I don’t know about you but although I regularly drive through Painswick on weekends, or occasionally stop to wander around the churchyard or have a quick bite to eat, I’d never really ventured further. I really should have though; for if you drive down the narrow olde-worlde streets, you’ll end up at The Painswick hotel.
Inside The Painswick
Part of the Calcot Collection, which in the Cotswolds includes Calcot Manor and Barnsley House, The Sunday Times named The Painswick as their “Ultimate Hotel of the Year”. From the second we set foot through the door, it was obvious why. The decor is very Instagrammable and luxurious; from the late-Palladian architecture to the neon sign in the entrance hall and the incredibly bright and colourful bar. It’s all incredibly tasteful and comfy, and I can’t think of anything more delightful than to while away the hours exploring.
The dining room has plenty of distressed vintage wood,sumptuous leather chairs, an abundance of light streaming through the tall windows and quirky touches that surprise and delight. If you look around, the original bread oven, modernised with a brass door, still bakes crusty sourdough daily, and local cheese are kept under glass cloches on a marble counter.
Having been invited for lunch, we were shown out onto the lawned terrace overlooking the stunning Slad Valley; imagine rolliing swathes of green as far as the eye can see. After a tasty mocktail and some delicious canapés to whet our appetites, we headed to the restaurant for one of the best lunches we’ve had locally. Period.
As a starter, the creamy burrata with vibrant Isle of Wight tomatoes, salty green olives, gremolata and tangy sourdough was always going to be hard to beat. Exceedingly simple, exceedingly fresh and exceedingly tasty, the ingredients were perfectly showcased. I can’t think of a better summer starter (although let me know if you can as I’m happy to give it a try!). Making sure Sarah didn’t miss out due to her pregnancy, the chef thoughtfully swapped her burrata for LIncolnshire Poacher; the sweet pineapple flavours worked well although she still stole some of my burrata anyway.
The other starter option was a sea bream carpaccio with avocado, coriander, white peach and almonds. I didn’t try any but it looked delicious and my fellow diners had remarkably clear plates so that says everything.
The Main Event
I chose Cornish monkfish for my main with coco beans, beetroot, cauliflower and a chicken vinaigrette. The flavours married beautifully with the sweet, buttery young beets and meaty fish being balanced by the light, summery vinaigrette. Sarah’s Cotswold lamb rack and breast came with king oyster mushrooms, peas, broad beans, artichokes and a rich jus. Despite having to have it served well done, the chef managed to keep it moist and tender which is no mean feat, and Sarah thoroughly enjoyed it.
Head Chef Jamie McCallum
Whilst we’re talking about the chef, it’s worth a few words to introduce him. Jamie comes to The Painswick having worked under Gary Rhodes and as Anthony Demetre’s Head Chef at the 1 Michelin Star Wild Honey in Mayfair. You can also expect fish to be prominent on the menu; he joins The Painswick from Flying Fish Seafoods, a leading Cornish fish supplier. For me, his bistro-style menu was punchy, and well executed, and that’s all I can really ask for.
Continuing the theme of elevating simple ingredients into exquisite dishes, dessert was Oakchurch farm strawberries from Herefordshire, served with a strawberry sorbet, creamy avocado and lime. Strawberries can be a bit hit and miss on menus with berries being overripe, underripe, or just plain small. Thankfully these were pristine examples with sweet, juicy flesh. Topped with a thin meringue shard dotted with freeze dried strawberries, the sharp lime and sweet fruit were a perfect light way to end the meal. On a more pretentious menu, this might have been called a ‘deconstructed Eton Mess’; but that wouldn’t suit The Painswick’s relaxed approach and besides, I’d take this over Eton Mess everyday.
The other pudding on offer was a custard tart with pine nuts, golden raisins and brown butter. When this arrived at other tables, I had a pang of jealousy; I’d have happily eaten both desserts and taken some more home for dinner. This was compounded by the looks of bliss on their faces as they broke apart the crisp pastry and enjoyed the golden custard inside. Still, at least I have an excuse to go back again soon!
Needless to say, The Painswick is going right up near the top of my list of favourite local restaurants. The cooking is immaculate, the surroundings are on point and the service flawlessly informal. I can’t wait to book an overnight stay and get the full experience. If I’ve not yet convinced you, perhaps this recent review from Jay Rayner will do the trick instead. Needless to say, he rather enjoyed it too.