Horse & Groom, revisited
All change at the picturesque Cotswolds pub with rooms. Muddy investigates - well, bowls up and eats everything in sight.
Carousing in the Cotswolds? It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it, so Muddy’s Sascha Way saddles up for three courses at the Horse & Groom in Bourton-on-the-Hill.
Ain’t she pretty? The Horse & Groom’s kerb appeal is second to none, with its Georgian honey-stone exterior and unbeatable location atop of said hill offering views across the insanely picturesque village, and green and pleasant land beyond. Previously a chi-chi gastropub with elements of fine dining, it’s new incarnation is classic country boozer serving hearty, homemade pub grub.
They’ve pulled off the trick of making you feel at home whether you’re a local popping in for a pint (they’re opening on New Year’s Eve for the first time and instigating live music nights) or a visitor touring the Cotswolds. As such, when we visited on a Sunday lunchtime the place was packed and buzzing with a mix of customers, with couples young and old, families, kids (and dogs) all tucking in. The beamed dining room, with its wooden floorboards and stone fireplace, is cosy and rustic rather than overly trendy or try-hard, while the service was faultlessly warm and friendly.
Alas, a sleepover wasn’t on the cards this time but I do know that the five double en-suite B&B rooms on the first floor have all been restyled – the previous boutique hotel feel has given way to country classic chic. The new decor is all soothing greys, creams and taupes, with lots of texture contrasts – woolly blankets, sheepskin rugs and satin-y curtains. All but one are dog-friendly (with a small additional charge to bring along Rover) and your tea tray comes with homemade biscuits – result!
SCOFF & QUAFF
There’s nothing fancy-pants or chef-y coming out of this kitchen. Instead the focus is on homely, well executed classics, with 80 percent of ingredients locally sourced.
Highlights included my children’s starters – they voted the fish cakes the best they’ve ever had, no less, while my husband was impressed with his airy cheese soufflé with onion chutney. It wasn’t a thing of great beauty – no wibbly garnishes and serving flourishes here – but it hit the spot.
The children then had Longhorn beef burgers which were epic in size considering they were from the kids’ menu (and my two are 10 and 14, so at the upper end of being able to get away with the children’s options).
I kept things real and Sunday-ish with classic roast dinners, complete with all the trimmings including Yorkshire pudding – again, huge portions and nicely done.
Gluttony is a shared family hobby, so we all nailed desserts too, including homemade brownies and orchard crumble. They were demolished before I could grab my iPhone for a snap, but take my word for it, they were delicious.
Indeed – everyone from babes-in-arms to teenagers are well catered for here. There’s a large grassy garden with plenty of space for them to run around and let off steam and the waiting staff make a point of bringing children’s meals out with adult starters; a boon if your children are small and/or impatient. That said, if you’re travelling solo or simply crave some peace, there’s plenty of little nooks and crannies inside in which to hide away and nurse your soothing glass of Merlot.
OUT & ABOUT
You’re spoilt for choice in this beautiful corner of the country. How about 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, the chic town of Stow-on-the-Wold with a clutch of seriously good shops such as India Mahon, Law & Company and retro clothing store Vintage & Paint.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Relaxed family or group lunches, especially in the summer when you can take in those chocolate-box views from the garden. It’d also make a great base camp if you’re in the area to explore the Cotswolds.
Not for: Hipsters. This is classic pub fare in trad surroundings – although those views are begging to be Instagrammed. Gourmets in search of fine dining – it now has a more relaxed feel than of old.
The damage: Reasonable for this neck of the woods – starters and puds are around £7, with mains £15-£16. The kid’s menu is great value at £7.95 for a main and ice cream.
The Horse & Groom, Bourton-on-the-Hill, Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire GL56 9AQ; 01386 700413.