A weekend in The Cotswolds

When you live and work in London (and have done your whole life), it’s important to plan an escape now and again. Where better, than The Cotswolds? This rural area covers six counties, notably Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, and is an absolute beauty of an escape from the city.

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Two of the best hotels: 

Barnsley House, Barnsely

Do you want the ultimate fairy-tale experience: four-poster beds, roll-top baths, secret gardens and delicious culinary treats, fit for royalty? Then look no further than Barnsley House. A ridiculously stylish grade II listed manor-house, within 11 acres of grounds, which were designed by critically acclaimed gardener Rosemary Verey. After losing yourself in the magnificent gardens, reward yourself with a treatment at the hotel’s gorgeous spa or a meal at The Potager restaurant, which serves fresh and seasonal produce from the hotel’s kitchen garden. The hotel operates a no-young-children policy during breakfast and dinner, but The Village Pub (situated opposite the hotel and part of the Barnsley House family) does welcome children of all ages.

The Making of a Garden

Barnsley House truly is the perfect hideaway – with magnificent, modern rooms, boasting outrageous luxury and comfort. I’m not ashamed to say that took a photo of the pillow labels and bought some when I got home. Judging by the company’s website – I’m not the only one. Now, given the high level of luxury, rooms do not come cheap – starting at £200. If you can afford it, The Rosemary Verey suite is pure heaven and the bed is like something from a Disney film.

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Breakfast is included and can be ordered to your room at no extra charge – something which we took full advantage of. We made the most of our eggs florentine in the beautiful conservatory of the Rosemary Verey suite, in our dressing gowns.

I loved our stay at Barnsley House and I’ve been back several times, just to walk through the grounds and have a drink. It is Cotswold luxury at its best and in and in a perfect location, close to Cirencester and beautiful Bibury.

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The Wheatsheaf Inn, Northleach

Now the Wheatsheaf is the epitome of Cotswold cool. Without a doubt, ‘Room 1’ boasts the best bath tub that I have ever had the luxury to soak in. We honestly could have spent the whole weekend just in the room, wrapped in a dressing gown, sinking into the ridiculous comfort of the bed!

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The restaurant uses seasonal and local produce, cooking rustic food and presenting it beautifully. The menu changes daily throughout the week and the restaurant also offers private dining. It is well-worth booking, even if you are a guest at the hotel – something which is recommended when booking.

The hotel has 14 rooms, which have either a power shower or bath – some have both. Every booking includes a complimentary continental breakfast, however a cooked breakfast comes at an additional cost. This is something that, for the amount charged per night, should be included. Saying that, the staff are extremely accommodating, and as there are no such facilities in your room, will happily bring tea and coffee to you as requested.

Even when we haven’t stayed at The Wheatsheaf, we will always make sure we pop in for a drink, as it is one of the coziest drinking spots in the Cotswolds. During the summer months, the beautiful garden has a buzzing atmosphere. The reviews don’t lie – with accolades from Mr & Mrs Smith, Tatler and Open Table to name a few -alongside a glowing review from Jay Rayner in the Observer, you must book a stay ASAP and experience the delight that is, “Doing Britain Proud.” Rooms from £100+

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We have spent plenty of weekends in The Cotswolds and it’s a special place for us. Although we have been lucky to stay in some remarkable hotels, we have also spent many-a-night at the Travelodge in Burford. It’s literally 2 hours door-to-door and we can always get a good deal. The location is excellent, it’s opposite The Cotswold Gateway (lovely food and friendly bar) and in walking distance of beautiful Burford, which is littered with shops, restaurants and village pubs. It is also a ten minute drive from Cirencester and half-way between Cheltenham and Oxford. Worth a look if you’re looking for a base to explore the area without breaking the bank.

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Photos by @foreacharoad

The Rough Guide to the Cotswolds: Includes Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon

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Eating our way through Budapest

 

When sat at home on cold, winter weekends, I take to pinterest like a madwoman and start researching our next trip. For some reason, when it came to Budapest, I was rather taken by the photos and reviews of food and restaurants. Usually, we’re the ‘grab-a-slice-of-pizza-on-the-go’ type people, but something about the eclectic and highly-regarded food on offer, caught my eye. Being an extremely fussy pescatarian (which is just a fancy word for a vegetarian that eats fish), this was a big deal. So, as well as all the amazing things that this incredible city has to offer, here’s what and where we ate…

Day one:

