Review of The Haven Hotel, Sandbanks

My husband and I discovered the The Haven Hotel at Sandbanks when he was working for a prolonged period of time in nearby Poole and it was suggested that this would be a convenient place for him to stay. The recommendation proved fortuitous at the time, the location being a short drive or cycle ride from the centre of the town where his temporary office was situated. It has since offered us a tranquil and luxurious setting for several short breaks as a couple, as well as when accompanied by our teenage sons.

Last week we enjoyed a two night stay in a Harbour View room, with dinner in the La Roche Restaurant on the first evening. Our two sons had a basic room on the floor below, which suited their needs well. This was our fourth visit to the hotel in just over two years, from which you may rightly deduce that we enjoy the time we spend here.

We arrived early afternoon and, after an efficient and friendly check-in, were told that our room would be available in a quarter of an hour. We opted to wait in one of several, comfortable lounges overlooking the sea. The sun was out and, after the busy drive down, it was good to be able to unwind.

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Our room was as cleanly presented and well equipped as ever. Little touches such as padded as well as wooden coat-hangers in the wardrobe; a small box containing a nail file, cotton buds and cotton balls amongst the supplied toiletries; bottles of water as well as the generously stocked hospitality tray, pleased me

I was less pleased to find a set of scales in the spacious bathroom. Of course I could and did choose not to use them, but they reminded me that I should not be indulging in the delicious food on offer with quite my usual abandon.

The Harbour View rooms overlook the Sandbanks Chain Ferry and offer impressive views of the coastline as it enters Poole Harbour. On previous visits we have enjoyed watching the many boats as they sail in and out. On this occasion the water was perhaps a little choppy and sea traffic was minimal.

On one previous visit we upgraded to a Sea View room which offers, as the name suggests, a more encompassing  view of the English Channel. As a writer I value the chance to bathe in visual stimulation and would therefore recommend this upgrade in warmer weather. Last week it was rather too cold to spend long on our balcony and the Harbour View room sufficed.

The boys’ basic room lacked a balcony and looked out over the car park. It was, however, clean, bright and spacious with a well equipped bathroom, the same hospitality tray and a small fridge. Their television did not appear to be working when we arrived, but this was quickly sorted by a member of staff as soon as we reported it to reception. All of the staff that we encountered during our visit were unfailingly polite, friendly and helpful. My boys particularly appreciated the free WiFi that is available in all rooms.

Having settled in and enjoyed the provided refreshments (my younger son particularly appreciated the hot chocolate and selection of delicious biscuits) we ventured out to explore the surrounding area. The location of the hotel is a definite draw. It has direct access to a sandy beach, which can be followed all the way to Bournemouth and beyond. For those willing to get in the car it is a short drive to many places of interest, such as Corfe Castle which we have visited in the past. On this occasion we preferred to explore on foot.

On the first evening of our stay my husband and elder son made use of the well equipped hotel gym while I accompanied my younger son to the swimming pool. Despite the incoming rain he enjoyed a good number of lengths of the outdoor pool before retreating to warm up inside. These facilities are all part of the Harmony Spa that hotel guests may use.

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Having worked up an appetite we tidied ourselves before making our way down to the restaurant for dinner. The quality of the food is another aspect of The Haven that tempts us to return time and again.

My husband and elder son started their meal with mussels, a rare treat as I have an intolerance for shellfish so do not offer such delicacies at home. They declared them delicious, perfectly prepared. My younger son started with a tasty soup and I with the pate. I found my choice rather bland but acceptable.

For main course my husband and elder son chose the sea bass, my younger son had duck and I ordered the beef. Although the others were effusive in their praise of the various dishes offered (there was much sharing and tasting going on) I did not fare so well. Portions of the beef were served rare which I cannot stomach. My family polished off my meal for me and scoffed at my inability to appreciate such a perfectly presented treat.

For dessert my husband and elder son had a sticky date pudding which they both enjoyed. My younger son ordered cheese, which he shared, and I chose the chocolate torte. Had I read the description more carefully I would have realised that this was a creamy concoction, not what I had in mind. I gave it to my boys and it was appreciated as intended.

Most dishes on offer are freshly prepared and menus change regularly. I cannot fault the quality of the food, the service or the ambiance of the restaurant. My family enjoyed their meal and it is nobody’s fault but my own that I had made too many poor choices given my personal preferences. I did not raise any issues with the staff at the time and would continue to recommend La Roche even if I did not enjoy my eating experience on this occasion as much as on previous visits.

After a good night’s sleep in the spacious and comfortable bed I awoke ready for my breakfast. This is mainly self service from a wide selection of fruit, cereal, yoghurt, cheese, sliced meat, fish and pastries, along with the usual variety of hot offerings. Staff will also take orders for freshly prepared kippers, smoked haddock and poached eggs. We all found plenty to suit our individual preferences and left replete.

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After a day spent hiking along the coast we ate at a local restaurant on the harbour before returning to the hotel for our second and final night. Although the hotel was busy there was little noise apparent when in the rooms.

We had until 11am the next day to pack up, and could have continued to use the hotel facilities had we wished. However, the sun was shining so we opted to enjoy another local walk before bidding a reluctant farewell.

I hope that we will have the opportunity to return again soon. My younger son is determined that we should go back in the summer, that he may walk from his room to swim in the sea.

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