This quirky 18th century Cotswold stone gem is filled with good taste and good humour. Once a former vicarage, today it is an award-winning ‘restaurant with rooms’. Last year the Sunday Times even awarded it the title of ‘Ultimate Hotel of the Year’. The small country-house hotel takes its name from the picturesque and unspoilt village within which it proudly stands. The whole area brims with the beauty of old, milky Cotswold stone and guests enjoy stunning views across the iconic Slad valley, immortalised by Laurie Lee in, ‘Cider with Rosie.’
Before going to bed, you will probably meet George. Don’t worry, he is harmless. George is the hotel’s imaginary sheep that you will find sketched in various places within the hotel, (well I warned you it was quirky). He is a symbolic reminder of the prosperous wool industry that once thrived in the Cotswolds and gave rise to splendid houses, such as this one. But don’t worry, with beds this comfy, you won’t need to count sheep.
We stayed in a ‘medium room’ in the garden wing, where rooms are named after local wool mills. The room itself was very comfortable but seemed fairly compact. The bathroom however was spacious and a joy to linger in, with a good roll top bath, rainforest shower (with Neom toiletries) and a wonderful and memorable view across the valley- from the lavatory! There was even a copy of ‘Cider with Rosie’ thoughtfully perched over the bath.
The hotel’s stylish restaurant used to house a Sunday school. Today, the bibles have been replaced with Franco-British menus, led by seasonality and a dash of culinary imagination which generates some delightful combinations.
My starter was fresh Wye Valley asparagus with a perfectly poached egg and hollandaise sauce. In fact, I think it is the best poached egg I have ever eaten! My partner thoroughly enjoyed his crab gnocci with cavolo nero and parmesan followed by a main course of Beef Wellington. He enthused about it so much, that I must confess I pinched a sneaky taste. Forgive me father, I sinned. However, the fillet was wonderfully tender and the pastry was exceptionally good.
The dessert! Now, I must admit, I hesitated before ordering a classic tiramisu, due to recently having suffered a particularly claggy example in Norwich. You see, Tiramisu reminds me a bit of the nursery rhyme, ‘When it’s good it’s very, very good and when it’s bad, it’s horrid.’ Not surprisingly, The Painswick has fully restored my love of tiramisu. The light, creamy layer, melted quickly on the tongue, giving way to a delicious and lingering, rich cocoa powder topping. The chocolate sorbet accompaniment added a further tease of taste, texture and temperature to play with. My partner was delighted by his towering Raspberry soufflé with raspberry ripple ice cream. The soufflé’s crisp crust and the moist soufflé beneath, worked perfectly with the raspberry puree in the ice-cream (yes, I confess, I pinched a mouthful of that too).
There is a good range of wine available to accompany your meal, from £21 to £125 a bottle. We enjoyed a quaffable Merlot.
Who goes there?
This hotel is the perfect retreat for couples seeking peace and good food in a lovely setting with picturesque walks on the doorstep. The spa offers a mean massage and makes it a good choice for a girly pamper break too. The hotel is happy to accommodate children but couples with young children might consider its larger, sister hotel (Calcot Manor) as it caters specifically for this.
Out & about:
The Painswick is well situated on The Cotswold Way. Borrow the hotel’s wellies and raincoats if you wish to walk, straight from the door (guide sheets provided and a picnic on request). The local churchyard of St. Mary’s Church is definitely worth a visit, with its impressively sculpted yew trees. Legend has it that there are 99 yew trees in this churchyard and that mysteriously, a hundredth just won’t grow. However, an ‘in the know’ church warden informed me (with a confidential air) that there are actually 107. Damn.
A 15 minute walk from the hotel, you will find the Painswick Rococo Garden. This is the country’s sole surviving rococo garden, dating back to the early 1700s. It features follies, beautiful views and woodland walks with carpets of snowdrops, followed by bluebells in Spring. There is also a kitchen garden and maze.
If you fancy a bit of buzz, then pop to the Saturday market at Stroud and enjoy its alternative artsy atmosphere and food stalls. Nearby Cheltenham is home to several festivals each year, so you might be drawn to the various racing, jazz and literature events. For outdoor activity, Painswick Golf Club is at hand and there is horse riding at Barton End Equestrian Centre and Clay Pigeon shooting venues close by.
The hotel has two treatment rooms with a menu that features Elemis Biotech and ‘Hands-on’ facials plus a selection of. I had a highly skilled facial massage and a back, shoulders and neck massage and can thoroughly recommend both.
The worst thing:
Loved the roll top bath but I would have liked it to have a hand held shower, so that I could have rinsed my hair without moving from the bath to the rainforest shower. That said, it was a pleasure to experience both.
The best thing:
There are some really inviting places for sitting and relaxing, both indoors and out. You can have a cool drink or coffee on the outdoor terrace overlooking the infinity garden, with mesmerising views across the fine lawn to the valley beyond. If it’s chilly, you can sink into a comfortable sofa by one of the splendid wood burners and soak up some interesting contemporary art.