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The Horse & Groom, Bourton-on-the-Hill

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This inn has now changed ownership. New review to come in a few weeks! Hero (23 April 17)

Did it have you at ‘Horse’? ‘Groom?’ Or just ‘handsome Cotswold sun drenched honeyed stone’? Increasingly I zip out to the Cotswolds on Muddy business, mostly to look at the pubs and restaurants, because frankly they’re outstanding.

The Horse & Groom in Bourton on the Hill would rank right up the top. It’s a pub with rooms (or an Inn I suppose), but that description chronically underrates it. Winner of a gazillion awards, most recently The Good Pub Guide Pub of the Year (2016), The Good Pub Guide Gloucestershire Dining Pub of the Year (2016) and the Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand (2014, 15 & 16), it effortlessly delivers the Holy Grail of Muddy requirements – seamless service, awesome food and an unpretentious buzz.

The interior is pretty in the traditional Cotswoldy way – not Farrow & Balled within an inch of its life, but kind of rustic, even slightly meh in the dining area.
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It’s slightly confusing when you get into the bar area – it’s very buzzy and packed, but it’s also where you order your food, so you end up squinting at the specials boards and queuing to put in your requests. But once that’s over, you’re led to your table and it’s service as normal.

It is no exaggeration to say that this was the best steak I’ve had. Ever. And I’ve eaten out a lot in the last few years on Muddy duty. Much of the food is locally sourced within a few miles and proudly displayed on the walls, and this particular steak was so soft and juicy, the chips so crisp and fluffy, it was almost indecent.

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Dessert was just an exercise in piggery. The cheesecake may have looked like it defeated me, but I rallied, dear reader, I rallied.

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On the night I visited – a Thursday – the restaurant was fully booked and the bar was packed with locals, mostly older than me (so, ahem, around 40…). You’re not at Horse & Groom to put on your fluffy bra and hit the podium – as I discovered when I whipped out the Muddy Ibiza wear. Its buzz is not trendy in the least, but it is authentically local, classy and foodie. Having decided post-dinner I was too knackered to knock back the sherry chasers, so I called it a night and went up to my room. And here it is! Pretty, presentable, and at £128 just right for the job.

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Even better, it opens out onto the garden, as I realised in the morning.

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Good to know about this garden because it has fab views and a lovely relaxed feel to it – perfect for a sunny lunch in summer.

Anyhoo, after a little walk in the garden to meet the cockerels, the Cotswold dream continued with a full English breakfast in the bar area, now bright and natural.

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I was out for a trip to Chipping Campden so I didn’t linger in Bourton-on-the-Hill, though if I’d had more time I’d have had a mosey around Bourton House Garden, with its 16th century tithe barn and gardens or the lovely Bourton-on-the-hill Norman church just a few metres down the road. There’s the nearby Batsford Estate and Arboretum, and four miles away, Stow-on-the-Wold with a clutch of seriously good shops like organic fashion store Saltmarsh, Law & Company, The Porch House inn, Vintage & Paint or a little further up the road, The Swan at Swinbrook.

Plenty to keep you occupied, either on a romantic break, day trip or a family weekend.

 

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Bucks & Oxon