IIf I tell you that I had to promise not to reveal the technique the artists used for a particular effect, where do you think I am? A Shoreditch art gallery? Damien Hirst’s studio? In fact, I’m in the bedroom of a Grade II listed country pub in a traditional Cotswold village.
It’s already clear that the Fox at Oddington isn’t your average drunk. But its high-spec design makes perfect sense once you know it’s Carole Bamford’s latest project. She’s the mastermind behind Daylesford Organic, the farm-turned-eco-chic empire that made grass-fed steak a lifestyle statement and became such a tourist magnet that other hotels cite its proximity as a selling point.
The pub has been closed for 16 months restoration; Popped in for an exclusive preview before opening Friday. As I cross the threshold, air travel comes to mind – not the anxiety-inducing headlines, but the fact that if you turn left, you’re in the Uptown; turn right and it’s the most intimate seat.
The traditional Cotswold stone exterior of the inn
Unlike its airplane equivalent, this “economy” section is wonderfully relaxing. The Tack Room’s tongue-and-groove panels are a green as deep as Bamford’s principles, its precise hue determined by a craftsman’s eye rather than MM. Farrow & Ball. Its low ceiling, its dark chocolate paneled armchairs and its smoke-tinted cantou amplify the heritage charm, while a central beam studded with equestrian rosettes saves it from any hint of gloom. In fact, I feel like snuggling up here with a pint, and I don’t even drink beer. It leads to the largest living room where the worm-eaten beams, the Crunchie-coloured stone and the lime rendering confer lightness but the atmosphere remains welcoming.
Things spin more recognizably with the Bamford brand in ‘business class’ – in the main bar and Saddle Room restaurant, that is. Here, the color palette, reflecting the company’s holistic image, tends towards fifty shades of beige and the tempo revs up in contemporary glamour. Bespoke wood and leather furniture is reclaimed or recycled, the blond oak bar is adorned with the words “For Fox Sake” and the restaurant in a new extension has that prerequisite of 21st century dining: an open kitchen and, for more bravo, a wood-fired pizza oven. The room is dominated by a wall of trendy Crittall windows that overlook a garden designed for lazy afternoons, where raised beds abound in lavender, the lawn pretends to be a pool table, and cocktails and craft beer are served in a converted van.
Despite a few cunning flourishes, it’s an equestrian motif that trots prettily on the ground floor: portraits of handsome stallions; stable doors recovered as partitions; skillfully draped horse saddles and blankets; trinkets such as lacquered leather skins that medieval hunters once hung from their trusty steeds. Even empty, these spaces are bursting with energy, vibe and their very own star: Executive Chef Alan Gleeson. He presides over a pass reading “Foxylicious,” which he jokes about describing the chefs as well as the food. His resume includes Michelin star hitters such as Hambleton Hall and I arrived with an appetite for a menu run.
I have to choose a room first. The affable general manager Nathan Walker-Unwin, who learned the fine art of rustic luxury at Coworth Park (Prince Harry’s pre-wedding hotel), shows me the six suites, with interiors inspired by flora and local fauna. The den, the only accessible room, is my favorite, decorated in colors as rich as rain-soaked clay fields, with a freestanding tub between the working fireplace and four-poster bed, a of glass and a private patio. It showcases the backing technique that Lizzi Porter and Claire Poulter employed to achieve its distinctive aged look. The duo also painted the pretty trompe-l’oeil leaves on the parquet.
Unfortunately, the Den isn’t ready, nor is the family hunting lodge. I skip the two-tier Huntsman (no bath) and Hedgerow (too cute). I’m tempted by Wild Meadow’s sexy blue fabrics and view of the restaurant’s wildflower rooftop, but the Master’s, tucked into the eaves of the 19th-century inn with a dramatic oak A-frame, takes it away. Bamford is the woman who transformed the humble bar of soap into an object of desire with her design based on a heart-shaped pebble she found on a beach, and that eye for detail is evident throughout, including the stone troughs reinvented as sinks and elms. branches as pegs.
One of the Fox’s bathrooms
Gleeson is just as inventive in the kitchen. I love flatbreads topped with deviled kidneys drizzled with ranch dressing; saffron aioli offers a sweet counterpoint to scotch ‘nduja-spiced egg, and fresh wood-fired turbot from a Cornish day boat with dulse-buttered Jersey potatoes is summer on a plate. The Aperol Raspberry Spritz Jelly Chaser Pudding is thankfully light as a feather.
Bamford’s family is No. 42 on The Sunday Times Rich List, with a net worth of £4.32 billion. Expenses for Fox aren’t disclosed, but I bet they’re high enough that they could drop a spot or two in next year’s rankings. And while the rooms aren’t cheap, here’s how Bank of d’Arcy justifies the expense: their quality and size make them good value for the Cotswolds and a stay includes farm and garden tours market gardens which are generally not accessible to the public; these are given by head producer and unreconstructed hippie Jez Taylor and are very entertaining.
● The most relaxing spa hotels in the Cotswolds
● Our favorite family outings in the UK
But here’s how that vindication plays out: Guests also get a 10% discount on retail purchases at the Daylesford Mothership. The next morning, I make the pilgrimage, a 25-minute walk down country lanes, to the Ferrari of Farm Shops, where I quickly spend 100% more than I can afford on cashmere, kombucha, and massages. . Hmm, turns out those nifty savings amount to a pretty cunning marketing ploy. On the plus side, I learned the secret to getting walls as elegantly distressed as my finances.
Susan d’Arcy was a guest at The Fox in Oddington, which offers double guest rooms from £225; mains from £17 (thefoxatoddington.com)
Sign up for our Times Travel newsletter and follow us on Instagram and Twitter