Being named The Sunday Times’ Hotel of the Year, which The Painswick was just last year, can be a double-edged sword. On the upside, the phone didn’t stop ringing once the news came out, bookings went through the roof and for a newly-opened hotel, it was an incredible achievement.
The downside to that, is that some guests expect the hotel, tucked into a corner of the charming Cotswolds village of Painswick, to be well, rather grander. The Painswick doesn’t have a multi-million pound spa, acres of stunning gardens or a Michelin-starred restaurant, a private cinema (unlike its sister hotel and near neighbour Barnsley House) or an outdoor swimming pool (like its other Cotswolds relative, Calcot Manor.)
People in search of the ultimate bells-and-whistles hotel experience – dress code for dinner, a turn-down service – might want to search elsewhere. But for those looking for a friendly, cosy break where you feel instantly at home, where staff will offer to pick you up from the local pubs after a country walk and where you can fall asleep on the lounge sofa in front of the fire, The Painswick is perfect.
The ‘no-fuss’ atmosphere which general manager Luke Millikin and his staff are going for is evident from the moment you arrive at the imposing building, built in classic Cotswolds stone. The traditional reception desk has been replaced by a staff member on a bar stool underneath a pink neon ‘Painswick’ sign – there’s no queuing, just a friendly welcome and handing over of your room key.
To the left is a cosy lounge with a roaring fire, to the right the restaurant decked out in warm Farrow and Ball hues.
The pink neon sign seems rather out of place in a hotel which has been so tastefully designed in muted colours, a cross between English country house and Scandivanian chic, and the striped staircase carpet leads invitingly upstairs to another larger lounge and a fabulous bar with the original ceiling from when it was used as a chapel.
There’s a pool room with a pile of board games and little touches dotted here and there to encourage you to make the most of your stay. With heaps of wellington boots, umbrellas, raincoats, blankets and scrolls of beautifully hand-drawn maps detailing walks ranging from one mile to 10, there’s no excuse for not exploring the nearby countryside, including the village of Slad where Cider with Rosie author Laurie Lee grew up.
The rooms are smart and cosy without being too cluttered: there’s fresh milk in the minibar, ample mirrors and power points, a selection of novels (including a copy of Cider with Rosie to read in the bath) and a lovely, large bed with luxurious bed linen.
After a very pleasant lunch of haddock chowder and chicken kiev in the restaurant – we got in just before the cut-off time of 2.30pm but weren’t rushed by the friendly staff who were setting up afternoon tea – it would have been all too easy to curl up in front of the fire.
However Painswick looked like a lovely village to explore and so it proved. The church of St Mary’s, just behind the hotel, has 99 18th century yew trees in its churchyard (legend has it that the devil will not permit a 100th tree) and is well worth a visit. As it was Fireworks’ Night we had a pint of Bath Ale in the friendly local pub, The Falcon Inn, before heading back for dinner.
In keeping with the overall feel of the hotel the atmosphere was friendly and informal – service wasn’t the speediest but we weren’t rushing anywhere – and the menu was simple and classic but with a twist: starters included smoked haddock chowder, salmon with apple linguini, truffled butternut pumpkin tart and Salcombe crab Thermidor.
We chose the intriguing-sounding lobster and black pudding pie with lobster gravy and the twice-baked parmesan souffle – both were as good as they sounded. For mains we had duck leg ‘en daube’ in red wine which was soft and hearty, and the picture-perfect individual parcel of beef wellington which was enjoyed with delight.
Cleverly the dessert menu also had a selection of cocktails so even if you felt to full too try the tiramisu, chocolate mousse or truffled Brie you could still drink something (we had a white Belgium chocolate martini which was rather solid and minty and a much better espresso martini).
Special mention too must go to the wine list which had a middle section devoting a page each to independent wine-makers. We chose a red wine from Marcillac, France, which was made by ‘Jean-Luc, who used to be a clown and a priest before becoming a wine-maker’ – it was perfect. Just as perfect were the nightcap Manhattan cocktails we had upstairs in the stylist bar while chatting to the ebullient bartender Ferenc, who will happily talk you through his recipe secrets.
Breakfast the next morning was equally good and the views from the room as the sun streamed over the nearby hills were enticing.
However equally enticing was the prospect of reading the Sunday papers from the comfort of a squashy sofa in front of a roaring fire. The Painswick might not have the grandeur and facilities of larger hotels but it has certainly managed to score a perfect 10 on creating a true home from home hotel.
Rooms start from £159 a night and George’s Suite with its own balcony from £384. There are two treatment rooms offering massages and facials.
Click here to read reviews of The Painswick on TripAdvisor
The Painswick, Kemps Lane, Painswick, Gloucestershire GL6 6YB
01452 813 688