The Fish Hotel review: Farncombe Estate, Worcestershire
Read our review of The Fish Hotel, a luxury relaxation countryside getaway set inside the Farncombe Estate in the Cotswolds
Looking for places to stay in The Cotswolds or boutique hotels in The Cotswolds? Read our review of The Fish Hotel...
What is The Fish Hotel's USP?
Set within the 400-acre Farncombe Estate, in Worcestershire, The Fish Hotel − sister site to acclaimed Dormy House and Foxhill Manor − relaunched this spring following a £4 million pound renovation. Half boutique hotel, half glamping experience, the new-look countryside bolthole is also home to a new seafood-inspired restaurant, headed up by former two Michelin-star chef Martin Burge.
And the general vibe?
If ever there was a hotel fit for the ‘gram, this would be it. Nette Reynolds, design director and owner, has worked her Scandi charm to ensure every room is bright and warm, with neutral shades, textured fabrics and soothingly clean lines.
The main hub of the hotel, The Lodge − with its patterned tiles, mood lighting, nature-inspired artwork and 360-degree fire − spans multiple rooms, attracting visitors for both business and pleasure.
There’s money in the air, but thanks to the playful blend of rustic charm and modern design, the ambience is both welcoming and sophisticated. In other words, relax, but don’t put your feet on the sofas.
Which room should I book at The Fish Hotel?
The latest renovations to the once-private farmhouse are pretty knockout but solo guests or couples looking for some quiet time might want to avoid it on account of the noise level from other rooms (we were woken frequently throughout the night with the sound of other guests moving around on the first floor above us).
The space is designed for large groups of up to 15 who can stay nearby to each other and share its glamorous communal living area − SMEG fridge, wood-burner, fur-lined armchairs and hygge-inspired furnishings – so if you’re looking for more tranquility either request a first floor room, or look to the nearby Stables or Outhouse for more privacy.
If you’re visiting with a smaller group after May 2018, book the hotel’s luxe treehouses (designed by Hannah Lohan complete with ensuite bathroom and underfloor heating) or botanical-themed Hideaway Huts with interiors designed by Somerset-based Blackdown Shepherd Huts and set decorator, Marina Morris. These look set to offer next-level glamping with bespoke Tom Raffield lights and tailor-made William Holland baths for an indulgent but adventurous stay on the estate.
What’s good to drink at The Fish Hotel?
The Cotswolds is full to the brim with local craft ales and independent distillers; the biggest and most notable, Hereford’s Chase Distillery, features prominently across the menu with Fever Tree tonics (check out our taste test here) offered as standard pairings for mixers. The wine menu is vast, with only a handful of options served by-the-glass, so bring friends to experience the best of the bottle-only vintages.
What’s good to eat at The Fish Hotel?
Former two-Michelin-starred executive chef at Whatley Manor, Martin Burge, took on the role of culinary director of the Farncombe Estate back in May 2017. Not long after he joined, talks were underway for a makeover, namely Hook, Burge’s new restaurant. General manager Kimberley Payne points out the new vaulted ceilings, an open kitchen and central banquet table which the engaging waiting staff gather and work from as the evening unfolds.
Crusty bread and seaweed butter (the first lacking that eponymous crust, the latter good enough to eat alone) are presented while we look over Burge’s maritime-influenced menu. Signature dishes − Porthilly rock oysters and grilled lobster − sound tempting but the distinct clattering of Fowey mussels from a nearby table grab our attention; fresh, plump and unabashedly messy to eat, their white wine and parsley sauce is slurped with joy.
Burge has welcomed the unpredictable nature of the seas to the menu with his Catch of the Day; a sea bass fillet − excellent crispy skin and pearly flakes − is held atop a fragrant Thai sauce, seasonal green veg and sticky jasmine rice. It’s simple but immensely comforting food, humble in its offering but presented with finesse thanks to the glazed Strata Shoreline tableware, slate boards and absence of fussy white tablecloths.
Pudding can only be one thing when soufflé appears on the menu; a wispy cloud of cocoa and melting praline centre paired with a sip of full-bodied New Zealand Sticky Mickey Late Harvest dessert wine.
What’s the breakfast like at The Fish Hotel?
It’s a buffet affair here: freshly squeezed OJ, a continental spread of local carved ham, cheese, pastries, fresh fruit and sweet cakes.
Surprisingly, for a hotel of this calibre, the hot menu isn't available to order from the table, but guests are invited to serve themselves at an open kitchen, with chefs frequently refilling plates of freshly cooked local bacon, sausages, black pudding, and knocking out personalised egg orders from the station nearby (the poached were runny perfection). Great for saving on food waste (there's always something left on the plate when a typical 'Big Breakfast' is ordered), but not quite the relaxed, sophisticated start to the morning that we'd expected.
Any other food experiences I shouldn’t miss?
Afternoon tea (£22.50pp or £32.50 with a glass of Delamotte Champagne) is served daily from 2.30-5.30pm in the The Lodge, but as the lighter nights draw ever closer, we’ll be returning with family and friends for an al-fresco dinner on the feasting deck.
Executive chef Jon Ingram and his team can cater for parties of 10-20 guests, preparing a three-course BBQ from the wood-fired ovens and Weber barbecue, while sharing his top tips from the coals.
Is The Fish Hotel family-friendly?
Part of the renovations extend to a new games room within The Lodge, complete with full-size pool table, foosball, stacks of board games and reading nooks for whiling away an afternoon with a pot of Hoogly Tea.
A new collaboration with The Original Muck Boot Company provides boots on loan and printed walking maps for the family to suit up and explore nature trails to nearby Willersey and Chipping Campden.
There’s also a custom-built screening room for up to 15, and an eight-obstacle dog agility course and children’s play zone created using recycled wood from the estate.
What can I do in the local area?
Our visit coincided with the Cheltenham Races (the course is only 19 miles away) but there’s also Sudeley Castle in Winchcombe and Blenheim Palace in Woodstock for a spot of historical fun, while families will love Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park (a 20-minute drive from the estate) for the chance to pet rare-breeds and take in the nature trails on the popular working farm.
The concierge says…
Pay a visit to the local village, Broadway (if you’re exploring in daylight guests can walk along the path through the estate in roughly 20 minutes). You’ll need a few days to get through its many tea rooms, but drop by Broadway Deli to stock up on Cotswold honey and local cheese (St Oswald from Gorsehill Abbey is a personal favourite) and then onto Burford Garden Company for their art gallery, prized glasshouse café and expansive home store.
The best views often come with a climb, and there’s no exception for Farncombe Estate and its countryside vista over the Vale of Evesham. Once you’ve driven up Fish Hill (aka the A44), signposts direct you to whichever hotel you’re visiting (Dormy House, Foxhill Manor or the Fish). Bear this in mind if you’re arriving with guests who have accessibility issues, as there’s limited parking directly beside much of the accommodation.
Rates at The Fish Hotel start from £140, B&B. For the best deals on rooms at The Fish Hotel, click here
Words by Sophie Rae
Photographs by The Fish Hotel, Sophie Rae