NESTLED in the heart of the picturesque market town of Chipping Campden is a very charming 18th century Cotswold-stone town house.
With parts of the building dating back as far as the 16th century, the Kings Hotel oozes character – if your water glass slides along the bedside table be assured it’s due to a sloping floor rather than anything of a supernatural nature!
But its sympathetic and stylish renovation means you can enjoy all the modern-day home comforts one requires while still appreciating the property’s unique history and character.
There was a warm welcome awaiting us when we checked in recently which banished those winter chills from the moment we set foot inside.
In fact, the hotel delivers on all fronts, from its stunning location, cosy atmosphere and boutique bedrooms to its relaxed bar area and outstanding Jackrabbit restaurant.
And it’s here where you stumble on The Kings’ real wow factor. The restaurant was recently awarded its third AA Rosette – and, following my own customer experience I can testify it’s well deserved.
Golden stone, exposed beams and scene-setting open fireplace are the perfect backdrop for an evening of intimate dining, where I’m told it’s all about modern re-interpretations of classic British dishes.
They are lovingly crafted under the watchful eye of Head Chef Greg Newman who took over the running of the Jackrabbit’s kitchen 18 months ago after time at Dormy House, just up the road in Broadway, and Mallory Court Country House Hotel in Leamington.
But it’s at Orwells four AA Rosette restaurant in Henley-on-Thames that Greg, 29, claims he earned most of his chef’s stripes.
He told me: “We’ve worked really hard here at Kings to put the emphasis on the local suppliers, using as many local businesses as we can. And we tried to be traditional because we’re in the Cotswolds area and people don’t want anything too challenging – but we do try to still have a bit of fun with things.
“We were very pleased to be awarded the third rosette in September. It was always at the back of my mind but we weren’t chasing accolades. I don’t think any chef will tell you they don’t want accolades but if you chase them too much you almost make it harder for yourself. Achieiving a Michelin star would be lovely but we’re not pinning all our hopes on it. The most important thing is making sure we have got happy customers first.
“There’s only three of us in the kitchen so we’re incredibly busy. But we all write the menu together. It’s not just my doing. It changes quite often because as soon as something comes into season we will add it to the menu. It helps gives the regulars something different as well.”
And they’re about to become even busier as Greg announces plans to also introduce a set menu at lunchtimes.
But long-term ambitions may one day see a return to his home county of Devon.
He said: “I would love to own my restaurant back down in Devon, somewhere by the coast. One thing I really miss is all the fresh seafood.”
So what of this much celebrated menu?
My starter of Slow Cooked Kiln Bank Farm Egg (with cauliflower, smoked haddock and curry) was a combination of flavours I would never have previously considered – but proved to be a triumph on the tongue.
My husband opted for Pressing of Cotswold Rabbit (with liver parfait, mushroom and madeira and potato bread) which he was highly complimentary about.
It was to be what is apparently Greg’s most popular dish next for me – the Fillet of Oxfordshire Beef with sticky cheek, caramelised turnip, onion and madeira. Simply one of the most flavour-intensive and tender plates of beef I’ve ever tasted.
For hubby, the Roast Guinea Fowl Breast (slow-cooked leg, bacon, celeriac and parsley) was equally as flavoursome – and quickly devoured.
There’s a choice of four dishes for each course – with the emphasis very much on quality over quantity. And dessert was no exception.
We opted for Whipped Dark Chocolate (with cookie dough ice cream, salted caramel and malt foam) and Pistachio and White Chocolate Mousse (with blood orange sorbet, pistachio cake and caramelised blood orange.)
And, as no amount of chocolate is ever too much(!) we finished off with coffee accompanied by chef’s Seasonal Petit Fours – delicious handmade chocolates and jellies served on a ‘soil’ of chocolate shavings, below.
An impressive selection of wines and local ales are available to wash it all down from the intimate bar area, which has atmospheric lighting and a roaring log burner.
There is a stripped back sort of sophistication to the Jackrabbit. Fine dining without the pretentiousness that sometimes comes along with it. Here you can enjoy a 3 AA Rosette standard culinary experience in relaxed style or, as in our case, if you have fussier diners in tow, there’s the option to choose from the bar menu too. A friendly and flexible approach to dining that all the family can enjoy. What’s not to love! Prices are reasonable for this standard of food, at £35 for two courses or £45 for three.
Before we hit the high street the following morning there is time to sample the ‘AA Best Breakfast’ as it’s been officially named, and it doesn’t disappoint. The breakfast of kings!
Unique bedroom styles
The hotel is defined by its eclectic style, noticeable throughout the fourteen uniquely different bedrooms located in the main house.
A further five cottage bedrooms are located in the surrounding gardens, decorated to the highest standard with contemporary furnishings. Access for all has been a consideration here too with some of the cottage rooms offering disabled access and shower facilities. Dogs are also welcome in this part of the accommodation.
And it’s encouraging to see that families are made to feel just as welcome as the solo weary traveller unwinding after walking the Cotswold Way or exploring Chipping Campden’s charming high street.
The Kings is a very good choice for your Cotswolds base next time you’re down this way. If, like me, you’re a foodie – well, it’s a must!
Amanda Chalmers was hosted by The Kings Hotel part of the Eden Hotel Collection – a privately-owned portfolio of nine beautiful properties in the UK.
Stay overnight from £99 per room (two sharing), including full English breakfast. Call The Kings Hotel on 01386 840 256 www.kingscampden.co.uk