Balfour Winery launched Balfour Brut Rosé in 2004, and it quickly won gold at the International Wine Challenge. It was also the first English sparkling wine served in British Airways first class cabins. But before its owner Richard Balfour-Lynn was a winemaker, he was the managing director of the Malmaison and Hôtel du Vin groups, and hospitality still runs through his veins, even if it’s alongside sparkling rose and pinot noir. . As well as a 400-acre vineyard in Kent, the company also has a collection of nine boutique spirits, and the latest to join their ranks is Falcon.
The tangle of honey-coloured stone cottages of Painswick perched on the pea-green slopes of the Vale of Slad is so ridiculously picturesque, you half expect to see Hugh Grant and his friends film a romantic comedy here. The Falcon is the cinematically pleasing coaching inn in the centre, all elegant Georgian lines and views over the 99 neatly trimmed yews from the churchyard to the soaring spire of St Mary’s.
The interiors give the impression of being in a Richard Curtis setting, with flagstone and terracotta floors and cantous giving a pub touch with a foam and milk color palette, brown fluted dining chairs hazelnut, wooden tables and brass candlesticks on virtually every available shelf inch. There are plans to add a seating area in the rear lounge and a tapas cafe and bar in the Shires, the inn’s 18th century stables.
Until then, the food is classic, generously proportioned gastropub. The broccoli curry soup packs a lot of punch and the sea trout is perfectly cooked, although the shellfish bisque could have had more flavor. To encourage experimentation, there are plenty of well-priced wines by the glass. I chat with the friendly servers before choosing Balfour’s Leslie’s Reserve Brut, followed by a fair-trade, lemony South African Chenin Sauvignon.
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The 11 rooms don’t stray from muted Farrow & Ball tones with contemporary furnishings and lighting, but have thoughtful touches in the form of lavender and black pepper bath salts to soothe aching walker muscles. Even the cheapest rooms have characterful fireplaces, and while Superior Suites have window seats overlooking the church, the road is surprisingly noisy.
Breakfast was the only disappointment: no yogurt, no fruit, no pastries, and a limited choice of cereals and cooked meals.
Painswick Rococo Garden
For gardeners, Painswick Rococo Garden offers a quirky horticultural diversion (£10; rococogarden.org.uk). For walkers, the Cotswold Way, the 102-mile National Trail from Chipping Campden to Bath, runs through the town (nationaltrail.co.uk). And for shopping enthusiasts, Stroud, which has an excellent Saturday Farmer’s Market, is a ten-minute drive away, while the Regency Terraces at Cheltenham are a 30-minute drive.
Susan d’Arcy was a guest on the Falcon Painswick. B&B doubles cost from £80; mains from £16, thefalconpainswick.com
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