Those that follow on Instagram (if you don’t, please do) will have seen my gushing review of Zona, a ‘contemporary cuisine inspired by travels’, which is featured in the Budapest wallpaper guide. We were not disappointed. We arrived around 6pm and although pretty much every table had a ‘reserved’ sign on it, we were the only people in the restaurant for the duration of our stay. We went straight to mains, however the food was so amazingly inviting, we tucked in straight away without photographing. I had the gnocchi, while A devoured the rack of lamb – claiming that it was ‘one of the best meals he had ever had’. Not sure whether I should have taken offence to that? We followed main courses with (the most incredible) sticky toffee puddings. Washed down with two glasses of wine each, we were left with change from £50 and me desperately looking in an online thesaurus for more
synonyms for ‘amazing’.
Day two:
We began the day with a flat white and a banana bread to go from the very cool Espresso Embassy before heading off to Parliament. A lovely, relaxed and authentic cafe, where the owners are quite clearly passionate about good coffee.
For lunch, we went to Jack’s Burger – somewhere with great tripadvisor reviews and a Pinterest fav. Smashing, authentic American burgers, served in a cute little paper tray with proper American fries. Bloody loved it. I (of course) went for the fried cheese ‘vega burger’, which was pretty damn amazing – almost halloumi like, with an incredibly little sauce and fried onions. I was in one of those food induced weird states of mind, where every mouthful is greeted with an intense nod of the head and an ‘mmmmmmm’ sound, as if it’s completely different from the last. A had the cheese burger and responded to my nods, as appropriate. As well as burgers, Jack’s sells pizza by the slice and fried chicken and fish. Nice.
We followed Jack’s with a trip to Gelarto Rosa because it was pretty much next door, and I’d been dreaming of this moment since we first booked our flights. Gelarto Rosa, is a beautifully quaint and…unique little ice cream parlour, that sells ice creams (as well as waffles etc) in the shape of roses. There isn’t a huge selection of flavours on offer, but that doesn’t matter, as you can choose up to four different flavours to make your flower. We had chocolate, mango and Oreo, although in hindsight, I should have gone for salted camamel instead of the mango. For three flavours, we paid just under £2. I love this country.
Due to the horrendous weather, we decided to continue our tour of ‘Foodapest’ and visit the renowned New York Cafe – which proclaims to be ‘the most beautiful cafe in the world’. Now, we only called in for a drink – I had a hot chocolate, A had a mint tea…and don’t get me wrong, it is a beautiful setting. Stunning building and decor, with a resident pianist tinkling away, but we have enjoyed coffee in nicer settings. This makes me sound like a right snob, but when you have taken afternoon tea at The Ritz or The Dorchester, it is hard to find anything else that compares. It is definitely a tourist hot spot and one for a good Instagram photo, but I would argue that it is over priced and not as life changing as it makes out.
Now, moving on to something that WAS life changing. The outstanding Comme Chez Soi. After reading the gushing tripadvisor reviews, I wondered if this little gem was too good to be true. How wrong was I? This restaurant is an absolute must for anyone visiting Budapest, but I must reiterate what so many reviewers had emphasised – you must book. This beautiful Italian restaurant has only eight tables and the waitors must have turned away at least thirty people while we were there. Some had walked miles to get there and were quite rightly gutted. Now the best thing about this restaurant – the service. We were treated like kings. So many complimentary dishes and drinks between courses, each explained in depth. Even when A had to go to the cash point, a waitress accompanied him to make sure he didn’t get lost, and I was given a magazine to read while I waited.
Each course was delicious and full of Italian spirit. We had bruchetta and rocket salad to start, lasagne and salmon taglietelle for mains and shared a chocolate cake for dessert. With two glasses of wine each, we paid approximately £43. An absolute steal. We were even given a box of chocolates to take home.
Day three:
Day three was dry, so was all about the 9-mile trek from sight to sight. Therefore, I survived on a cheese scone, a peach ice tea and a snickers until 5pm. This is when I finally got to enjoy ‘Hot Dog Cold Beer’. I say enjoy, more like experience. No veggie hot-dog. Now, I know even the thought that I should expect a vegetarian option at a hot-dog restaurant will anger many, but this is the 21st century we are living in. Anyway, A enjoyed a ‘New York’ dog, while I went for the chips on stick. Literally, a whole potato, spiraled into crisp thin slices, skewered and fried. Actually, not too bad. Unfortunately though, the draft beer wasn’t on, so we had to go for a fairly warm tin of Heineken instead. It was cool to stand outside however, and enjoy our hot-dog (crisps on stick) and warm beer, while watching the sky darken over the Basilica.
Dinner at Padthai Wokbar was really cool. Leading away from the Basilica are some really lovely little restaurants and this really took our fancy. You choose your noodles, up to four toppings and a sauce and your food is ready in around 5/10 minutes. It’s all cooked fresh, and the place had a real cool buzz. Lots of people, lots of locals and a really good vibe. The Padthai was delicious too, washed down with a chang beer, and lots of reminiscing about eating street food in Bangkok.
A cheeky little return to Gelarto Rosa, to make amends for the mango slip up. This time: salted caramel panacotta, chocolate and Oreo. Winner.
Finally, a well-deserved glass of wine from DiVino Borbar, a contemporary little wine bar that houses a huge collection of wine. We tasted the wine before we chose, and reading reviews online, the bartenders will happily let you try as many as you want before you find the one for you. It was busy and lively inside, so we opted to enjoy ours outside, with the beautiful backdrop of the Basilica. We did discuss how sitting on high bar stools, on the edge of a platform could prove costly for those that choose to indulge in several glasses.
Day four:
After checking out, we headed to the quaint ‘A la Maison Breakfast and Brunch’, a family run restaurant, with an extensive breakfast menu. Quite frankly, there was almost too much on their cute looking menus, which were not organised particularly well. I thought I had decided, to turn the page and find another list of mouth-watering dishes. After much deliberation, I decided on the eggs Florentine, with a twist. It was served with a Camembert sauce and cashew nuts – an interesting combination. A nice little restaurant, didn’t blow me away and wasn’t particularly cheap in relation to general food costs in Budapest, but it hit the spot.
Budapest really is an incredible city and the food (as I am sure you can tell) was a highlight. I would love to know whether you have eaten at any of these places and what your views are? What did I miss?