The pretty Norman building of the Bella Luce immediately looks inviting

Guernsey evokes cream teas, plus pretty views all mixed up with a good handful of nostalgia, so a whirlwind trip to the island promises much, as Rachael Jolley finds out.

It all starts off badly when my 45-minute Gatwick flight is delayed by two hours. Eventually touchdown in Guernsey came, and the joy of a tiny island was immediately apparent. We were off the plane in a micro second, through baggage, and into a taxi, and a mere seven minutes later reached the driveway of the Bella Luce Hotel.

This pretty Norman building snuggles up to a stone-walled corner of a country road, and immediately looks inviting. We crunch down the gravel drive to check-in.

Bella Luce Hotel - bedroomThe rooms are stylish and luxurious, with lots of design edge

A young receptionist appears nervous, as if this might be her first week in the job, but she does accompany us to our room and tells us how it all works. The keys are slightly tricky (you have to wave them at the door). Everything else is fairly easy to grasp, so we settle in and unpack in the large, low-ceilinged room in the original main building. There’s a comfy sofa to sink into and relax, a useful large hotel handbook (I hate it when hotels don’t supply these), and a good-sized bathroom with underfloor heating.

We’re slightly bemused to find that a large claw foot bath is situated in the bedroom, rather than the bathroom, but the power shower in the bathroom is definitely a winner as are the big bath towels and the modern square sink. Overall the room is stylish and luxurious, with lots of design edge.

Views from the low, original windows are over a pretty restaurant garden where diners are just finishing up their Sunday lunch in the speckled sunshine.

Bella Luce Hotel - poolThe hotel's pool is a welcome surprise

Surprisingly, since it is not mentioned on the website, the hotel has an outdoor swimming pool. Amazingly, I have managed to pack my swimsuit.

Since we are only here for a whirlwind visit, we want to get the most out of the stay, so we go downstairs to make sure we can. First off we head for the much-recommended restaurant to make sure we can dine there this evening. A friendly bar staffer also advises us about afternoon tea (cream tea no problem; full afternoon tea must be booked 24 hours ahead). Table for dinner booked, we proceed to reception to ask for a map so we can explore the island.

One of two receptionists, rather engrossed, wave us quite brusquely towards a stack of local brochures, some of which include maps.

Then it’s off down the hill, heading towards the nearby beach (also not mentioned on the website). It’s a lovely walk down a small road made shady by overhanging trees, and then finally past a café (avoid the poor cups of tea here) and down to a rather sweet, sandy beach, where there’s swimming and paddling potential.

Bella Luce Hotel - barBar service is smart and efficient

After a meandering coastal walk, there’s just time for a quick dip and sit by the pool before dinner. The pool’s definitely an asset. It’s an evening sun trap, and there are loungers and pool towels supplied. But we feel the potential of this area is slightly undermined by attention to detail. A big storage room, next to the pool, has been left with its door open, so the view of the stacked chairs and tables doesn’t enhance the area. And it’s a pity that a rather pretty summer house by the pool is being used for storage and also has a broken window. Apparently this area is next on the list for renovation.

But the historic main house with the bar, restaurant and bedrooms are steeped in attention that the pool will, no doubt, receive next. To kick off a rather enjoyable evening, we order drinks and sit outside the lovely garden, bathed in early evening light. Bar service is smart and efficient.

Then we move inside for dinner in the elegant, but relaxed dining room. We are seated in the back of the two rooms, and immediately we are won over by the friendliness of our waiter. He is keen and enthusiastic, and tells us about his favourite dishes (he hasn’t tried them all yet). The delicious sounding elements of the à la carte menu tempt us away from intention to stick to the June seasonal set menu, which is good value at £17.50 for two courses.

Bella Luce Hotel - restaurantThe restaurant serves locally sourced food

But the exciting stuff on the main menu is too much to bear. Bella Luce buys a high percentage of its ingredients locally, so even though I am tempted by the Aberdeen Angus carpaccio, restaurant manager Antonio’s suggestion of the scallop sashimi makes sense. And it turns out it is phenomenal, it takes all the best things about sushi flavours and makes them sing. My companion loves her home-cured salmon with potato, cucumber and mint salad. The mint really makes it, she says. It’s at this stage we realise head chef Mladen Vidakovic really knows his flavours.

Both of us appreciate the range of wines by the glass, so we can both have different wines. More restaurants should do this. We follow up with a linguine of monkfish and mussels (light, and not too creamy) and rump of lamb so soft that you hardly need a knife. Then it’s on to puddings. Too difficult to choose, so we opt for a tasting platter which has some great flavours. I’m particularly fond of the fresh and zingy passion fruit yogurt, the elderflower jelly and the pear shortbread.

Next morning we test out the restaurant again for a relaxed breakfast. Again the staff excel, and the flavours in my bacon sandwich suggests great sourcing. A much-needed walk along the nearby coastal path to stretch our legs and take in some great views finishes our visit with a flourish.

Bella Luce Hotel & Restaurant
La Fosse, St Martins, Guernsey, Channel Islands
Tel: +44 (0)1481 238 764.
Price: Rooms from £104, bed and breakfast.

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