We test out the R&R and romance capabilities of this Cotswolds gem on a pair of exhausted urbanites, one year after its opening
The wind is whistling and the rain is hammering down, as it has been for hours, but I am smug. I am inside. Ordinarily, a Saturday as dismal as this would be a cause for dismay: the stroll through Hampstead Heath off the cards and outdoors errands looking distinctly less likely.
However, on this occasion I’m actually thankful for this god-awful British weather. I’m not in London but on the rolling-hilled, sheep-speckled Farncombe Estate. Here champagne flows freely and being lazy is positively encouraged.
On a day like today, reading the papers and drinking tea in bed while a happy husband watches the cricket is the very best of options.
Manor butler Mirek, faultlessly polite and helpful, makes Foxhill feel like a home from home and there’s not an iota of the awkwardness that can sometimes arise from having other people attending to your every whim. Foxhill belongs to the same family as Dormy House (that perfectly-conceived boutique hotel) and The Fish (affordable luxury) but it’s “just a little bit more exclusive”.
This grade-II listed manor house has quite the pedigree; it was built in 1909 by local Cotswolds craftsmen and designed by Yorkshire-born architect Joseph Lancaster Ball. Remarkably, it has already been named the Sunday Times’ Hotel of the Year, even though it only opened last March.
Why? Because Foxhill’s secluded, indulgent and laid-back offering is utterly conducive to romance and relaxation. All eight rooms and suites, named after trees, are individually styled and the most spectacularly sexy is the Oak Suite. Its big, open-plan sleeping/living areas are done in a Scandi-cool palette of white, light wood, dark mushroom-grey and tan, with the odd leopard print cushion here and there, and mirrored units give it a modern feel.
Twin tubs stand side-by-side, perfect for soaking in while soaking up the sweeping views across the Vale of Evesham.
Try to make the most of the enormous wooden four-poster before your sport-obsessed husband twigs another perk of the baths. If you face the other way, you can watch England playing cricket on one TV and rugby on the other. Peroni in hand, Zain is in heaven. Luckily there’s a media room if you can’t stomach the idea of this much sport.
Wife brownie points boosted, we finally venture out and pad the dozen or so steps to the Drawing Room, where a well-stocked drinks trolley is there to be taken advantage of. Foxhill is not the place for any kind of abstinence. Room rates include champagne, beer, wine, spirits housed in glass decanters and soft drinks along with ‘help yourself’ cakes and snacks 24/7 from the Pantry. We felt like kids in pursuit of an illicit snack when we sought it out on the first floor. It’s stocked up with homemade brownies, popcorn, marshmallows, fruit and drinks and you can carry away your haul in striped paper bags.
It’s so refreshing to find somewhere that has just done away with the annoyingly inflated prices of a minibar and thrown it all in.
Leave a reasonable gap between plundering the Pantry and supper, though, as you’re going to be very well fed. Despite the fact that there are no set menus or meal times at Foxhill Manor – Chef runs a ‘whatever, whenever’ policy – the couples staying when we are seem to be creatures of habit and there’s a cheery atmosphere in the Drawing Room as we all unwind there. With champagne in hand and delicious canapés en route to mouth, we read the entertainingly odd-ball wine descriptions. Our Old Vines Chenin Blanc from Stellenbosch was made by South Africa’s only Women’s Empowerment Winery – “this one’s about girl power, just like the Spice Girls…”
The dining room has a crackling fireplace and seats just 16. Chef’s four-course offering (with a choice for starters and dessert) sounds so good we don’t ask for anything off-menu. An amuse bouche is trumped by the arrival of Marmite butter with hunks of bread. It’s so good you could eat it with a spoon (and I am only marginally ashamed to admit that we do).
My starter is a square of melt-in-the-mouth brill that’s cooked so well it needs no accompaniment (although the croquette is very welcome) and my husband Zain enjoys a goat’s cheese and beetroot salad. The main course is a knock-out beef wellington with truffle mash and I could have eaten it twice, if it weren’t for the desserts. We share one chocolate-based and one sticky toffee and are in such a jubilant (and tipsy) mood that we laugh all the way to the final course at a very cheesy joke (excuse the pun) about mature cheddar.
Foxhill has hit the nail on the head. After this feast, we sleep a solid ten hours, which is the perfect tonic after weeks of work-dictated early mornings and long days. Both Goldilocks and the Princess and the Pea would have been satisfied. The darkness, the temperature, the bedding – it’s all done just right.
In the morning, a click of the iPad results in a smiling Mirek delivering fresh milk and the papers and although we could have eaten in our room, we make the slightly longer (20 steps) pilgrimage back to the dining room. Appetites whetted by ham, fresh bread, smoothies, Chelsea buns and croissants – abstinence is still not recommended – we tuck into top-notch full English breakfasts.
You could reasonably be expected to do some activity after this amount of fuel – a walk to postcard-pretty Broadway nearby, perhaps? Book in for quad biking, clay pigeon shooting or archery on the estate, or head to House Spa at Dormy? Actually, I think I’ll just stay right here.