My gift to hubby for his birthday (back in November) was a night stay at the luxury hotel on Spitbank Fort. A boutique hotel experience out at sea in The Solent. This experience is something he has wanted to do for a while now, and I was thrilled for the opportunity of a new foodie adventure – Eating Real Food on No Man’s Fort.
Warning: If you continue reading this post, expect nautical puns galore. I’m so sorry, I just couldn’t help myself!
OFF TO A POOR START!
Unfortunately, two days before our trip, I received a call from Solent Forts to say that our stay had been cancelled due to emergency repair work on the fort. Oh, ship!
TIDES HAVE TURNED!
Luckily, Solent Forts were able to provide us with a couple of alternative options. One, change the date of our trip so we could still stay at Spitbank Fort in the future. Or two, visit No Man’s Fort hotel instead, with an upgrade to the Presidential Suite and a £70 of credit to spend during our stay.
Would we be missing out by not going to the Spitbank luxury hotel? Or, would we have an even better experience if we stayed at the No Man’s island hotel instead? Knot shore what to do, we did a bit of research and in the end, we decided to accept the kind offer to upgrade our stay so that we could continue hubby’s birthday celebrations as originally planned.
ALL ABOARD TO NO MAN’S FORT!
We boarded a little boat at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth, along with the other guests and headed 20 or so minutes out to sea until we arrived at our No Man’s Fort ‘Private Island’ destination. One of five forts commissioned in the 1850s, strategically built in The Solent to protect Portsmouth against impending French invasion.
On arrival, we were greeted with some bubbly and spent about an hour relaxing in the atrium at the heart of the fort. We were then taken on a truly fascinating tour. I was especially intrigued by the unconverted lower level of the Fort which remains relatively untouched and is home to some original artefacts.
It’s like a museum until you stumble across the Lazer Quest suits hanging in what would have been a storage area. I mean, I don’t know any other museum that would allow their precious collections to be compromised by people running around pretending to shoot each other. Ferry bizarre!
The converted areas of the fort are an eclectic mix of different styles – antique, wartime, nautical, shabby chic and modern. Quirky and eccentric would be a good description. I would certainly say the common areas feel a little tired and in need of updating, especially considering the price of a stay.
However, stepping into our room felt much more luxurious. The bed was huge and incredibly comfortable. The lounge area had cosy armchairs and a giant TV (not that we ever turned it on). The bathroom had a spacious walk-in shower and was kit out with branded toiletries. The distinctive architecture and original ironwork are distinctive reminders of the fort’s history.
With six hours to fill until dinner, we had a choice of things to do. Maybe have a spa treatment, order a buffet lunch at the Nelson’s Pub, chill out in the atrium or more private nooks, take in the 360-degree views from the lighthouse, relax in the sauna, take a dip in the hot tub, play some pool or snooker in the games room, play chess and other board games or indulge in a cream tea in the lounge. Whatever floats your boat.
It was a thoroughly chilled affair and we embraced every single minute. Canoe think of a more perfect day?!
THE MESS DINNER AT NO MAN’S FORT
At 7.30 pm guests started to gather in the atrium for pre-dinner drinks and at 8 pm the dinner bell rang to alert us that it was time to be seated. There was a huge sense of occasion. This is what we came for!
A menu is provided as a courtesy but no choice is provided. It’s no wonder considering how much of a feat it is to transport ingredients to the fort. To ensure guests have no food intolerances the menu is sent to you via email about a week before your stay and it is at this point you can ask for alterations.
Shell yeah! I was so happy when the starter arrived because it was more like a bruschetta than a tomato salad. Bruschetta is one of my all-time favourite things to eat. I really enjoyed the chefs take on it too. Fresh, diced heirloom tomatoes, with finely chopped shallots and toasted pine kernels, piled high on crusty bread and drizzled with a basil-infused oil and balsamic glaze. It was served with a side of peppery rocket.
The only thing that wasn’t 100% real food here was the white crusty bread. I think with a brown bread alternative this would be a perfect real food recipe.
Another favourite of mine was the perfectly cooked beef we had for our main course. There was nothing I didn’t like about this meal. Mustard mash, maple glazed carrots, sesame tenderstem broccoli, sweet pea puree and a seriously rich, but oh so moreish Bourbon Jus. Just fantastic.
On the face of it, these ingredients are pretty much real food and everything was made from scratch, so I was really happy with what was served. There are likely some processed ingredients in here, such as oil, alcohol and maybe flour or cornflour to thicken the Jus. But considering the majority of ingredients were real and varied, I would likely have chosen this dish even if I had a whole list of options to choose from.
And just like the dessert, it was a bittersweet end to my meal when I was presented with the chocolate mousse. No real food here. But, as I don’t much like dark chocolate, I was happy to hand this beautiful looking plate over to hubby to polish off. He tried his best, but as the mousse was so rich, he couldn’t eat it all.
At the end of the meal, it was confirmed that our boat off the Fort was going to leave at 3.30 pm instead of our original 10.30 am departure time. This did not come as a surprise as we were advised before we left the dock at Portsmouth. Due to bad weather conditions, it would not have been possible for our boat to dock the Fort in the morning.
We were marooned!
Feeling a little nauti we made a beeline for the rooftop to sit around the fire pit and sip hot chocolate and toast marshmallows. I know, I know, nothing about this was real food. But, bouy it was good ship!
The next day, courtesy of the hotel we were served a complimentary 3-course lunch. Well, you can imagine how happy I was to continue my foodie adventure.
I read the menu and I felt bad that I was disappointed. You know that feeling when you dread the thought of trying something because you think you know that you’re not going to like it. That was how I felt when I read ‘Broccoli and Stilton Soup’. But, I totally surprised myself. The soup was delicious. Creamy, cheesy and dreamy. I ate the whole thing!
Being on a hotel out at sea, I was actually surprised this was the first time we saw fish on the menu. The salmon was tasty and cooked to perfection. But I’m sorry to say the risotto was pretty awful. When I think of risotto I assume it will be a creamy, rich, velvety sauce with slightly al dente rice. But this take on Risotto was not that. It was almost a slice of risotto, baked until it was rigid. There was no sauciness to it. It was dry but sticky at the same time and hard to swallow. An unusual texture that just didn’t seem right. Unfortunately, I couldn’t manage more than a mouthful.
DESSERT: ETON MESS
Last boat naut least, dessert was Eton Mess. I usually love an Eton Mess but on this occasion, I turned it down. Now that’s growth!
REFLECTING ON OUR TIME ON NO MAN’S FORT
3.30 pm came around quickly and our boat arrived to take us back to Portsmouth. As we sailed back home, hubby and I reflected on our 28 hours aboard No Man’s Fort.
I align its personality with my own – quirky and eccentric.
We both agreed that the dinner was our favourite part of the experience. Hats off to the chef.
The overall experience is like no other. No Man’s Fort is absolutely the most unusual place we have stayed so far in this little game of life.
I am truly grateful for the memories.
Thanks for reading. Sea you next time!
Thank you to Elite Daily for your Nautical Pun inspiration.
For more Real Food Adventures check out Eating Real Food in Ragusa Sicily.
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