Review by Fiona Duncan, published 27th April 2008.
I set my sights on this Cotswolds inn soon after reading an article that confirmed something I had already guessed: that British hotel bedrooms are the costliest in Europe. The average rate is £106 per night, whereas in France it's £83, and in Germany £74.
Bath is the most expensive British city in which to stay, followed by London and then Oxford, from which one would (rightly) deduce that the Cotswolds are pricey, too.
The article got me thinking. Apart from family-run b&bs, is there anywhere to stay in a popular area such as the Cotswolds that costs no more than £100 for a double room, yet is still worth the journey and deserving of your precious weekend away?
The answer is yes, if you choose one of a handful of revamped inns that have opened in various honey-stone villages in the past few years. The Horse and Groom at Bourton-on-the-Hill is perhaps the finest example, an old coaching inn converted into a dining pub with five bedrooms, three at £100 (£70 for single occupancy) and two larger ones at £140.
Its owners are Tom and Will Greenstock, whose parents ran the Howard Arms at nearby Ilmington until they recently retired. The brothers' youth and natural friendliness sets the tone, which is very informal. And relaxing: my son Fergus, just home from university, and I arrived late, with fraying tempers, yet immediately felt soothed and at ease. Dumping our bags, we got straight down to dinner, chosen from a blackboard and ordered at the bar.
Heaven knows what goes on in hotel and restaurant kitchens while customers' backs are turned, but this one had a whole pig in it, one from a local farm that the brothers want to support (Tom – a "Mackenzie Crook-alike" according to Fergus – is front of house, while Will is head chef).
By the time of our visit all that remained of the esteemed pig was its head and so a starter of bath chaps (pig's cheeks) was on the menu. Very good it was too, served with crispy pancetta and caramelised button onions.
Great pub grub then followed: a steak and ale pie under a golden, buttery crust for Fergus, and a moussaka of lamb served in an individual white china bowl for me.
As for pudding, we'd been tipped off about Mrs G's famous toffee meringue by the girl behind bar. "Mrs G is Tom and Will's mum and her recipe's a secret. I'm trying to marry Tom so I can have it." Good move.
Our room was lovely, and included an old stone fireplace, an arresting painting and an enormous bed, which was lucky as Fergus and I had the misfortune to be sharing it. Other rooms were equally smart and comfortable, including one overlooking the garden where you can eat in summer, and would cost double in many a Cotswold hotel.
Breakfast the next morning was farmhouse-style and excellent, although the rustic ground floor, with chairs piled on tables around us, felt far less welcoming than the night before, when it had been full of bonhomie. But the Greenstock brothers are on a learning curve and they are learning fast. Good luck to them.
Bourton-on-the-Hill, Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire (01386 700413; www.horseandgroom.info). Doubles from £100 per night, including breakfast.