Painswick is easily one of the prettiest villages in the Cotswolds with tiny cobbled streets, picturesque cottages, verdant rolling hills, birds singing, people selling eggs at their garden gates with honesty boxes and friendly, eager walkers.
Painswick is the romantic image of England, the one that tourists come looking for and the one that often seems like a distant dream. My friend, recently returned from a recent Cotswolds trip, commented that he found it “you know, almost too perfect.” Granted perfection might be tiresome if you lived in it (arguably impossible), but for a weekend or mid-week break, that’s surely exactly what you want?
In fact, when we arrive at the grand entrance of The Painswick hotel and restaurant, it’s raining and we have to make a quick dash from car to reception. “I’m sorry about the weather,” the young concierge says, looking genuinely distraught, but for us, the rain is welcomed as it means we can snuggle up inside without feeling guilty.
The house is 18th century, Grade II listed, with plenty of cosy corners for reading and relaxing — we choose a pair of comfortable arm chairs in the upstairs lounge next to the bar. The hotel was acquired by the Calcot Manor group in 2015 and has since been renovated to offer an easy-going kind of luxury, much like its sister property Barnsley House, although The Painswick has a more youthful vibe with bright furnishings, bold artworks and a games room with a pool table.
The sixteen rooms are all uniquely decorated. Ours, the Toadsmoor, at the top of the house is spacious and homely with beautiful views of the Painswick valley. We settle in by making a cup of tea and nibbling on the homemade biscuits (our one complaint: the stocks weren’t replenished, but perhaps we’re just being greedy) whilst listening to the radio. The bed is huge, and extremely comfortable with plenty of plumped up cushions and soft cotton sheets.
When the rain’s stopped, we decide to explore the surrounding countryside kitted out in the hotel’s wellies and anoraks with a scroll of printed instructions for a guided five-mile hike. These thoughtful details are the things that make a short-break so much more enjoyable and relaxing, although the walking routes could do with being laminated as we found ours quickly disintegrated when the rain unexpectedly reappeared. Nevertheless, we completed the route and returned red cheeked and wind swept to shower, and then settle down in the bar for pre-dinner Gin & Tonics made by the charming mixologist.
The restaurant is one of the hotel’s main draws for locals and guests. The kitchen is overseen by Michelin-starred chef Michael Bedford and the menus are excellently put together – excellent in the sense that we can’t decide what to have and eventually turn to the waiter for assistance. For starters we opt for the twice baked parmesan soufflé with smoked haddock and the grilled octopus served with Jersey royals, followed by a sublime beef wellington and Cornish cod with pomme anna, chorizo, purple sprouting broccoli, and shellfish sauce. It’s all delicious and richly flavoured leaving us with just enough space to share a dessert of salted dark chocolate crémeux, shortbread, and ginger ice cream.
Breakfast is a similarly indulgent affair with a beautifully laid out buffet that includes homemade granola, bircher muesli, fresh juices and Danish pastries, and then a ‘top-up’ menu of hot plates — the kippers with lemon thyme butter are simply divine.
Elegant, welcoming and unpretentious, The Painswick provides an easy, natural kind of perfection. We’re already missing the calm.
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