Thyme, Cotswolds, UK
19 July, 2019
Less than two hours by car from central London, this restored historic Cotswolds manor and farm is the homely hamlet that us urbanites have been craving. Located in the village of Southrop (where a certain supermodel and a guitarist tied the knot in 2011), Thyme is well suited to couples hoping to foster a love as traffic-stopping as the Moss-Hince's. Still, with a cookery school talked about far beyond the village gossip's catchment area, the manor house is well suited to group gatherings too.
After check-in (en masse or plus one), lounge in celeb gardener Bunny Guinness's Olive Garden with a chilled local ale in hand. Once revived from the journey, don your wellies and head for a ramble through the farm.
From the smallest room (Cosy) to the Tallet (a four-bedroom cottage located in the courtyard), accommodations at Thyme cater to comfort. Many of the rooms (there are 31 in total) have botanical names, and a naturalistic theme runs throughout the properties. Pinewood (in the Lodge) is an oft-requested boudoir thanks to its distinctly art-deco velvet headboard and plant-like patterned wallpaper (Instagrammers: thumbs at the ready). Still, it's the latest additions to the property that are our personal favourites. Five contemporary garden rooms skirt the landscaped Ox Barn garden. In proximity of the restaurant (first to the breakfast buffet is a win in our books), these prettified cottages are open plan and presented in a pastel palette to rival a Ladurée tea room. In any given cottage, periwinkle-pink or duck-egg blue walls are offset with linen curtains and antique gold-leaf trimmed mirrors. Double sinks, low-hanging chandeliers and a centrally positioned roll-top bath provide added tastings of luxury. More practically, a pillowed bench at the entranceway with slippers ready gets a double tick in our book.
What's for breakfast?
Breakfast is a simple affair, with morning meals served until 10.30am in the Ox Barn. While the former oxen house's original Cotswold stone rubble walls and soaring archways make for quite the dramatic setting, the spread keeps things balanced. Choose from poached orchard fruits with yoghurt and granola or muesli, delicate pastries partnered with homemade jams and a selection of fresh-pressed juices. The breakfast menu offers heartier fare - pancakes with bacon and maple syrup are a must-try.
How about lunch and dinner?
Head chef Charlie Hibbert rustles up simple yet satisfying dishes for lunch and dinner. If you are out for a day of exploring, plan your day accordingly to ensure you are back in time for supper. Come evening, the Ox Barn (where all meals are served) takes on a seductive air - think wax-dripped candelabras and low-lit surrounds. Inquisitive types should request a seat along the bench-style communal table for over-the-counter views of the chefs at work. Foodwise, starters are substantial while main meals are more delicate. Our go-to order would read: bread basket (FYI: butter tastes better when served in a John Julian ceramic), followed by the crab salad. For mains, it's a toss up between the brill with fennel and sea vegetables and espelette quail with courgette, runner beans and aioli. Sides are a good call - new potatoes with herbs and chips. Finish off with a palette cleanser of meadowsweet and blackcurrant leaf sorbet (or for something with a little more kick, try the baked chocolate and espresso custard).
Is there a bar?
Situated in the old lambing sheds, The Baa operates as a sitting room and cocktail bar, and the menu caters to both atmospheres - come for herbal tea and a wedge of cake or neat whisky and a sampling of olives. Post dinner, pull up a stool at the bar and ask mixologist Louis to fix you a "flocktail". Our favourites: the Flock On (chocolate peppermint-infused Chase vodka, lime, mallow root syrup, chocolate bitters and ginger beer) or the Flock Off (Cotswold single malt, chartreuse Jaune, Antica formula, orange bitters and Angostura).
Ramble along the garden path to the Meadow Spa, passing over honeycombed pistachio-and-white tiling en route to Meadow Cottage's treatment rooms. On entering the greenhouse reception, stop briefly at the water bar (for a sip of something with a cucumber twist) while you fill out your consultation form. Post-treatment, take a dip in the open-air, pure water swimming pool and a hot spring-water tub. The Cookery School at Thyme runs demonstrations, tastings, talks, garden tours, forages and cookery classes throughout the year. Its flagship class, Instinctive Cook, is particularly popular.
Things you should know
Check-in is from 4pm, parking is free and phone coverage is a bit patchy (take it as an opportunity to log off).
Within a short walk you'll find
For cosy feasting (and a change of scene) head across the road to The Swan - a village pub also owned by the Hibbert family. Back at base, The Piggery - Thyme's new retail space - will tempt artisans (namely those with shopping addictions). Stockpile souvenirs of your time at Thyme, including printed table linens and Miranda Berrow bowls.