Stay the night: The Lion and Pheasant, Shrewsbury
A fresh, contemporary restoration has given a new lease of life to a hotel that dates from Tudor times. Rhiannon Batten reports
Sunday 10 April 2011
There is no doubt that bringing the Lion and Pheasant to its present state was a labour of love.
But for its owner, Dorothy Chidlow, the relationship has proved to be an enduring marriage rather than a fling. When she bought the 16th-century inn in the 1970s, the building, once a stop-off on the coach route from London to Ireland, was so run down that all operations in the hospitality trade had ceased and it was being used as a depot for a car parts dealer.
But Dorothy and her husband saw this potential in the higgledy-piggledy collection of eight historic houses and, after several years of renovation work, it reopened as a hotel in 1984.
The story doesn't end there, though. After years of being leased, the Lion and Pheasant had deteriorated again. Troubled by what had become of it, Dorothy took ownership again two years ago and roped in her daughter, Rachel, a Dublin-based interior designer, to give it new life once more.
The resulting hotel, bar and restaurant opened last November and drove a blast of fresh, exceedingly stylish air through Shrewsbury's social scene. There are hints of Scandinavia and France in the design, with fresh flowers (posies of snowdrops when I visited), candles and a light paint scheme cosied up with lots of wood. The overall effect is so calming that you can almost hear yourself sigh as you cross the threshold.
Contemporary in style but packed with character, the hotel's 22 rooms (12 opened in November, 10 at the end of February) neatly embrace the history of the building. Reached via a warren of stairs, skewed floors, odd old corners and architectural curiosities, each is slightly different. Some have fireplaces, baths and silk furnishings, others seagrass flooring, linen blinds, painted wood furniture and riverside views. The loft suite is the one to book for a special occasion. Set in what was once the inn's laundry, it boasts a canopy of lovely old beams and a slipper bath. All are warm and relaxing with furniture sourced from local junk and antique shops, pots of homemade shortbread, Clipper teas and Gilchrist & Soames toiletries. Ask for a room at the back of the building, away from the road, if you're a light sleeper.
The food and drink
The bar here is possibly the cosiest in the county – and certainly one of the most stylish with its mix of wood and metal and a gorgeous open fireplace. Drinks range from real ales such as Shropshire Gold (£1.50) to Prosecco by the glass (£4.30), classic cocktails (£5 to £7) and a carefully crafted wine list with bottles ranging from £15 to £34, or up to £250 for champagne. (Many of the wines are sourced from Tanners, a specialist wine merchants, just over the road.) The restaurant is split between the ground and first floor (get there early to grab a table by the fire) and serves modern European food – game terrine with toasted sourdough (£5.95), salad niçoise with freshly seared tuna (£8.50) and fish pie with winter greens (£13.95) – elegantly put together and served by young, enthusiastic staff. Also upstairs is the Crystal Suite, a fancier, chandelier-decked room for events, private dining and, sometimes, extra restaurant space. There's also a small outside terrace, though it overlooks the car park.
All rooms come with free Wi-Fi. (Ask for a code at reception.) There's also free parking for about 10 cars behind the hotel, though it's only 10 minutes' walk from Shrewsbury railway station, so many guests opt to leave the car behind.
Children are welcome but the building's old-style, multi-level architecture and narrow staircases mean a lift – and, therefore, wheelchair access – just isn't possible. Dogs aren't allowed.
B&B in a double room costs from £95 per night.
The Lion and Pheasant, 50 Wyle Cop, Shrewsbury SY1 1XJ (01743 770345; lionandpheasant.co.uk).
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