Alcester is a market town of Roman origin at the junction of the River Alne and River Arrow in Warwickshire, England, approximately 8 miles west of Stratford-upon-Avon close to the Worcestershire border. Unless you’re into ancient Roman history, Alcester today is populated by only 7,229 residents. However, it gets lots of visitors for local and all of Shakespeare’s patrimony nearby.
Brunning & Price
In 1989, Brunning and Price was born out of the friendship of Jerry Brunning and Graham Price. Since then it’s grown into a collection of pubs spanning the UK.
Arrow Mill Pub and Inn
It was a significant wedding anniversary so we wanted a quiet romantic interlude but still within striking distance of the Bard’s old stomping grounds. Although there has been a hotel and restaurant at this converted mill for decades, it was acquired by Brunning & Price and renovated recently. The manager is Peter Palfi from Budapest, who moved to the UK in 2007 with his wife and two sons.
As we live near two Brunning & Price pubs in North Wales, we booked to stay in the first week after the Arrow Mill Pub re-opened in October 2018 as we were visiting Shakespeare’s town.
There are only 9 rooms at this inn and we stayed in a Superior Room with king-size Hypnos bed, roll-top bath & rainfall shower, free Wi-Fi, Bose Soundlink, Tea & Coffee with Nespresso machine and L’Occitane toiletries.
The accomodations are in a private wing of the building with secure pass-key access. You need to be fit enough to climb up a flight or two of stairs as there is no elevator.
Within 5 minutes of hearing that we were celebrating a significant wedding anniversary at check-in, the manager sent up a complimentary bottle of bubbly – a very good start indeed.
Our room was beautiful in what can be described as Contemporary English Country style with a front window overlooking a pond and stream that used to supply the mill wheel. Today, swans glide majestically on the water.
I did not use the sparkling, new roll-top bath as I’m not a bath person but the rainfall shower did a good job before dinner.
The grounds are picturesque and provide a starting point for those gentle country walks that this region is famous for; dogs are optional.
Can you spot the little green tractor with red wheels in the field?
The bar is well stocked with at least 113 different gins so it’ll be a while before we work our way through the list.
Some of ye olde water mill mechanisms have been retained as architectural points-of-interest and conversation pieces.
The prime tables are in the conservatory overlooking the mill pond but every table has some architectural features nearby to admire.
Being well versed with the Brunning & Price menu and style, we did not have to try any of the fancier dishes but instead, reverted to a few gastropub favourites. Although there are standard choices across the Brunning & Price pubs, we find small variations depending on local suppliers and individual chefs’ selections.
Passori 2017 Veneto Rosso is made with “long hang” late harvested grapes
producing aromas of ripe plums and raisins. Aging in oak imparts spice and vanilla to the smooth red wine. This Italian wine pairs well with roast beef, red meats and hard cheeses.
Mushroom Soup with farmhouse bread reflecting the autumnal season was rich with the aroma and taste of our favourite fungi.
Seared Scallops and Fishcakes with pea purée, pea shoots and samphire was a classic combination and competently presented.
Rump Steak Sandwich with Dijon and tarragon mayonnaise and skin-on fries is a standard offering but we made sure to order the beef well done as that was my companion’s preference.
Cumberland Sausages with mash, buttered greens and onion gravy is my “go-to” comfort order on the Brunning & Price menu. The gravy here was true to the classic onion gravy recipe unlike another pub in Wales that adds lamb stock, which I abhor. So, top marks for Head Chef Szabolcs Szabo and the Arrow Mill kitchen.
Selection of British farmhouse cheeses with biscuits, chutney, quince jelly, grapes and celery.
We chose six varieties (L to R):
- Bath Blue was mild, buttery and creamy.
- Keen’s Cheddar was bold with contrasting sweet and salty notes as well as tangy orange and earthy.
- Cotswold Brie from the county next-door was soft and creamy with nutty and mushroom notes.
- Stinking Bishop was infamous for its pungent aroma but surprisingly mild and sweet to taste.
- Double Gloucester was mild, buttery and milky.
- Pyramid Cerney Ash was soft moist and crumbly with good acidity.
Remember that bottle of bubbly?
Well, it contributed to a memorable night in our comfy king size bed.
Full English Breakfast
I did not record the usual tea, milk, cereal, yoghurt and fruit starters to an English Breakfast nor buttered toast and marmalade for posterity.
The fried course of scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, black pudding, mushrooms and tomatoes was not only made prettier by the greenery but mayhaps a tad healthier, methinks.
Levity aside, I think the raison d’etre of a Bed & Breakfast is, in fact, the breakfast. To this end, the Arrow Mill breakfast hits the mark!
A Superior Room daily rate is from GBP 135 (USD 175), depending on the season but includes full English breakfast.
Bed & Breakfast daily rates for the other rooms are:
Junior Suite GBP 165 (USD 215).
Classic King or Twin GBP 105 (USD 135).
For the Room: 8/10
As it was the first week, there was a ‘teething’ issue with the leaky shower seals that is easy to rectify.
For the Restaurant: AlphaLuxe Two-Thumb Award
Mainly because of the inexperience of the serving staff. They were pleasant, amicable and eager otherwise.
Knowing the Brunning & Price standards at their other pubs, I expect the Arrow Mill Restaurant rating to rise with training and experience.
Author’s Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He was former CEO of PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelogue ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).