Three Cotswold pubs have been recognised by Michelin as some of the best dining pubs in the UK.
The Churchill Arms in Paxford near Chipping Campden, Mr Hanbury's Mason Arms located in South Leigh near Witney, The Bull at Fairford and The Howard Arms in Ilmington are all new entrants to the Michelin Eating out in Pubs Guide announced on Friday.
This guide showcases the best UK establishments to enjoy a fine-dining experience with a pint.
Like a good old fashioned Brexit argument, the refurbishment of The Lygon Arms has been the talk of the Cotswolds and beyond for quite a while now with differing opinions; many all for the changes and others completely dead against it. Why would anyone be against it?
The refurbishment has seen a huge change in direction for the restaurant going from fine dining to a much more relaxed style and feel and a menu aimed at a wider audience. The linen covered tables have been replaced by marble top tables. The mirror-covered white walls and barrel-vaulted ceiling are now a tasteful grey(ish) blue and are filled with numerous framed portraits and landscape paintings. The dreary striped carpet is now a lovely wooden floor and the 1970s light shades have been replaced by some stunning antlers. They have created one of the finest looking dining rooms in the Cotswolds.
Our table was booked for 8.30pm and we arrived at around 8.25pm (we got stuck behind a learner driver). We ideally wanted to be earlier to enjoy a cocktail in the bar before hand but decided to go straight to our table which happened to be next to the roaring open fire and perfect on a dank and dreary October evening. I had mentioned that it was my wife's birthday when booking and she was instantly greeted with a "happy birthday" and glass of fizz. I went for a bottle of Cotswold Brewing Company IPA.
The restaurant was almost full and there was a pleasant atmosphere. Before long our starters and main courses were taken. We opted for one Duck terrine, fruit chutney and sourdough (£9) and one Butternut squash and nutmeg ravioli and wild mushrooms (£8, or £13 if you want it as a main) followed by Venison loin, roasted roots and sloe jus (£24) and Welsh lamb cutlets (£24) both served pink. Sides are not included and are all priced at £4 and big enough to share if you order a main that suits the same side dish. We were recommended the thyme mash and the creamed leak and bacon so went for those.
A lovely small loaf of warm bread arrived before the starers with salt sprinkled butter. The ravioli was a real winter warmer with three filled pieces of pasta sat on a bed of spinach and under the delicious wild mushrooms with a broth like layer of goodness covering the bottom of the bowl. The terrine and chutney was a solid combination and equally as good.
After a quick game of "can you name any of the faces on the wall?" (we couldn't, but guessed that one must be Charles 1 and another Oliver Cromwell) our mains arrived. The venison, as described, was sat on a bed of roasted roots and sloe jus. The lamb was served with a vine of tomatoes. In all honestly I would have probably preferred it with some creamed spinach, or something similar, as it definitely warranted two side dishes. That aside (no pun intended), the meat on both plates was perfectly pink and all sourced locally. The thyme mash was incredible.
We were full but the Sticky date and toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream (£6) was highly recommended. How could we resist? A bowl was ordered, as was an espresso martini. The pudding defeated us but it was as good as we were told it would be.
I had noticed the dreaded 12.5% service charge hovering at the bottom of the menu throughout the meal. This is something that annoys many and I have got into the habit of asking where this charge goes and of course it is discretionary so can be removed if you like. The waitress informed me that it gets shared out to all the staff monthly which was good to hear and the staff were excellent and well worth their 12.5%, particularly Matt and Owen who looked after each table with confidence, knowledge and most importantly, enthusiasm.
Once a tired restaurant living off reputation rather than merit, The Lygon has a new lease of life and has all the ingredients of becoming an outstanding dining experience to both guests of the hotel and locals alike.
01386 852 255
High Street, Broadway, Worcestershire, WR12 7DU
For any keen traveller, hotelier or Sunday Times peruser, the 'Best 100 Places to Stay' guide has become a voice of authority when looking for a break in the UK. Yesterday, the 5th annual guide was published and 9 out of the "nation's best" 100 hotels are based here in the Cotswolds.
The guide is separated into 10 categories; Foodie, Budget, Seaside, City, Country, Family, Spas, Romantic, B&B and Pubs.
Here are the 9 establishments that featured with words taken from The Sunday Times
The Rectory Hotel, Nr Malmesbury
Former music-industry executive Alex Payne wanted his renovation of this lovely Cotswold manor in Crudwell to be both country and rock 'n' roll. The Georgian sitting rooms are bucolic and relaxed, but the mirror-backed, marble-topped bar is built for bad behavior.
Way before that, there's the prospect of modern British classics such as veal with baby artichoke and pork chop with capers in the conservatory dining room. The 18 rooms have original beams, velvet bedheads and cool art on the walls.
