Saturday 25 April 2009

The Haven, Sandbanks, Dorset

Perched right on the tip of the prosperous seaside resort of Sandbanks at the end of a long swathe of fine beach and overlooking the picturesque Isle of Purbeck, the Haven has a superb location. Inside, it feels like a traditional English hotel with incongruously stylish and modern features, such as the cool, octagonal bar and the transparent, flat-panel CD players in some of the rooms. If possible, get a room with a sea view and insist on one that has been refurbished, despite the charcoal colour scheme, as the others can be dated, bashed-in and cramped. Twin rooms typically come with flat-panel TVs, Wi-Fi or wired Internet access, sachets of instant tea and coffee and good biscuits, refreshed every day, and large, comfortable beds. However, the bathrooms are quite basic and suffer from low water-pressure. It can also be a bit of a trek down the hot, stuffy and narrow corridors, broken up by irritating fire doors, to the ancient lift, with its metal grill, which takes you up and down from reception. Worse still, if there is an evening function on, the music can reverberate through the first and second floor bedrooms.

Chunky sausages, mouthwatering mushrooms
Still, the Haven is partially-redeemed by its pleasant beach-side terrace, exceptionally-warm indoor swimming pool, small gym, sauna and heated outdoor pool. The buffet breakfast is also very comprehensive and generally good despite the mediocre coffee. The hot food on offer includes chunky sausages, meaty bacon, well-cooked scrambled eggs, hash browns, fried bread, baked beans, fried eggs and large mouthwatering mushrooms. There is also fruit salad, yogurt, cereals, pain au chocolat, croissants, cheeses, hams, fruit juices and just about everything else you would expect. Eggs Benedict, Eggs Royale, kippers and other traditional breakfast dishes are cooked to order, but they can take time and come with too much Hollandaise sauce. The Haven's smart staff are mostly young, patient and tolerant of kids, but this timeworn hotel doesn't quite live up to its pricey room rates. 6/10