The Bridge House is a gorgeous hotel in Bridport, West Dorset, that houses one of our all-time favourite bars, DarkBear. On a recent trip to the rum haven to celebrate Barbados Independence Day with a Doorly’s & Foursquare Rum Tasting, we were lucky enough to secure a room at the hotel itself, and were not disappointed.
What and Where?
The Bridge House is an independently owned, Grade II-listed Georgian town house, located on the banks of the River Askar in the picturesque market town of Bridport, West Dorset. The small hotel had been running for years but had garnered a reputation for being a bit stuffy and outdated. This was until Marcus and Sara Edwards took it on in October 2017, transforming the 10-guestroom property and its serving communal areas into a warm and tastefully appointed home from home for guests looking to explore the Jurassic Coast and its surroundings.
Once parked round the side of the hotel in one of the designated guest spots, we make our way up the stairs into the open area. Dark wooden floorboards are lined with large Persian-style rugs, atop which sit comfy armchairs and sofas for weary travellers to relax on during their stay. Walls of sage green bring lightness and calm to the space, with aubergine highlights and dark grey-blue slate accents adding stately gravitas. A marble fireplace, paintings, bookcases, lamps, reading material, and objet d’art have all been curated to create the sense of a fine yet welcoming living room that all can kick their boots off in and enjoy.
We wander over to the reception desk and are immediately distracted by the adjacent Honesty Bar filled with local gems such as Black Cow Vodka and Conker Coffee, as well as some beautiful rums from Foursquare Distillery. Here, guests can serve themselves from the range of spirits, ales, wines, and soft drinks, writing down what they’ve taken so that they can be charged accordingly on departure.
Our attention refocused on the mission at hand, we are checked in by the ever-patient member of staff, who hands us our key and directs us to our room upstairs.
Each of the guestrooms has an en-suite bathroom and its own distinctive character, playing on the charms of the architecture that the Georgian building has to offer. Furnishings have been carefully selected from famous local antique emporiums and vintage markets, and the overall design effortlessly fuses traditional prowess with modern comfort.
Our lovely attic room is bright and cosy, with a feature wall of attractive botanical wallpaper adorned with framed florals illustrations. A cane-webbed headboard painted white evokes the seaside (a mile away), whilst antique mahogany furnishings and mid-century style seating somehow come together to create a harmonious decor that feels fresh and relaxing. As we conduct the essential “bed comfort test” by flopping down on the double mattress dressed in Egyptian cotton sheets, we notice the cute little drinks nook complete with a kettle, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, biscuits, and bottled water. By it there’s also a waste bin and separate bag for recyclable waste (which we love and gives a little nod to The Bridge House’s stated ethos for doing its bit for the environment). Once the bed has achieved its pass with distinction, we finalise our mental report by inspecting the bathroom, which is clean and polished with complimentary eco-friendly toiletries and an admirably pressured shower.
Such back-breaking labour has made us positively parched and so, with complimentary biscuit already partially in face (we stop at nothing to deliver you a full-service review), we head down to the atmospheric cellar to await the Doorly’s & Foursquare ECS Tasting at DarkBear.
DarkBear is one of the finest rum havens in the UK due in no small part to its co-founders David Smith and Lloyd Brown. With over 20 years of bar experience between them and a passion for rum and cocktails, the pair decided it was high time to make their stamp on the industry. DarkBear’s first popped up in a café in March 2018 and quickly caught the attention of locals, gaining a solid reputation for its collection of over 100 rums and specialty cocktails. The bar found its forever home at The Bridge House Hotel during the March 2020 lockdown, settling into the subterranean den and bringing its loyal fanbase of rummies with it.
The bar has a definite atmosphere, at once secretive and welcoming. An eclectic array of nick-nacks – from bespectacled fox taxidermy and silver trophies to bookshelves filled with dusty volumes and paintings of forgotten nobles – adds the feel of a spot where time is of no consequence. Staff are astoundingly knowledgeable and friendly, with well-treated punters happy to do their bit to make the space feel welcoming to all. The bar’s own range of incredible ready-to-drink cocktails, gins, and more are available to buy directly from the venue, as well as being purchasable online for nationwide delivery.
We settle in for the night for the Doorly’s takeover, spoiled as we always are by the DarkBear team and Doorly’s UK Ambassador, Pete Holland. With world-class rum and top cocktails flowing throughout the night, good company, and the knowledge that we need only walk upstairs when sleep beckons, there’s nowhere else we’d rather be.
Arising surprisingly early, if not rather bleary-eyed, we prise ourself from the wonderfully warm duvet and shuffle towards the Breakfast Room. Run as a B&B with breakfast included in the price of the rooms, breakfast is available between the small window of 8am and 9:30am Monday to Saturday, with an extra 15-minutes added to the end time on Sundays. Those who are not able to summon the strength to rise at this time will not be left to starve as there are many other eating options in Bridport town, a few minutes walk away.
The rooms itself is as warm and cosy as the rest of The Bridge House, with an almost country cottage feel. Farmhouse style benches and tables, antique wooden chairs and cabinets, old metal tea tins, quaint lambs, tactile fabrics, and dynamic artwork come together to create a homey and engaging space that makes us feel immediately relaxed.
The breakfast menu offers up a number of attractive options from simple, warming porridge served with local honey and The Continental (local cheeses and a selection of sliced cold meats served with freshly baked croissants or warm bread), to Eggs Royale and the comprehensive The Dorset (local dry cured unsmoked back bacon, local free-range farm egg, ‘Old English’ local pork sausages, grilled tomato, mushrooms & baked beans, with black pudding and toast upon request). It’s abundantly clear that local, independent, and free-range are of great importance to the team at The Bridge House, with the menu proudly listing the suppliers for the produce. Gluten-free and vegetarian options are also readily available in this small yet complete list.
We opt for the Eggs Royale, with smoked salmon and poached eggs served with hollandaise on sourdough, topped with chives from the garden, and The Dorset. Both arrive promptly, accompanied by tea and juice, and are absolute god-sends. The eggs are poached to perfection and the portion of salmon is far from stingy, whilst the superior quality of the sausage and bacon is noticeable in the full English.
Plates licked clean, we head back to our room to pack up and begrudgingly check out at Reception.
Our stay at The Bridge House cannot be faulted. The warmth of the hospitality was constant; each space was beautifully appointed and cosy; and everything on offer from the food and drink, to the eco-toiletries and wellies on hand for those needing to borrow a pair, was wonderful.
Situated halfway between Exeter and Bournemouth, The Bridge House Hotel really is perfectly placed for holidaymakers, walkers, cyclists, and business travellers. Mere minutes from the centre of town and run as a B&B, with the DarkBear Cellar Bar below, and the Potting Shed Garden Bar open in the warmer months (often featuring pop-up food events by local chefs), there’s little reason why you’d want to stay anywhere else (in our humble opinion). We will certainly be back.
Double Rooms for two people including breakfast start at £125 per night. Single rooms including breakfast start from £97. Book through The Bridge House here.