Review by Fiona Duncan, published 17th August 2011.
As country house hotels find it ever harder to maintain their expensive buildings, fill their rooms and motivate their staff, yet another newly converted inn has popped up, luring weekenders away to somewhere smaller, less formal and, crucially, less expensive.
In my opinion, the somewhat coyly named Feathered Nest at Nether Westcote is destined to become something of a beacon among this burgeoning breed of mid-price accommodation: the Manoir aux Quat'Saisons of its genre, you might say. Its owners have a vision for their establishment that would not disgrace Raymond Blanc himself (up to 12 more bedrooms, a cookery school, village shop, delicatessen, in-situ staff training academy).
Already, in terms of comfort, style and amenities, it could not be bettered by many of the nearby luxury hotels. And hot news: Peter Eaton, the excellent head chef at Coworth Park, has just been appointed as head chef in the inn's brand new kitchen. Big stuff for a small place.
At present there are just four bedrooms. Their names (Cuckoo's Nest, Cockerel's Roost, Pheasant Nest and Dovecote) may also be terribly twee but their contents are anything but: a nigh on perfect blend of practical, luxurious and countrified, with up-to-the-minute accoutrements, including Tassimo coffee machines teamed with country antiques, books and glossy magazines, jugs of hedgerow flowers and views of the Evenlode valley to calm the most jangled nerves.
That's the joy of a new conversion: you can create what you want. And if you have the vision, style and resources of owners Tony and Amanda Timmer, you can create something exceptional.
Still, it's not an easy thing to pull off. Indeed, if it weren't for the attractiveness of the layout, the stylishness of the furnishings (gleaming antique tables, Delft tiles, hand-painted ceramics, bar stools fashioned from riding saddles), and the passion and professionalism of the Timmers, this place could be unbearable – too manicured, too perfect, too posh.
Instead, it is lovely: a mini luxury hotel (guests are made to feel at home all day, which can't be said for many inns), with a lush garden and heated outdoor terrace, tucked away in a picturesque Cotswold village. "Cotswold" is key; The Feathered Nest wouldn't work everywhere, but in fat-cat, hedgies-and-horses country, where weekenders drop in on a Friday night to buy baskets of provisions for their breakfast next morning, it does. Rural charm, polished, perfected and fit for even the most exacting of silver-tongued, Savile Row-suited guests.
Wherever you look, quality shines out, and the food in the homely but elegant dining room, even before the arrival of Eaton, was as impressive as the bedrooms. From a "close-knit team; we prefer not to harp on one particular name" comes pub grub for the bar and artfully presented dishes (amazing what can be done with a plate of organic tomatoes) for the homely yet stylish dining room.
As for the wine, a major element, Tony's speciality is finding unsung boutique growers from around the world to include among his extensive, superbly kept bins.
As we gazed over the valley below, I commented to Tony, who's Dutch, with a successful track record in the hospitality business, that the view would always make The Feathered Nest popular. "No," he said. "The view is an added extra; it's the place itself that counts. That must be absolutely right." It will be. Artifice, yes, but very well done.
- Nether Westcote (01993 833030; www.thefeatherednestinn.co.uk). Doubles from £145, including breakfast. Not suitable for guests with disabilities Fiona's Choice
Where to eat
The Michelin-starred food of Matt Weedon at Lords of the Manor (01451 820243; www.lordsofthemanor.com) at Upper Slaughter is superb, and worth making a special effort to sample.
What to see
There's so much to see and do in the Cotswolds, but from this base the two National Trust gardens of Hidcote (Hidcote Bartrim, near Chipping Campden; 01386 438333; www.nationaltrust.org.uk) and Snowshill (near Broadway; 01386 852410), and Blenheim Palace (0800 849 6500, 24-hour recorded information; www.blenheimpalace.com), if you've never been, come high on the list.
A great Cotswold village walk from the door of the Feathered Nest is to descend to the Evenlode valley below and walk to the Bledingtons, then on to beautiful, little-known, chocolate-box pretty Icomb and Wyck Rissington, then to well-known Lower, with its mill, and Upper Slaughter, and home. Allow about four or five hours.