99 High Street
Oxfordshire OX18 4QA
Returning to urban life was made all the more difficult for flavour correspodent Emily Richards after an overnight stay in the heart of England
Two hours after leaving our desks in Bristol on a Friday evening, my partner and I were sipping Prosecco and local Hook Norton beer in a tranquil courtyard in the Cotswolds. Ian, the owner of the Burford House Hotel, was telling us about the grape crop hanging from the fairy-lit vines, and making us feel right at home.
It’s easy to forget how close we live to the Cotswolds – and travelling through beautifully English villages such as Barnsley and Bibury we felt immediately relaxed as we entered Burford, one of the prettiest towns in the region. Passing honey-coloured houses we made the easy transition from city life to rural serenity.
In three years Ian and Stewart (co-owner and head chef) have built up the excellent reputation of this charming hotel, thoughtfully creating eight individually-styled bedrooms and a convivial atmosphere. Overlooking Burford High Street, our room housed a four-poster bed and traditional furniture, with a sleek, well-lit bathroom.
Dinner was a highlight of our stay: a goat’s cheese and beetroot Arancini amuse-bouche and basket of homemade rolls set the tone. The starters were presented on contemporary dishes and perfectly formed. The wood pigeon, again with seasonal beetroot, tasted great. The truffle and porcini crème brûlée was light and fluffy under a caramelised crust, and was complemented by homemade rosemary muffins and thick, onion marmalade.
A good bottle of Australian Shiraz set off the Cotswold lamb with dauphinois potatoes. The monkfish wrapped in Parma ham was delicate and flavoursome. It was surrounded by a pea and broad bean ‘minestrone’; the bright green colour demonstrating the freshness of the vegetables. To finish, Ian recommended the Crudge’s Revolution – a ripe cheese produced by local celebrity and Cotswold-convert Alex James. The cheese came with a miniature bunch of grapes from the courtyard vine and tasted great with a glass of smooth, red Spanish dessert wine.
The thoughtful philosophy of Burford House Hotel manifested itself throughout our stay: Friendly, calm staff in the dining room and homemade cranberry and white chocolate cookies in the bedroom. Ian is personable and hospitable; Stewart specialises in sourcing local, seasonal products creating monthly menus that are well thought out and beautifully cooked; both contribute to the feeling of special care and individuality during our stay.
Breakfast, again in the ‘Centre Stage’ restaurant (with homages to Broadway on the walls and show tunes playing at a polite volume), was delicious. Fresh juice, Cotswold yoghurt, fruit and own-recipe muesli were a prequel to a hot, tasty full English and a flavoursome smoked salmon and scrambled eggs.
Wandering along the vibrant high street on Saturday morning added to the sense of individuality. Chain stores are non-existent, unless you count Joules and Maison Blanc that are positively obligatory in the Cotswolds. Independent stores, such as Mrs Bumbles of Burford’s delicatessen and The Sweet Shop were charmingly-decorated, carefully-stocked and always welcoming.
It’s never easy returning to urban life after an idyllic trip to the country. The warm nature of the Burford House Hotel, the exquisite food and its location made the journey home short if not sweet. Which means, of course, that we may well be crossing the Oxfordshire border again before too long.