This dowager lady of an hotel, which has lived many lives over the years has had a sympathetic facelift and yet a new name ’The Painswick’.
Since a sale in 2005 this dear old Palladian hotel has drifted slightly out of control, changing hands too often - no one wanting, it seems to me, to give it total commitment or imaginative management.
There was a slight sigh of relief, then, when the hotel was bought last year by the clever team that very successfully runs Calcot Manor and Barnsley House (and others). And, as usual, moulds have been broken to create something that one can be very proud of. A real positive addition to Painswick and to Cotswold life.
On our visit yesterday the changes were so obvious from the minute we entered the car park. The magnificent steps up to the (new) front door are an exciting preamble for the greeting which was immediate. A jolly welcome gives any foray out for a meal a sense of hope and a comfortable feeling that one has made the right choice.
Then up to the bar. Knowing this hotel as I do (I and my family owned it in the early 90s), it is amusing to note that the bar has moved 4 times in 25 years, a kind of moveable feast. Here we sat for our customary Camparis. Do try this refreshing drink, not too weak, with ice, lemon and soda or sparkling water - it’s palate cleansing and an accelerator of the gastric juices, with a wonderful red deliciousness. Dull it is not!
A rather a slow start on the menu front and a wine list arty, but difficult to navigate. However, when the menus arrived, decision making was made tricky by some exciting offerings. Six first courses, seven main courses and four desserts make choosing much easier than half an acre of print .
What should a dining room look like? Have we a preconceived ideas of the type of room that would or could make the eating experience better or more comfortable? Well this one should pass all tests: Well lit, warm, panelled, formally informal - a delight to be in, especially with that precious and vital ingredient; plenty of charming and knowledgable young staff
Our supper was to be a lobster and black pudding pie with lobster gravy, an odd sounding combination, but one I loved. The unctuous ‘gravy ‘ moistening perfect pastry with no hint of a soggy bottom. My wife Sandie’s Tewkesbury salmon with celeriac cream was marinated and delicious but formidably presented in rather a large piece. Perhaps slices would have been less daunting, however we shared this treat and it rekindled my taste for this underrated fish preparation method.
Speaking of underrated dishes, Chicken Kiev was quite the best I have ever eaten. Popular in the Nineteen-Sixties, it drifted out of popularity but here it was again, just perfect with moist breast of good fowl stuffed with butter, garlic and parsley, goldenly deep fried and served on magic creamy mashed potato. What a joy!!!
The Dover sole for my wife was also beautifully and perfectly golden, again moist, a treat of a fish, with a side dish of purple sprouting broccoli and curly kale. It does you good!
How well we were enjoying ourselves.
A well risen raspberry soufflé was on the table, it seemed, in an improbably quick time and was scrummy. My rhubarb crumble was good, as was the support to those hard-working growers of this early treat in Wakefield, the centre of ‘forced’ and early rhubarb where it grows so quickly in corrugated sheds that it can literally be heard sprouting.
Our wine was not the usual Pinot Noir but a Navarra wine, Garnacha from Spain with the punny name Donkeyote 2013. The wine was none the worse for this strange name, in fact it was simply good. Sparkling Banu water was appreciated, this water is the centre of a charity which has donated £1.5 million to water charities, well worth drinking for that alone, but also good water.
Freya and her attentive team made us so pampered and welcome, the evening flew by and will be remembered as a happy and delightful occasion and only 150 yards from where we live.
Welcome back, oh large and elegant building, to provide Cotswoldians and many others, perfect English hospitality. Do come to our village one and all.
PS For those balmy days of the forthcoming summer there is a stunning new terrace!
Gloucestershire GL6 6YB
Tel: 01452 81688