The Churchill Arms in Paxton is the perfect midsummer restreat
The Churchill Arms in Paxton is the perfect midsummer restreat

B&B review: The Churchill Arms, Cotswolds

This cosy Cotswolds pub has two rooms and a menu created by an award-winning chef

Oscar Quine
Wednesday 20 July 2016 15:11
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Oh, the Cotswolds. That splodge of land that stretches from Oxfordshire down to Somerset and all the way up to Warwickshire is one of England’s most bucolic. Add to that its reputation as the rural getaway for London’s "it" crowd and you have an alluring mix of haystacks and hedonism. An hour and a half train journey from Paddington, plus 30 minutes in a cab, lies Paxford, home to The Churchill Arms, which opened earlier this year.

So pull on your Hunters and head west. Midsummer is the perfect time to get sozzled under the country sun – and Nick Deverell-Smith’s pub-with-rooms has a lovely little beer garden to do it in.

A pub dining room stretches across the entire ground floor

The bed

The Churchill Arms sits on the main road in Paxford. Its ground floor is taken up with a pub dining room. Upstairs, there are just two rooms (for now); ours has gorgeous views over rolling sheep-filled fields and a tiny chapel. The bed is remarkably comfortable, laden with pillows and top-quality sheets, while the decor is largely the countryside cosy that you’d expect from a Cotswolds bolthole. But in places, such as the chrome light fittings and the black-and-white printed canvases depicting London tourist spots, it strays worryingly towards “bachelor pad”. It's still early days, though, and these details could be easily done away with.

Decor tends towards countryside cosy

The breakfast

The food is the big selling point here. Host Deverell-Smith was named Junior Chef of the Year in 2000 and has worked under Marcus Wareing and Gordon Ramsay. His last job was as head chef at Soho House. We enjoy dinner as well as breakfast, starting with a lovely fresh crab and avocado salad and thinly sliced roast pork with tuna sauce. It’s delicious. Deverell-Smith explains that he took inspiration from the Italian dish lombo tonnato, which he discovered on a recent holiday. A main of monkfish is also good, plated to please a Michelin judge and full of flavour.

Breakfast is a little less impressive. I go for the fry-up and, a rare treat, I want it to come with all the trimmings. The bacon and sausages are good and there’s toast, an egg and a tomato, but there’s no black pudding. This strikes me as a travesty, what with this being a corner of the country known for its pigs. Nor are there baked beans or mushrooms. Also, the accompanying orange juice is not freshly squeezed. Which might seem a superficial complaint, but the details matter. Needless to say, all the produce is local and organic where it can be (Nick picks herbs from a neighbour’s garden) and is top-notch.

Dining is the Churchill Arms' big selling point

The host

Ruddy-cheeked and affable, Deverell-Smith brims with the hearty enthusiasm that marks out many good British chefs. He’s a local boy and clearly has passion: he’s in the kitchen from dawn ’til dusk, six days a week, turning out breakfast, lunch and dinner. He’s highly complimentary of Nick Jones, top boss at Soho House and hospitality supremo extraordinaire, and says he spends time at the nearby Soho Farmhouse (01608 691000; sohofarmhouse.com; members only), keeping an eye on how they’re doing things. Jones better watch his back – at just 34, Deverell-Smith has plenty more in him.

Deverell-Smith has worked under Marcus Wareing and Gordon Ramsay

The weekend

Arriving late-afternoon, we’re keen to work up an appetite for dinner. We walk to the next village but get a little lost on the way and end up ambling through fields that ripple with bright yellow rapeseed, past a babbling brook. When we do find the Ebrington Arms (01386 593223; theebringtonarms.co.uk) in Ebrington, what a treat it is. It has a great big open hearth and low ceilings. Over pints of bitter, we eavesdrop on the village gossip being discussed at the next table before taking the 30-minute stroll back to Paxford for dinner.

The pit-stop

Chipping Norton is a 25-minute drive away. Known for "kitchen suppers" ’twixt the former Prime Minister, a tabloid editor, and the former presenter of a TV programme about cars, the market town, also has some fine pubs and restaurants. The Chequers (01608 644717; chequers-pub.com) is a medieval pub with an open fire that serves "classic British fare". Wild Thyme (01608 645060; wildthymerestaurant.co.uk) is a highlight, serving a Mediterranean-influenced menu in a smart dining room. Just keep your eyes peeled for who’s at the bar – be it Kate Moss or David Cameron.

The essentials

The Churchill Arms, Paxford, Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire, GL55 6XH (01386 593159; churchillarms.co). Doubles cost from £120 a night.

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