The Bull Hotel, something of a legend in Bridport, was arguably one of the first new-generation boutique pubs, combining urban cool with the laid-back anything goes attitude for which it has become so renowned.
It's a blend of many different things which makes The Bull work so well. Let's start with the location. Well, Bridport is one of our favourite places in the West Country, a market town with its own definitive quirky spirit, arty and artisan, close to West Bay and Burton Bradstock beaches and the stunning Jurassic Coast. The owners Richard and Nikki Cooper infused The Bull, a 16th century coaching inn, with its own distinctive brand of urban cool meets seaside hangout. Following on from places such as Babington House, the antithesis of the buttoned up, rules and regs country house hotel, The Bull knew it had the scope to be all things to all people. Posh enough to attract weekending West Londoners, not so posh it turned off the locals. And within weeks of opening it became a magnet for everyone, cider-supping octogenarian to urban family - a bucket and spade pub, if you can imagine such a thing just as much as a romantic retreat for loved-up couples. The bedrooms are gorgeous, think vintage roll top baths, beautiful wallpaper, four-posters, Egyptian cotton linen and Neal's Yard products everywhere.
The restaurant serves unbelievably fresh fish (it's stellar here) such as pan fried scallops with a saffron and brown shrimp risotto or seeded tempura hake with pea puree and chips. Steaks are fantastic and if they took the fish pie off the menu (hake, scallops, salmon, prawn with a gruyere glaze) I think things would get pretty ugly.
But what I love most about The Bull is all the other stuff that's going on. At the back of the hotel there's The Stables, a lo-fi pizza joint with jugs of cider, shared refectory tables and spectacular wood-fired pizzas. At the weekend the beautiful and quirky Venner Bar, hidden at the back of the first floor ballroom, springs into life. Head here for canapes and inventive cocktails and, if you're sober enough, while away the hours with a board game or two.
If you're staying, then you'll have wonderful Bridport to explore at your leisure. On Saturdays there's a huge street market crammed with stalls selling antiques, jewellery, vintage clothes, secondhand books and on the last Sunday of every month you'll find the wonderful Vintage Market at the St Michael's Trading Estate. Beach heaven is close by and it would be a mistake not to check out The Watch Tower Cafe at West Bay (if you can drag yourself away from The Bull that is). Whenever I visit The Bull for a cappuccino or a perfectly cold Guinness I always wish I could stay longer and find myself looking enviously at the London couples swishing up to their rooms. Like the very best pubs this one works on many levels, perfect for a random pint, a quick pizza with the kids, a birthday dinner in the restaurant or the full blown mini break.