to me as a fantastic 'restaurant with rooms' but with the caveat that the restaurant wasn't actually open on the night I was going. So would it really be worth staying in a 'restaurant with rooms' on a Monday when it was just a 'with rooms'?
I turned up at 6 pm and found a parking space on the High Street where parking is allowed between 6 pm and 8 am - perfect for what I needed, although I was told later that they don't really have any traffic wardens in Arundel, although I wouldn't have been willing to risk it. The Town House is a very pretty, narrow building tucked directly between a wine bar and a Chinese restaurant towards the top of the hill on which the castle stands. When I had dragged my suitcase and bits and bobs to the front door, I found a closed door and a sign asking me to phone Lee (the proprietor) who would come and let me in. All a bit bizarre, I thought.
After 5 minutes of so, Lee strolled up the hill to let me in. At this point I was still in the 'go on then, impress me after all I've been standing on the street like a lemon' mindset but I was very quickly won over. Through the front door I entered the restaurant just a small one with maybe four small and one long table. The room was a bit of a stunner with really old swirly glass in the windows and an extraordinary ceiling that I was told dated back to the 16th Century.
Checking in was a delight - filling out address details, being told about the rules (basically don't smoke and make sure you check out how to get out in the event of an emergency - always good advice) and I didn't even have to hand over my credit card. How's that for treating your customers as if you trust them? No 'credit card pre-approvals' or such nonsense. Lee helped me out with some suggestions on where to eat (with the advice that the Chinese next door was "on a good day, stunning, on a bad day, a bit ordinary" which sadly turned out to be very true), offered to do me breakfast half an hour earlier than normal because he knew the company I was visiting would expect me there at nine and then carried my suitcase up to the room.
Despite the restaurant being closed, three of the Town House's four rooms were let - which really can't be bad going. My room on the first floor was called 'Thyme'. The one opposite was called Bay but I didn't head upstairs to find out what the other two were called although thoughts of the old 'Herb Garden' cartoons had me wondering if Parsley the Lion and Dill the Dog might be up there. Having seen the Town House's website, I think my room was probably the simplest of the rooms but it was still very nice.
On the back of the hotel away from the street, the room was of mid-size - not a 'three cartwheel' room by a long way but not one where you need to walk over the bed to get to the window either. The ceiling was high with a picture rail and beautiful old plaster mouldings above. The walls were a light coffee colour - probably more of a 'latte' than a magnolia. The wardrobe was built-in and there was a slightly odd bed surround with tables either side, lighting inset and lots of fiddly plaster moulding work. It could easily have been cheesy in the wrong hands but it somehow managed not to be. The window was a large sash window with floor to ceiling curtains and rope tie-backs. The carpet was dark cream, there was a high backed chair and that was that for furniture - except of course for the double bed which was beautifully presented with a dark brown fun-fur throw, and two cushions - one furry, one shaggy. The sheets, duvet cover and pillow cases were all crisp white cotton.
Checking out the wardrobe I found a spare blanket and a fan so I guess that covered the weather options. There was a hospitality tray with a kettle, tea and coffee, home-made biscuits and a big bowl of boiled sweets. The TV was a small wall mounted flat screen - small but big enough in a room of that size. Lighting-wise there were two wall mounted lights, two bed side globe lights and the lighting inset in the bed surround. Other nice touches included a box of Kleenex on the bedside, a bunch of magazines on a wallrack and a copy of the Good Hotel Guide in case I needed inspiration.
The bathroom was weird - a mix of lavender coloured tiles with odd (and slightly damaged) pink bits for the toilet roll and the soap. Small gold tiles formed an inset at around picture-rail height. There was a bath but no shower (or rather just a hand-held one) and a pile of fluffy towels - clearly I wasn't going to have to go and throw a fit to get a second towel at the Town House. Which was a good thing because there were no staff on site if I had needed anything. The bathroom was larger than normal and I instantly forgave the weird colour scheme when I saw the toiletries. In the hierarchy of hotel toiletries, Occitane is just SO exclusive that you have to take notice. I get impressed by Moulton Brown but positively excited when there are Occitane smellies which are rarer than hens' teeth. A ten pack of Occitane miniatures in their shop will set you back £30 (I had a blow out for my mum a while back although I'm sure she had no idea what they cost) so the nice little set in my bathroom made my eyes pop out there was absolutely no doubt that they were going home with me.
The only thing I wasn't keen about in the room was the smell of the electric air-freshener which was pleasant at first but soon became a bit over-powering. I switched it off and opened the window and it soon cleared.
Being a 'restaurant with rooms' means the Town House doesn't have some of the little extras you might expect in a full blown hotel - like a snooty receptionist, staff with attitude and lots of rules. The rooms don't have aircon - but let's be honest, this is England and you don't need it that often and there's a fan in the wardrobe if it gets a bit muggy. They also don't have phones - but let's be honest a second time, who travels without a mobile phone these days? And finally they sometimes do and sometimes don't have wifi - if you are lucky you might get a signal from one of the staff who lives upstairs or you might not. It's not on the list of amenities so you can just take your chances. Personally, I was quite glad of an excuse not to log on.
For breakfast next morning, I waited until I heard Lee arrive and open up the restaurant and then headed down. He made me a fresh cafetiere of coffee, brought me a glass of grapefruit juice and then headed to the kitchen to rustle up a poached egg and mushrooms on toast - all exactly cooked as I liked. Then we had a chat, I paid him a very modest and highly discounted 'corporate' modest rate which even included my free newspaper, grabbed my case and I was on my way with thoughts in mind of how I could come up with another excuse to come back again as soon as possible.
I took a long walk around Arundel to check out the other hotels and I have to say that none of them made me feel I was missing out by staying at the Town House. If you like the sound of it, don't leave your booking too late - with only 4 rooms and such great service, you might need to plan ahead.