It is a while since I wrote a review about the Blue Bell Hotel in Burton Agnes but I still have visitors whose search terms feature Alex Polizzi – or occasionally her legs – and I am reminded that it is probably time for an update. My first review was not wholly complimentary although there was hope for movement in the right direction. If nothing else, the hotel was the real deal when it came to customer service, it was just that they were able to demonstrate their absolute willingness to oblige more often when putting something right than when getting it right in the first place.
We have stayed there since and it is fair to say it has had its ups and downs with changes in management and ownership, chefs jumping ship, and new chefs taking over at almost no notice with an unfamiliar menu to deliver. It is also fair to say our visits have been for purposes not conducive to having a jolly good time – the deaths of our parents in 2011 and 2012 – and so the functioning of a hotel, while largely of secondary interest, is nevertheless likely to impinge acutely if things are not right.
Our last visit, pretty much en masse as several branches of the family converged for my mother’s funeral, was in July 2012 and the hotel could not have been more accommodating. Certainly there was the odd imperfection but that is rather like criticising handmade paper for having bits in it and an uneven surface – if you want handmade and personal, you may not get city centre finesse. And if you prefer the latter, you certainly won’t get the views, the free parking, the on-the-hoof menu personalisations, or in fact, the horse and sheep peering over the fence from next door.
You do not have a wonderful time in the circumstances that prevailed when we stayed there, but we could not have been looked after any better. Handmade paper is unique and so is the Blue Bell. Maybe give it a try if you’re up Yorkshire way, and say hello to the old hoss for us if he’s still nodding and swaying over the fence. Even better, say hello to Lynn – the Lady in Black and beating heart of the establishment – and tell her we sent you.