Anarchic hotel a taste like MarmiteBy Stuart White
January 27, 2009
Described by The Times as ‘unashamedly gaudy’, Cotswolds88 is A Clockwork Orange meets Alice in Wonderland.
The former Painswick Hotel demanding attention is at the cutting edge of design – tailor-made for hipsters and style lovers.
Eccentric yet calming, thought-provoking but super sexy, and so self-confident and aloof that if you told her she looked beautiful she would probably just disagree.
From the outside all is calm. An 18th Century Grade II listed Palladian mansion in the most picture perfect of Gloucestershire villages. But inside designer Marchella de Angelis – a self-confessed frustrated pop star – has created a modern masterpiece. “Hermes meets punk,” she said. “A hotel based on chilling and relaxing, and not uptight or stuffy.”
Shocked locals are not entirely convinced. “It used to be log fires and cosy until that maniac Italian ruined the inside,” moaned one, a 71-year-old Canadian who also hates the feng shui-inspired name (the number eight is believed to be lucky).
He continued: “She should have at least called it 69 to appeal to the young London crowd who come here for a naughty weekend.”
I later saw the very same man eating Sunday lunch with a party of 14 celebrating a 91st birthday in the 88Room hotel restaurant, and having the time of his life. Seduced by the dark side, no doubt, or the new owners who have since added their own touches.
And just when you thought it couldn’t get any more rock n’ roll, I was told in the futuristic bar by the cocktail shakerman how head chef Francesco Volgo has completed two world tours serving up dinner for the Rolling Stones.
The Dali-inspired restaurant is, believe it or not, probably even a little bolder than Mick Jagger performing ‘Satisfaction’ on stage at Wembley Stadium.
With a dress code of ‘casual elegant’, nothing could be too flamboyant here. The evening attracted a crowd of trend-setters who wanted it noticed they were wearing labels they did not want noticed, and a collection of knowing nods – we were all members of this club even if it was for just one night.
The European-influenced food was far more simple. Locally sourced, seasonal and organic – where possible, of course – it was a relief to be eating a good, honest meal with minimal fancy touches and big flavours. Even if it was off a rattlesnake skin table surrounded by black and white striped wallpaper and carpet. You could quite happily lose your mind in here – it’s almost surreal.
Staff, who dress smartly and act efficiently, quite rightly will make a point of handing you the keys to the table for the whole night so you will not be rushed off early to bed, unless you want to.
Upstairs the lounge area has more of the works of quirky art which are scattered with precision throughout the 19-bedroomed hotel. The garden and terrace would also have been inviting but for the howling January gale that blew during our funky country night away.
We woke early the next morning excited about exploring tranquil Painswick – just outside Stroud and 70 miles from Reading. Famous for the 99 yew trees that pop up like ice creams in the St. Mary’s churchyard, the devil will not allow 100 to grow despite numerous attempts (according to folklore), the village is a maze of charming and winding streets.
The Royal Oak pours a good pint but we were intrigued by the Cotswold Life food retailer of last year on Friday Street. The rustic Olivas Deli is packed full of treats and wholesome produce – wine, pasta, olives, bread and cakes – and is a must for foodies.
During the summer the owner fires up a barbecue on the street and the local resident with the Chow-Chow, they all like to talk here, said “it is like Spain when the sun shines – everyone eats outside”.
We then branched out along single-track lanes to neighbouring village Sheepscombe for a recommended Sunday lunch at The Butchers Arms, which had retained its roaring fires and was incredibly cosy.
Incredibly Cotswolds, even, and not New York or London like that anarchic hotel with the turbo-charged personality. I was warned on arrival: “It’s like Marmite – you will either love it or hate it.” I loved it.
Stuart stayed at Cotswolds88, Kemps Lane, Painswick, Gloucestershire, GL6 6YB. Tel: 01452 813688 or visit the entertaining www.cotswolds88hotel.com
Rooms with a view start from £155 per night including breakfast. Two-night minimum stay at weekends with the option of an inclusive dinner rate of £65 for three courses (for two people) from the à la carte menu.