FROM the outside, Knoll House, which is just a stone’s throw from Studland Bay, looks like a charming, rather exclusive, country residence - but don’t be deterred.

For after 70 years, the rambling hotel in Ferry Road has now opened its doors to non-residents after it was bought by Kingfisher Resorts last year.

What used to be the children’s dining room has now been converted into a bright, shiny, vintage-style bistro which is open for lunch and afternoon tea.

(The main restaurant was about to close for refurbishment when we visited, but was due to reopen last week).

As most people know, Knoll House’s most famous resident was children’s author, Enid Blyton, who visited the hotel many times during the 1950s and ‘60s.

But if you were expecting to see lashings and lashings of ginger beer and tongue sandwiches on the menu - as favoured by her Famous Five characters - you will be relieved to know that the lunch menu here is much more appetising!

It’s relaxed fine dining with a choice of sharing platters, fresh seafood and classic dishes with a contemporary touch. You can have any three sharing platters for £15 or any five for £25 or a range of sandwiches and toasties ranging in price from £6.50 to £9.95, all served with house salad and hand cut chips.

Alternatively you can opt for afternoon tea or the more decadent sounding champagne tea (£18 - £25) both featuring jams and chutneys from local suppliers.

We ordered a selection of tapas dishes, Oriental duck spring roll served with crispy noodles and a sweet and spicy sauce, Tempura prawns with lemon and garlic aioli, a platter of mini fish and chips with a minty pea puree, deep-fried Camembert served with orange, grape and cranberry syrup in a mini ladle on the side and spicy lamb kofta in a pitta bread with cucumber and mint yoghurt.

Each dish was a generous portion (far more than traditional Spanish tapas) and elegantly presented. There was more than enough food for two people.

Our only gripe was that the cheese wasn’t quite cooked as it was still a little cold in the middle, but other than than you couldn’t fault the food

It’s easily one of the most picturesque locations for a light lunch after a walk in the Purbecks, and it won’t make too much of a dent on your wallet either.

Although dogs aren’t allowed in the bistro, you can enjoy coffee or tea with your hound in front of one of the open fires in the hallway, or you can relax in one of the hotel lounges and enjoy the view across the bay.

  • Knoll House started life as a summer residence for the aristocratic Bankes family in the early 1900s, before it was turned into a six-bedroom hotel by Chris and Poppy Smith in 1931.