WHAT’S IT LIKE? Housed in an ivy-covered 17th-century stone building, this former Cotswolds coaching inn has been transformed into a boutique pub/restaurant-cum-hotel by its owners, Sam and Georgie Pearman, and reopened in June last year. It has 14 guestrooms.
You enter directly into the bar – when I arrived on a Sunday afternoon it was buzzing with well-heeled lunchers, but I was checked in straight away. The restaurant is immediately to the right, with more seating to the left. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming, aided by the laidback music playing (reggae on Sundays, classical at breakfast). A certain Cotswolds cool has been introduced to the traditional décor – old portraits of the landed gentry sit cheek-by-jowl with a huge, striking painting of Kate Moss by German pop artist Sebastian Kruger. Other unusual art pieces are scattered in some of the rooms – another of Kruger’s works, a Bacon-esque painting of Jack Nicholson, hung in mine. There is a living room-style lounge behind the restaurant.
All in all, it’s a very easy place to spend time in with a great team of friendly, thoughtful staff. One team member, after discovering my companion was a fellow film buff, went to the trouble of jotting down some recommendations in his breakfast order pad and looking out for us the next morning to give it to him. Another, on seeing us come into the bar on our second evening, reserved a dinner table without us having to ask, in case we wanted to eat. You don’t get that level of service everywhere.
WHERE IS IT? On the high street of Northleach, a small market town located just off the A40 between Burford and Cheltenham – the latter is about a 20-minute drive away. Attractions in the wider area include the Cotswold Water Park, Cheltenham Racecourse, Blenheim Palace, Stratford-upon-Avon and Sudeley, Berkeley and Warwick castles. Oxford is about 48km away.
ROOM FACILITIES This being an old building, the 14 rooms range in size and shape and are classified as Good, Very Good and Excellent. These are largely categorised by the amount of space and the bathroom facilities – some have only a bath, some a shower, some both, and some are open-plan, so check beforehand if you have a preference. The Good room that I saw was fairly cosy but still a decent size, while the Very Good one was large and opened on to the back garden, though lacked a shower.
They are stylishly and simply decorated – some are in bright cream to maximise the sense of light and space, while mine (room one, in the Excellent category), was painted in calming shades of grey (Farrow and Ball, perhaps unsurprisingly). It was spacious and spotless with a street view and double doors opening on to the lovely bathroom, with a deep roll-top bath and walk-in drench shower. It was just up the stairs from the bar and there was a reasonable amount of noise at times, but not enough to bother me and no more than I’d expect in a property of this nature.
Standard facilities include high-tech Bang and Olufsen Smart TVs with Sky channels (very sleek but unfortunately we had to manually tune it every time we switched it on, and at one point the sound disappeared), Hypnos beds with luxurious Egyptian cotton duvets (my King bed was wonderfully comfortable), free wifi (I didn’t use it so cannot comment on its speed, though my phone reception worked only intermittently), room service during restaurant hours, robes, and lovely toiletries by Somerset company Bramble (in full-size bottles – they can be bought downstairs for £10 each). Free bottled water, chocolate, crisps and nuts are provided (and replenished), and tea and coffee can be brought up to your room during opening hours.
Note that the rooms do not tend to have wardrobes – mine had hanging space in the bathroom and hooks in the entry hallway, but in some rooms the space amounts to a few hangers on the back of the door, so it’s probably more set up for stays of a couple of days at most.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS The bar serves a large range of wines, including 15 by the glass, and a good selection of craft beers. There is also a smaller bar for residents at the back of the property, which opens on to a garden area with tables and chairs.
The restaurant serves excellent British food made with local produce and presented in generous portions. I had dinner there twice and both meals were great. I enjoyed a perfectly cooked cote de boeuf (£60 for two people) – the cut was from Butts Farm in nearby Cirencester – with delicious béarnaise sauce and a bottle of Achaval-Ferrer Malbec, Mendoza Valley, 2010 (£35). The beer-battered whiting with fries, crushed peas and tartare sauce (£9) was fresh and crisp, the twice-baked cheese soufflé with spinach and grain mustard (£7) rich and decadent, and the pork and fennel terrine with piccalilli and toasted sour dough (£8) hearty and meaty.
It’s open daily for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, with brunch served on weekends. A continental buffet breakfast (including freshly baked bread, fresh fruit and juice, and cereals) is included in the room rate, with hot dishes charged.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES The private dining room, with original wooden ceiling beams and stag’s heads on the walls, seats 20 people or can accommodate 30 for a reception, and has a large flatscreen TV. There is also a poker room for six people with a circular wooden table that can be used for dining.
LEISURE FACILITIES Spa treatments are available in a room in the residents’ garden. Activities in the local area include walks (wellies can be borrowed and maps provided), fishing (chalk stream fishing on a private beat on the River Coln) and shooting (both bird and clay pigeon sessions can be arranged). Riding for small groups can be organised. The Cotswold Water Park, about half an hour’s drive away, offers water skiing, sailing, kayaking, canoeing, windsurfing, lake swimming and a beach.
VERDICT A great spot for a couple of days’ break in the Cotswolds, with fantastic staff and an excellent restaurant. Its private dining facilities and the range of activities in the area also make it one to consider for small incentive groups.
PRICE Excellent rooms cost £200 per night, Very Good rooms £160 and Good rooms £130. From April these prices will be exclusive of VAT.
CONTACT The Wheatsheaf Inn, West End, Northleach, Gloucestershire; tel +44 (0)1451 860244; cotswoldswheatsheaf.com