Travel feature: Cotswolds88, a Gloucestershire retreat designed by the creator of East London bar, Loungelover
PUBLISHED: 15:15 17 March 2014 | UPDATED: 16:39 17 March 2014
Cotswolds88 is a country hotel that’s every bit as quirky as you would expect from the creator of trendy East London bar Loungelover, and the fusion of ultra modern touches with stately grandeur works a treat.
We’d left London for a romantic weekend escape, and had already driven a couple of hours down the M4 when darkness fell and the highway turned into impossibly narrow, windy, steep country lanes overhung with massive trees.
Pulling up into the car park of the 18th century Palladian classical mansion flanked by neatly coiffed bushes, there’s no indication of the funky OTT style that lies within the eccentric hideaway.
Battered by the wind and weary from the journey, we dragged our suitcases up the stone steps, but one foot in the door and we were put at ease by the ambient music, dimmed lighting and warm greetings.
I knew we weren’t coming to what you’d class a conventional Cotswolds retreat, but seeing this unusual luxurious mix of old and new in the flesh is pretty stunning, and at night the swanky hip hotspot really comes into its own.
The padded bar, acid-coloured sofas covered in shiny scaly drapes, a plethora of patterned wallpaper and chrome mannequins adorned with beads all sit alongside the lead latticed stone fringed windows, grand fireplaces and dignified Palladian style.
Loungelover co-founder Marchella De Angelis did a good job ditching the twee and chintzy to kit out the space with these gloriously over the top touches.
Our super luxurious room, complete with jacuzzi, is one of 17 in the boutique hotel, and we quickly made ourselves at home - although to be fair it took a while to get used to the intriguing punky-faced patterned wallpaper inspired by Australian performance artist Leigh Bowery.
We went down to sip cocktails in the trendy chilled out bar, drinking in the atmosphere, before going through to the 80s feel black and white striped restaurant for the £50-a-head three-course menu.
The food is every bit as cutting edge as you’d find in the capital, and the chef treated us to what looked like bright pink ice-cream in cones, which was in fact a cherry kind of sorbet with a blend of chicken liver paté, before a starter of scallop ceviche, salt cod and chocolate sauce.
We went for venison for main course, intrigued by the accompaniment billed as “smoked hay essence”.
It was a delicious kind of gravy, and wholesome malt flavours were thrown in to make it a winning combination, then for desert “textures of pineapple” came with a delicious creamed coconut rice pudding.
After a restful night’s slumber, it was a pleasant surprise to see the sun brightening up the breathtaking sheep-dotted fields when we opened the curtains, rather than the deluge we were expecting.
Over an eggs Benedict picked from the a la carte breakfast menu, Greshan the hotel manager gave us some inspiration for what we could do with our day ahead, and helpfully printed out some walking routes.
We decided to take a look at the Rococo Gardens, just a mile’s walk or so up the road.
We made our way through Painswick, a picture-perfect village whose buildings are made out of quarried Cotswold stone.
It’s dubbed the “Queen of the Cotswolds”, thanks to the prosperity of the wool merchants who made it their home 300 years ago.
The restored Rococo Gardens are hidden in a six acre valley just out of town, and hark back to a flamboyant period of garden design, with follies complete with stained glass windows and a maze.
The garden is famous for its snowdrop collection, and our visit timed perfectly to see the tiny white buds scattered around in all their glory.
After a long meander around, we settled down to a nice clotted cream and scones at the teahouse which is stocked with high quality regional products, before wandering back into town.
As we arrived the skies darkened, so we spent a bit of downtime in the hotel making the most of their extensive DVD collection, before heading out for an evening meal.
There’s a nice selection of bars, tea rooms, pubs and restaurants in the village, and we decided to check out The Falcon, a pleasant gastro pub in the centre dating back to 1554.
It overlooks the historic village church and its famous 99 clipped yew trees, which are the stuff of legend – apparently every time a hundredth tree is planted it dies.
Before heading back to the city the next day we decide to walk up to Painswick Beacon to take in the view.
It’s a pleasant walk to reach the peak, passing through some woods, a golf course, and then Paradise on the right hand side - so named by King Charles I who on seeing the beautiful valley said “This must be Paradise”.
We clamoured up the last steep incline, for a magnificent view over to Cheltenham and Gloucester, and even as far as Wales, but we came down pretty quickly before we got blown off amid the harsh winds.
We stopped off for lunch at The Woolpack in the next village along, called Slad.
It’s famous for being the watering hole of the late Laurie Lee, of Cider with Rosie fame - a book which harks back to his idyllic childhood growing up in a rural bliss, just after the First World War.
The pub’s really popular with locals for Sunday lunch and we feasted on burgers and apple pie before hitting the road, leaving full of fresh air and fond memories of a relaxing weekend well spent.
Prices at Cotswolds88 start from £110 for a double room for one night.
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