There’s no mystery to the Cotswolds’ popularity. England and Wales’ largest designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty boasts green hills and pleasant rolling lands to match those of Devon and Cornwall, but with easier access. Spanning five counties and 800 square miles this land teems with historic towns, honey-stone villages and clued-up tourist attractions. In fact, there’s so much going on that a day trip just doesn’t cut it. A wealth of possibilities exist for overnighters and weekenders of all budgets and tastes, but here we look beyond the usual stuffy hotels, manor houses and country inns to highlight some of the area’s best and most inviting restaurants with rooms.
Wild Garlic & Wilder, Nailsworth
Nailsworth is now regarded as something of a foodie haven, in no small part due to the efforts of chef Matt Beardsall, a veteran of Ramsey, Wearing and Hartnett’s restaurants. Food at his Wild Garlic Bistro with Rooms is gloriously unfussy, while a stone’s throw away its sibling Wilder serves up blind tasting menus and matching wine flights for more inquisitive palates. End the night in one of the five Cotswold-chic accommodations, and don’t forget to stock up at the famous Hobbs House Bakery and Williams Food Hall & Fish Market before you head home.
Eckington Manor, Eckington/Pershore
It would be easy for Eckington to shamelessly exploit the celebrity appeal of its husband-and-wife chef team, Great British Menu competitor Sue Stinchcombe and Masterchef Professionals winner Mark. Instead, it’s the intricate yet appealing food that takes centre stage in the dining rooms, while the 300-acre farm and 13th century farm buildings deliver an equally tempting feast for the senses. That Mark and Sue also run a much admired cookery school here is just one more reason to stay a night or two…
The Wild Rabbit, Kingham
A hop skip and a Hunter welly-clad jump from the Daylesford Farmshop lies the Bamford family’s other labour of a love. The Wild Rabbit does its utmost to exude shabby Cotswold chic, but can’t help but come across like a multi-million dollar facsimile of the real thing. In truth that’s no bad thing, what with an airy conservatory dining space and a kitchen knocking out Instagram-worthy dishes based around ingredients culled from the Daylesford estate. This as very much an ultra-luxe affair, though curiously chef Nathan Eades’ tasting menu represents ridiculous value at £65 for 7 courses. The Rabbit’s 13 rooms are so Sunday Supplement beautiful you might never want to leave, while five cottages in the village offer equally recherché accommodation for more independently-minded groups.
Thyme, aka Southrop Manor Estate, aka ‘that place where Kate Moss celebrated getting hitched’ doesn’t so much sit in its idyllic village home as drape itself all over it. The self-styled ‘country destination’ has evolved over the last decade to encompass a boutique hotel, Farrow & Ball-decked gastro pub (The Swan), cookery school, cocktail bar (named Baa, naturally), spa, and private events barn – all served by 150 acre estate’s own kitchen garden and farm. The Ox Barn is the latest add-on, delivering a slightly more refined version of the British-Italian fare favoured by head chef and owners’ son Charlie Hibbert. More accommodation is also imminent, though even now the choice of rooms and cottages dotted around the village is impressive.
No 38: The Park, Cheltenham
Less a restaurant with rooms, more a townhouse into which a boutique restaurant has been sensitively airlifted, No 38 is the quirkiest property in the eclectic portfolio of Julian ‘Superdry’ Dunkerton’s Lucky Onion Group. Originally conceived as a wine, dine and recline hideaway better suited to group bookings, the focus of this 13-room ode to teal paintwork and high end fabrics has shifted since the arrival of Prithvi, an upmarket Indian restaurant that had already garnered its share of awards elsewhere in the city. Also in Cheltenham, the Lucky Onion’s No.131 hotel offers a more formal, though no less hipster-ish playground.
The Painswick, Painswick
Pay no head to the painful puffery on The Painswick’s website, with its talk of ‘breaking the rules’ and ‘plating up a sort of contemporary contradiction’. Pretentiousness is thankful absent within the walls of this former vicarage, where both the decor and menu speak of comfort, care and indulgence. Feast on crowd-pleasing dishes gussied up with flourish and wit, or slowly unwind with a spot of afternoon tea. The 16 bedrooms – all muted colours and Victorian embellishments – span five different price brackets, with the most sumptuous – George Suite – sporting a balcony with unfettered South-facing views across the valley.
Russell’s of Broadway
A quintessential destination in a quintessentially picture postcard town, it’s almost worth eating at Russell’s just for an excuse to bed down for the night. Plump for one of the two top-tier rooms – they feature characterful exposed beams and the kind of bathrooms that cry out for a glasses of bubbly with every dip. Downstairs, the menu from chef George Santos puts just enough of a spin on familiar fish and meat-orientated dishes to keep the taste buds tingling, while the desserts spice things up with savoury notes such as juniper, saffron and parsnip.
The Feathered Nest, Nether Westcote
Looking to all intents and purposes like a well-polished rambler’s pub, The Feathered Nest is anything but. Head chef Kuba Winkowski has loftier aims and – judging by the artful plating arrangements and proliferation of purees – an eye on a Michelin prize or two. Such ambition inevitably results in a degree of formality, along with vertiginous pricing at odds with the ‘country inn’ tagline – expect to pay £70 for four courses or £90 for six. But approach this as a fine dining experience in sheep’s clothing and you’ll do just fine. Needless to say, the four available rooms are all as pretty as a picture.