The Rectory, Cotswolds, England
13 November, 2018
There is something about seeing the most sumptuous, sinkable sofas in a reception area that signals "we won't judge your sloth-like behaviour here". As if (lazy) Lucifer himself is beckoning you away from your existence as a live-to-work urbanite and dangling the gifts of rest and restoration in your reach, the moment you sit on one you're toast, so best give in to temptation from the get-go and make the most of your stay. You'll cave to leisure's lap eventually anyway.
Succumbing to this heavenly inertia at The Rectory is no bad trade-off. Early 18th-century building; check. A little over an hour outside London by train; check. Rolling hills and honey-coloured villages; double check. Inside, modern art offsets antique features and a modish London set (from Notting Hill and Shoreditch if our radar is in tune) set a tone of chic countryside comforts. This is a place for low-key luxuries: top-quality food, soft beds and open surrounding made for wandering.
Living rooms come with crackling fires, framed maps flank the walls and a Penguin Classics colour-coded library sits just beyond a poker table made for four. Board games are also on standby for idle hands who have managed to put their phone in airplane mode in favour of a restorative weekend away.
Awash with golden finishes and exposed brick with hues of oatmeal offset by duck-egg blue, if you were in any doubt of your location, the interiors will soon confirm your destination: this is Cotswolds territory.
Originally the rectory to All Saints' Church, the Grade II-listed building was designed with a large number of bedrooms to accommodate the rector's 14 children. Rooms are cosy with slanted ceilings, exposed beams and claw-foot bathtubs. Mixed textures and over-sized accessories - from bulbous bedside lamps to gargantuan upholstered headboards - contribute to each bedroom's cocoon-like feel. With a tea and coffee station by the desk and a television synced up to Netflix and Amazon Prime, only when a slither of light peeps through the curtains and you hear the hushed sound of a newspaper sliding under the door should you be tempted to exit your bed.
Beyond the main house, the cottage can cater to large groups, with speedy pool access to sweeten the deal.
What's for breakfast?
A la carte options include eggs with avocado and smoked salmon on toast as well as decadent waffles, served with maple syrup and all the trimmings. The main breakfast station is centred on a long wooden table in The Glass House, where a spread of cereals, meats and cheeses join the usual suspects. Its USP is the self-service drinks set up, meaning Bloody Marys and Mimosas are available on tap. Pace yourselves.
How about lunch and dinner?
Spread over two spaces, The Restaurant continues into The Glass House. While the former has an austere and sultry palette, The Glass Room is light and airy, with chevron-patterned, red-brick floors and gilt-edged tabletops. Dripping candles and flowers in shades of the season decorate the tables for an added softness. We advise rotating rooms between lunch and dinner.
Come suppertime, dishes like octopus with pork belly and romesco sauce are followed by roast cod served with potted-shrimp butter, tenderstem broccoli and creamed potatoes. This dish is so popular they haven't dared remove it from the menu since opening in fear of protest. The dessert menu is equally tempting; warm treacle and plum tart with blackberries and stem-ginger ice cream is bliss.
It's good to note that the hotel takes a pretty laissez-faire approach to dining, so feel free to eat wherever takes you fancy - even if that means a change of setting between your main course and pud.
Is there a bar?
With red-velvet couches, dimly lit surrounds and fully stocked drinks cabinet, The Bar covers all the necessary bases. Drinks are available all day and for nighttime corridor creepers the first-floor landing yields an honesty bar. Pitched below the stairwell, help yourself to a treat or two - just make sure you jot it down. A similar setup is also available by the pool.
A heated-outdoor pool is accessible from the furthest corner of the garden. Pick up blue-and-white striped towels from the copper basin at reception and head for a morning dip. Chase with a morning pick-me-up using the pool's public phone to dial the bar for drinks.
Things you should know
Kemble Station is a 10-minute car ride from the hotel. It's best to book in advance as the taxi rank isn't wholly reliable. Be sure to bring cash too, as the station is sans ATM and the closest one is at a petrol station five minutes away (you might have guessed that we're speaking from experience here).
Once you're checked in, unpacked and have toured the grounds, stop by The Drawing Room for a film screening before dinner. Ask staff for a rundown of screening times.
Within a short walk I can find…
The Potting Shed pub (owned by the same people) is situated 200 yards from the hotel. Following the same food philosophy, fare is hearty and produce is local. A winning combination of great beers on tap and scrumptious interiors - think green-hued glassware and frame flanked walls - make it a must visit, and you can bill straight to your room.
If you're planning a daytime excursion, there are several options in the immediate vicinity. Local farmers markets are held at Malmesbury and Cirencester on Friday and Saturday respectively; for a longer walk the Roman Road enclosed in beautiful fields follows a loop and makes for a great pre-lunch activity. Alternatively, rent a classic car from Classic Motoring Cirencester and zip along country roads in a Jaguar E-type, because you'll be back at your desk before you know it.