Doubles from £150 B&B
The Painswick, Painswick
This one scores a full house in Cotswolds-cliché bingo: a mullioned 18th-century mansion surrounded by mellow-stone cottages, overlooking the fulsome folds of the Slad Valley, outside Stroud. It's surprisingly affordable, which helped it win our Hotel of the Year crown in 2016.
There's a cocktail bar in an old chapel, a dinky spa and a tongue-in-cheek vibe (witness the Full Elvis breakfast, with waffles and peanut butter). The 16 rooms offer high-quality finishes and thoughtful touches such as homemade madeleines.
Doubles from £129
Soho Farmhouse, Great Tew
Soho Farmhouse's 40 cabins, set in 100 acres in Great Tew, nail the rustic-chic look, with slatted walls, woodburning stoves and homespun furniture. An electric milk float does the rounds dispensing "prinks" (pre-party drinks), and you'll want to spend time in the Boathouse, which has a magnificent 135ft indoor/outdoor pool, linked by a bridge to the vast spa.
Doubles from £350
The Bull Hotel, Fairford
There could be famous faces at the bar of this newcomer in the Cotswold town of Fairford - Kate Moss and Gary Barlow are friends of the owners - but it's the bull's head mounted over the fireplace that steals the limelight.
Downstairs, the decor is a theatrical mix of bottle-green walls, nostalgic photos and a coffee table inlaid with crystals. There's a candlelit dining room in the converted stables, and the 21 rooms feature Egyptian-cotton linens, feather duvets and vintage pieces.
Doubles from £100, B&B
The Fish Hotel, Broadway
High design values combine with plenty of highchairs at this bucolic bolthole outside the sleepy Cotswolds village of Broadway.
There's a cosy bar and a laid-back lounge that has a central woodburner, patchworks of comfy chairs in biscuity fabrics and shelves of fresh herbs. The staff, who could outlast and children's TV presenter for enthusiasm and energy, are on hand to organise activities in the Fish's 400-acre playground, including archery, off-roading and Segway safaris.
The 68 bedrooms are spread across four buildings and are fairly compact, with cosy armchairs and sheepskin throws, and there are five Hilly Huts - more woodburners, hot tub, private deck - aimed at couples.
Family rooms from £200 B&B
Calcot Manor, Tetbury
Don't feel too guilty about abandoning the kids as you soak in a lavender-lined outdoor hot tub, staring across at a roaring fire. They're in good hands at Calcot, which has Ofsted-registered nannies, arts and crafts for under-8s, PlayStations and a 12-seat cinema for bigger boys and girls, and babysitting for £10 an hour. The spa had a £300,000 makeover this year, including an impressive refit of the gym. We loved the muscle-melting Hydrotherm treatment, where you lie on warm-water cushions.
The bedrooms at this converted farm outside Tetbury do a nice line in understated glamour. Dress up for modern British dishes at the Conservatory restaurant; if you'd rather keep it casual. skinny jeans will do just fine at the Glumstool Inn, Calcot's own country pub. Yes, it does fish and chips.
Doubles from £209, B&B. Family rooms from £229 B&B
Artist Residence (Mr Hanbury's Mason Arms), South Leigh
This is the fourth in a much-loved mini chain of quirky properties, after London, Brighton and Penzance, and the group’s first foray into the countryside. The whimsical approach of the owners, Justin and Charlie Salisbury, transfers brilliantly to this 16th-century thatched pub in the cutesy village of South Leigh, outside Oxford.
Downstairs, there’s a higgledy-piggledy little warren of rooms with flagstone floors, beamed ceilings, oak panels, open hearths, deep leather armchairs and a couple of bars. So far, so standard nice country pub. Yet most country pubs don't have photo galleries of French wrestlers on the walls, or framed girlie playing-card posters, or loos with reclaimed prison-cell doors. Their dining rooms don't have acid-trip floral wallpaper or display cases with human skulls. The food's good, with the talented Leon Smith sicking to tasty classics such as steak with triple-cooked chips.
To win our romantic category, though, a hotel needs to score in the bedroom department. The five here are built into eaves and beamed, with luxurious Volga linen on the extravagant beds and powerful rainforest showers. (The Farmhouse Suite has a freestanding copper bath.) Six more rooms and a cafe housed in outbuildings will arrive next year.
Doubles from £130, B&B
Foxhill Manor, Broadway
First impressions are important. At Foxhill Manor, a sophisticated Arts and Crafts mansion outside of the Cotswold village of Broadway, they'r egathered with bubbly in hand in the stylish sitting room, watching the drama of the Malvern Hills unfold through the window while the faff of check-in is taken care of.
