Stay The Night: The Wheatsheaf, Gloucestershire
Check in at the bar, fill your belly, then rest your weary head at this new take on the traditional roadhouse, says Adrian Mourby
When Georgie and Sam Pearman took over The Wheatsheaf, they wanted to create the feel of a Cotswold coaching inn on the road to London.
So, there's no reception; guests tip directly into the bar, where the welcome is warm and you sign in over the counter.
The redecoration and rebranding of The Wheatsheaf is Georgie's doing, along with some help from the moodier end of Farrow & Ball's paint range. Grey, green and dark blue walls provide dramatic backdrops for Victorian prints, oil paintings and modern art. A large grungy portrait of Kate Moss with a Coke tin presides over a refectory table straight out of Henry Fielding's Tom Jones. Recessed spotlighting in the ceiling turns each table into a dramatic highlight.
There's a small lounge – with enormous wall-mounted TV and huge sofa – at the far end of the inn. Outside, the stables have been converted into the Game Bar with a small brasserie and wood-burning drums. This mixture of raffish affluence, good food and a warm welcome has made The Wheatsheaf a trendy new reason for Londoners to get on the motorway on a Friday night, but the inn is also doing plenty to keep local custom. There is a book club, "mark the card" evenings with jockeys and racing buffs, clay pigeon shooting and cocktail competitions, parties on any pretext, and dinners for shooting parties.
There are 14 rooms in various sizes, each graced with original artwork. Georgie and her team have had a lot of fun with the rooms. Baths, when possible, are gargantuan and fill noisily in just a few seconds. Bedside lights are chunky steampunk accessories. Beds are by Hypnos and very comfortable. The wall-mounted TVs are by Bang & Olufsen. Novelty chocolates – some disguised as quails' eggs or even olives – placed in every room are by Curious Chocolate, a local company. Room service is quirky. When we asked for ice it was brought up in a large milk pail by a pleasant young man who explained they didn't normally do room deliveries. Bath products are by Compagnie de Provence and lavender features prominently. You're sleeping in a pub, so don't be surprised to be woken at 1.30am because someone's decided to have an impromptu Johnny Rotten meets T-Rex party down below.
The food and drink
Most of the ground floor is given over to food. One restaurant is decorated with portraits of the Wills' Tobacco family; there's a bar/diner, a private dining room that majors on antlers, and the secluded Poker Room which seats just six. An eclectic choice of chairs and creaky tables runs throughout. While attracting a lot of weekenders, The Wheatsheaf has managed to retain its local clientele by keeping prices low. Eggs Benedict at £6 is very good breakfast value while local rib-eye steak is a snip at £16. Service is friendly, confident and efficient. This is obviously a fun place to work. Expect to pay £35 a head for three courses, excluding wine.
There is a treatment room in one of the old outbuildings where a gent's haircut will cost you £20, a manicure £25 and a pedicure £27 (prior booking essential).
Children aged up to 12 stay free if sharing their parents' room but Z beds cost £20 to hire. Pets are welcome in the ground-floor bedrooms. There is a £10 charge for a dog bed but you get a generous-sized basket, bowl and doggie treats. Wheelchair access is possible from the garden to the downstairs bedrooms, but there is a step to the dining room. Ground-floor rooms have large walk-in showers but are not specifically adapted for wheelchair access. Wi-Fi is free and strong throughout.
Rooms from £120 per night.
The Wheatsheaf Inn, West End, Northleach, Gloucestershire GL54 3EZ (01451 860244, cotswolds.wheatsheaf.com).
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