THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
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This will be my last review for the foreseeable future. The UK is starting to lock down, I am already in isolation and we are all just beginning to fathom the enormity of our collective situation. Under the circumstances, writing about a gorgeous b&b in the Cotswolds seems frivolous. On the other hand, diversion is going to become an absolute necessity in the long months ahead. Perhaps, in that light, recanting my Cinderella weekend will have some value.
Once upon a time, when non-essential travel and social contact was still allowed, one of my best mates and I took the train to Charlbury. From there, it was just a 10 minute taxi to The Swan. Rolling hills, babbling brooks and the charming village of Ascott-under-Wychwood where the houses are made of Cotswold stone. Think tweed and wellies. A place where people greet each other on the street when passing.
The 16th century inn is one of three in Georgie and Sam Pearman’s group, Country Creatures. The refurb is spot on. My kind of castle. Exposed beams, fireplaces, lighting, wallpaper, leather… everything chosen with care and judged beautifully. The same can be said of the staff. Everyone is attentive helpful and genuinely friendly. I was praying to be quarantined!
Our room was enormous and well appointed. The ceiling had been opened up to the loft exposing the ancient beams. The throne room is enclosed, but the bath is open plan, a trend unlikely to become a classic. My friend and I are very comfortable with each other but draw the line at bathing in the open.
The bar and dining rooms are the focal point for guests as well as the locals. A double Cotswold gin and tonic in front of the open fire was so comforting, my fear and anxiety just melted away. At table, Eduardo took care of us. His passion is as infectious as his Spanish accent is charming. He has improved the wine list immensely since the last website update. It’s fabulous. In spite of its youth, a 2018 Meritxell Palleja Nita, Priorat (£28) was delightful. A great balance of juicy fruit and mineral with a long finish. A good one to buy now and keep in the cellar!
Chipping Norton sourdough with whipped horseradish and dripping butter (£5) was a dream. Had the meal ended there, I’d have been happy. Luckily, it didn’t. Lamb rump (£22) and Ribeye (£29) were both local heroes! Great meat, beautifully prepared and very happy with a sip of Nita! The kitchen is very accomplished. Gastro pub at its best.
We followed with a wonderful selection of cheese served with rhubarb compote and gloriously truffled honey. A raspberry, white chocolate and orange trifle (£7.50) lacked intensity but a sticky ginger and damson parkin with honey ice cream (£9.50) was perfectly spiced. A super pudding.
After the sleep of the innocent, ensconced in down luxury, it was time to eat again! Included with the room is a wonderful buffet with lots of local delicacies. More sourdough which I toasted and ate with copious amounts of Cotswold butter, yoghurt with fruit, croissant, fresh fruit and juice. I stuffed myself…and then ordered off the menu. Eggs Benedict and sourdough (again again) with mashed avocado and poached eggs, both at £10. Excellent! We were fortified for the journey home…and perhaps a week or two more!
Our fairy godmother did not grant our wish of 5 star quarantine, so off we went. The train ride flew by. We knew we were headed back to some new, scary form of reality. In our minds, we were clinging to the Cotswolds and the lovely Swan. We arrived however, to a half deserted Paddington Station and the brink of some unknown cliff. We continued on the tube, travelling together as long as we could. We said goodbye on the platform, knowing we wouldn’t see each other for a while, not saying it. Bye Cinders.
No glass slipper.
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