There are eight bedrooms, each one unique: Cupid has a four-poster and side-by-side freestanding baths. There's a cinema for reruns of Casablanca or Gone with the Wind, and dinner can be eaten pretty much anywhere that takes your fancy.
Doubles from £380, B&B
The Bower House, Shipston on Stour
The man behind this excellent restaurant with rooms in Shipston on Stour is Andrew Knight, a former editor of The Economist and the chairman of Times Newspapers. he has teamed up with his novelist daughter Afsaneh, and theyve spent big and, on the available evidence, wisely.
The five bedrooms are six-star havens with bespoke super-king beds. Some have huge shuttered Georgian windows, others light-filled bathrooms with Moorish tiles and marble-topped baths.
Paul Merrony, who gained a loyal following at his Giaconda Dining Room, in London, oversees the menu.
Doubles from £130, B&B
Click HERE to see the full list of the 100 top British hotels
The Maytime Inn is not a pub you will just stumble across but once you have you will be glad you did.
It had been on our radar for a while so we eventually booked in for a Sunday lunch. I knew it was in the village of Asthall which is somewhere near Burford. Any village within 5 miles of Burford is classed as "near Burford" but I actually had no idea where Asthall was.
We arrived 26 minutes later (the SatNav told us that) and discovered that it was actually just down the road from Swinbrook which is also "near Burford". I wouldn't have guessed it was there at all and even with the SatNav's help, we still managed to miss the first turning into the village but went down the next turning which was actually closer to the pub.
The pub is set on the side of the road near the grass triangle (i very much doubt that is the local term for it) and is surrounded by some beautiful Cotswold stone cottages. We parked in the spacious car park at the rear and for some reason (to take a photo while the sun was out) walked back to the front of the pub and entered through the main door.
It was very busy which is always a good sign. We had done some research before going which involved looking at the menus and pictures on their website (which is due to be updated very soon) but the interior looked different to how I imagined. It was bigger than it looks from the front and there were lots of different areas. The beautiful wooden bar is lined by some wooden topped bar stools under some wonderful oak beams. We naturally headed that way and ordered some pre-dinner drinks. "A Gin & Tonic please" was greeted with "Which Gin would you like?" as the barman handed us a book the size of a small novel with a description of the 104 gins stocked behind the bar. There were some wonderful sounding ones in there but we still opted for Cotswolds.
We were shown to our table next to the window and soon chose our food. Two courses for £21.95 or three for £24.95 which is different to what their website says but still very good value. We opted for Tempura Mussels and a Smoked Mackerel & Leek Tart to start and after hearing that it was cooked pink, two roast beefs for the main.
I had never had Tempura Mussels before but these were delicious especially when dipped in the chilli salt and aioli that accompanied it or the chilli dip that was served with the Mackerel Tart which was equally as good.
On each table there was a general drinks menu that was also like a small novel and full of wines, fine wines, beers, cocktails and anything else you needed to wet your whistle. You can sense the passion that had gone into these menus by landlord Dominic Wood who was just 23 (yes twenty-three!) when he took over the pub.
The beef arrived and was pink like they said it would be and was surrounded by roast potatoes, a parsnip, kale, a Yorkshire Pudding and sat on a pile of carrots, which were discovered after the first cut, and a sea of gravy. I'm no Joey off friends and enjoy sharing but it was refreshing to have a roast come out all on one plate. The beef (that is from WJ Castle's in Burford) was generously served and tender to cut. The horse radish that I had asked for was incredible. By that I mean it cleared my nasal cavities with every dip which is how you want your horse radish.
We had seen Eton Mess on the sample menu on the website but sadly that wasn't on our menu so for dessert we shared a Dark Chocolate Mousse with a brownie base and raspberry gel. It was as good, and less sickly, than it sounds and looks.
The Maytime Inn is a superbly run pub with young staff whose life is made easier by the quality of food being created in the kitchen by head chef Roger Williams. We were sat next to a table of eight so it's a perfect place for groups too.
If you are "near Burford" anytime soon, we highly recommend a visit to The Maytime Inn.
The Maytime Inn, Asthall, (near) Burford, OX18 4HW
The Dining Room at Whatley Manor, near Malmesbury has been awarded its first Michelin Star this morning.
Less than a year since joining, executive chef Niall Keating launched his own style of tasting menus in February 2017 and has brought a fresh vigour to the entire food programme at Whatley Manor, with a modern British cooking style that also draws on his international experience and diverse cuisines.
He is thrilled that Michelin have recognised the restaurant so quickly and went on to praise his kitchen and front-of-house colleagues. "I am incredibly proud of my team’s achievements in such a short space of time - winning a Michelin star in the 2018 guide, and continuing Whatley Manor's relationship with the most respected industry guide in the world, is testament to the non-stop focus, hard work and determination we instilled from day one.”
Visit www.whatleymanor.com to book