Urbanites like to think that they like the countryside. But that’s debatable. True rurality has mud (lots of it), animals (large ones), and a vast amount of space… It’s enough to make any townie quite feel uncomfortable after a night or two away from the sodium bulbs.
The Cotswolds, however, is the dream. Marrying pastoral scenes with a pretty design ethos, it’s a place that nicely bridges the gap between country and town. Immaculate honey-coloured cottages, complete with front doors painted just-the-right-shade of putty from the Farrow & Ball colour chart, pristine fields and gentle hills are chocolate-box perfect. You’re more likely to bump into Kate Moss or Blur’s Alex James here as you are in the Groucho Club in Soho.
The Wild Rabbit, in one of the Cotswold’s prettiest villages of Kingham, is the place to decamp to. Owned by Lady Carole Bamford, who also owns Daylesford, a short stroll away, it is a converted inn dating from 1750, scrubbed up to immaculate 2016 standards. It’s billed as a ‘restaurant with rooms’ but in reality it’s much more than that.
There are 12 bedrooms in total, eight in the main building and four garden rooms, as well as one cottage, all named after woodland animals. But rabbit is the theme here so you’re greeted with two oversized topiaried rabbits outside the front door, and you’ll find vintage wooden rabbit toys and china bunnies dotted around, as well as cute stone rabbit cut-outs underfoot. Lady Bamford is renowned for her immaculate take on rustic chic and, as you’d expect, there’s not a hare (‘scuse the pun) out of place here.
Beds are large and squishy, dressed in white linen with muted touches of colour (burnt orange scatter cushions and sky-blue throws). Walls are stripped back to the original Cotswold stone and beams are bleached to match. Sisal rugs, pitched ceilings and well-thought-out touches, such as Nespresso machines and Volga linen bathrobes, bring a welcome cosiness. Bathrooms are large with double sinks, exposed brick walls and pampering Bamford products – the ideal place to soak limbs if you did venture out for a ramble in the great outdoors.
The country-house-meets-Scandi-chic décor continues down in the restaurant with its mix-matched chairs, bare wooden tables and dressers with stoneware jars, botanical prints and vintage bottles. For the summer months there’s an outside eating area with a working fireplace, potted plants and oversized lanterns. The showpiece, however, is the buzzy open kitchen, with its gleaming copper pans and charcuterie counter with hanging jamon.
Now boasting chef Tim Allen at the helm (previously chef-patron at the Michelin-stared Launceston Place in Kensington), you get the feeling that it’s just a matter of time before this dining room wins its first Michelin star (it’s just won Michelin Pub of the Year 2015)*.
*October 2016 – since writing this review, the Wild Rabbit has actually been awarded its first Michelin Star, just three years after opening
The food is sublime. Allen’s focus is all about elevating great British fare so seasonality, artisan ingredients and local organic meat, fruit and vegetables are at the heart of every dish. My lamb with asparagus, white polenta and parmesan sounded simple enough but was wonderfully layered and complex in taste and texture. It was just the right follow-on from the Daylesford Market Garden starter (a squeaky-fresh salad of local vegetables, truffle goats curd, mustard and honey). Desserts, such as Passion Fruit Soufflé and Yorkshire Rhubarb with Textures of White Chocolate, are wonderfully grown-up and sophisticated – this is as far as you can get from nursery puddings. Professional yet friendly service also elevates your experience from gastro pub to gastronomic.
After indulging, it’s worth taking a morning stroll (20 minutes) to Daylesford’s Bamford Haybarn Spa, which has just been revamped. Here you can pamper body and soul in equally exquisite surroundings. Meditation, yoga and pilates sessions are all on offer as well as a nine different treatments. If you opt for the Bespoke Facial, ask for Cristina – her facial massage technique was one of the best I’ve ever had. The spa also offers day packages and holistic workshops with industry leaders, so it is worth checking in advance as to what is on.
The Wild Rabbit also has a traditional pub bar, which offers artisan beers and a daily changing menu of bar food. The open log fires and worn leather armchairs offer a charming haven, especially if you’ve tired yourself out after all those country pursuits.
The Wild Rabbit, 01608 658 389, thewildrabbit.co.uk
A small double room for two people B&B costs from £150 per night.
Bamford Haybarn, 01608 731 713, bamford.co.uk
Treatments start from £35 for an express pedicure. There are a wide variety of spa days, treatments and workshops available.
This article also appears on The Arbuturian