Sheep on Sheep Street, Stow
Nothing woolly about this stylish Stow-on-the-Wold hotel, restaurant and baaaar (oh come on, that's brilliant), just over the Warwickshire border. Read the Muddy verdict.
It doesn’t get much lovelier than Stow-on-the-Wold, the highest town in the Cotswolds at 800m, with its honeystoned cottages and vast market square. Totally on the tourist map (expect busloads in the summer), Stow has nevertheless reinvented itself away from the blue-rinse brigade with some lovely indie shops and a burgeoning reputation for its classy restaurants and inns. You’re in an ideal spot for exploring the Cotwolds, with Moreton in Marsh, Broadway and Bourton-on-the-Water 15 minutes away and Burford and Chipping Campden a few minutes more. The centre of Stow is actually very compact and you’re literally minutes from Market Square at Sheep on Sheep St.
Three 17th century buildings combine to create a typically elegant Cotswolds exterior with some pretty outdoor seating, but inside it’s a different story, a homage to Soho with funked up banquettes, velvet chairs, retro-style lighting, pops of colour everywhere and a statement bar that runs for miles (well, it feels like it).
I ate at lunchtime so the vibe was fairly refined – some couples and a group of businessy types, and then others in the lovely lounge area (see below – more glamorous slouchy seats, careful lighting) who were having coffee.
I think an evening meal or cocktails at the bar would be fun, and no doubt has a more buzzy vibe, as there are 22 chic bedrooms at the hotel, with hungry inhabitants.
I reckonThey play it smart here, with something for everyone – you could come in for brunch, business lunch, kids’ after schooler, family gathering or raucous bunch of mates and still have a great meal. Burgers, steaks and particularly the oven-fired pizzas hit the mark for most, but there’s also a selection of more restauranty fare – whole baked seabass, classic duck cassoulet, sweet potato and aubergine malaysian curry etc.
I started with gambas with Bloody Mary mayonnaise (£6), while my mum had prosciutto, spiced pear chutney and breadsticks (£7). My gambas were whoppers and absolutely delicious, plus the spin on the mayonnaise was fun.
Mains was a big fat juicy fillet steak with fries and beer battered onion rings (O.M.G – so good). I’m not sure what my mum had, I was too busy troughing to notice.
Dessert was shared – a rare event in the Muddy house but the trousers were straining. It was a caramel cheesecake with pomegranate icecream, and it was the course that tipped my mum into deciding to return again with ‘the girls’, her merry band of retired eater outers. Trust me, if my mum books a return trip, it’s good.
Well, children eat free every half term so I’d say so, yes! The place is so spacious that you’re not going to get irritated by toddler tantrums and even if your little darling kicks off, there’s a courtyard seating area at the back or the terrace at the front to escape to. The pizzas and burgers have kid-friendly virtually branded on them. It’s not the place to sit with a G&T and wave at your kids as they career up a pyramid climbing frame – it’s a more grown up space than that and there’s no garden to speak of – but it’s a great eating spot.
OUT & ABOUT
Where to start? In Stow itself it’s worth checking out the Market Square (20,000 sheep would be sold here at a time) and the 11th century church, plus my tip for great indie shops would include India Mahon (awesome jewellery), Law & Co for gifts and clothes and Meggie’s gift shop but really it’s just a case of wandering around and enjoying the scenery. Ten minutes down the road is Chastleton House, one of my favourite National Trusts, and there’s the gorgeous Snowshill Manor (15 minutes) and the super-pretty Upper and Lower Slaughter about 10 minutes away – take any overseas rellies there and watch them melt with joy.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Large groups (there’s some serious space here), families, quality/value seekers. It reminds me a bit of Coppa Club in Sonning, with its sleek furnishings and pops of colour.
Not for: Anyone expecting large lawns can think again – the courtyard is attractive but the views are to the car park.
The Damage: Very reasonable – £7-9 for most entrees, pizzas come in at £9.50-£12.50, mains from £12.50 and desserts £5-7.
Sheep on Sheep Street, Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire, GL54 1AG. Tel: 01451 830344. thesheepstow.co.uk