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The Frogmill, Shipton Oliffe

Muddy Reviews: The Frogmill, Shipton Oliffe

‘Why have we never been here before?’ asked my husband, utterly perplexed, as we turned into the little hamlet of Shipton Oliffe, on our way to review The Frogmill.

I’d always thought my mind-map of Gloucestershire’s finest hostelries was watertight (I take my job very seriously) so to discover this resplendent country pub unfolding before us, off a much-travelled road, was actually quite thrilling

Within 50 yards of leaving the Oxford to Cheltenham A40 highway, which I must travel at least six times a week, we’d found ourselves outside this huge, rustic pub and inn.

THE LOWDOWN

So the basics first, The Frogmill is a Grade II listed, country pub in the bijou village-ette of Shipton Oliffe near Andoversford. You’re seven miles from Cheltenham and its Cosmo-quaffing bar scene, but this quintessential Cotswold hamlet – with its headcount of 365, one pretty church and the bucolic River Coln bubbling through it – is a peaceful slice of paradise.

Boutique pub owners Brakspear shook it up with a £3.5 million pound design makeover back in 2018, a move which has turned it into a countryside gastropub hotspot.

The first thing that strikes you is how big this place is for a Cotswold pub. I mean, it’s huge. There’s usually a bun fight for the last remaining pub table come 1pm on any Sunday around here, but not at The Frogmill – it boasts a 100-cover restaurant and has a bar area that weaves seductively through a series of fireplace-framed nooks, and 28 boutique-styled bedrooms to collapse into when you’re done.

THE VIBE

If you want a shot of pure Cotswold charm, you’ve come to the right place. Rustic fireplaces, flagstone floors and chunky wooden beams give it a stylish yet unpretentious feel. But it’s the quirky attention to detail that really sets it aside.

Mismatched vintage furniture, leather sofas, William Morris wallpaper and cool touches such as the big pink stiletto that hangs on the door of the ladies – I mean, could it get any more Muddy?!

When we arrived it was a Sunday afternoon and ram-packed with families, professional Sunday lunchers, wellie-ed up dog walkers and a few tourists thrown in for good  measure – but mainly it has a pleasantly low-key-and-local vibe.

sofa fire table

We were spoilt for choice where to curl up with our Grapefruit G&Ts (btw you have to try these, they were churning them out at the bar when we were there). But if you bag the right spot it’s a really chilled out place to watch the world go by. The only thing missing were the Sunday papers (but then I’m a news fiend so maybe not everyone’s as bothered!), but make sure to bring your own stack if you are, and you won’t have to move for the whole day.

The bar is well-stocked, with a selection of cocktails and a nice line up of wines and there’s an array of non-boozy mocktails and botanical spirits to choose from – quite handy being so blissfully far from the madding crowd here.

Outside there is a huge, honey-hued pub garden and terrace, which, if Storm Someone-or-Other hadn’t been blowing I’d have explored, it looked perfect for a sundowner on a sun-kissed evening, with views out to the rolling countryside and the River Coln running past.  A wisteria-draped pergola and the original watermill the place gets it name from out here are also lovely.

SCOFF AND QUAFF

We went for dinner bang on 6pm, when the restaurant opened (such keenos), and it didn’t disappoint. Twinkling tea lights in jars, low lighting (always good) and filled with country cottage charm, from rows of hanging wicker lampshades to old photos and vintage cottage artwork.

They do a great Low & No menu if you are Gluten Free or Vegan – the Miso Shitake Mushroom Ramen and Cacao & Avocado Mousse looked good enough to turn me. But I decided to go for a starter of Winter Stewed Tomato Tart with white balsamic and crumbled feta.

The most amazing melt-in-the-mouth dish which with an emphasis on sweet tomatoes rather than layers of overly-filling pastry (it comes on a wafer-thin disc of pastry – so original) and I would have it over and over again.

I’m always a sucker for great presentation, and The Frogmill gets it right with the Scallops, which my husband went for. They come served up in cast iron skillet pan on a base of sweetcorn puree, and sprinkled with capers. Just totally delish.

For mains, I opted for something from the Grill – the 8oz Tuna Steak – which was cooked to perfection. I’m embarrassingly British about eating anything even slightly resembling the shade ‘pink’ (I know, I know) but the accommodating team were totally fine with that and it came well cooked but still tender.

I didn’t make it through the whole roasted garlic that shared the plate – mainly for the sake of my marriage – but it was great too.

food table eating

We tried the King Prawn and Chorizo Linguine for the second main, which was on the big side (it went deep folks) but still a real delight.

In the name of work (just for you dear readers!) we thought it only right to road test a wine. A bottle of Pinot Grigio was duly brought, but it turned out to be weirdly sweet – a wine glitch we all agreed – to their credit the sommelier was lightening fast in whipping it away with no fuss and changing it faster than you could say ‘New Zealand Sauv Blanc’, which was beautiful. So a real five stars for service.

Desserts were also superb. I went for the Chocolate Delice with Chocolate Soil which was top notch and the Muddy guy had the Creme Brulee which came with luscious blackberries snuggled underneath it, and a layer of pistachio biscuits … which I immediately nicked, as any self respecting wife would.

Although we felt like we might have to be winched from the Terrace come the morning, breakfast was also done in the name of research, and it was an equally great experience. With a fresh spread of breads and cereals and fruit, and some  great options on the cooked menu, including the healthy sounding ‘Avo Toast’ which I went for.

food table room

PILLOW TALK

There are 28 rooms and suites to choose from at The Frogmill, and we were lucky enough to be in the Signature Suite. With an olde-world, solid wood door leading to an original, spiral, 16th century staircase (rare these days, so many have disappeared) into a huge, beamed attic space, with a spacious and stylish contemporary bathroom and an actual private terrace.

The Frogmill’s bedrooms feel like they’ve been curated by someone who really loves the Cotswolds – adorned with eclectic vintage touches such as old prints, floral bedsteads and rattan rugs, weaved in to a contemporary cottage design. Safe to say I would come back and stay here even though I live 20 minutes down the road it’s so gorgeous.

All the rooms and suites boast Feather & Black beds (ours was super king so you can go starfish-tastic), luxury bathrooms with freestanding bath tubs and balconies in some of the rooms.

The Temple Spa toiletries were great and there was a Nespresso coffee machine and bag of fudge to chow down on as a welcome gift, along with free Wi-Fi and complimentary water.

We were pooch-free this time, but definitely think about bringing your dog along with you as this place is really dog-friendly, with special rooms available for them that have water bowls and dog treats.

OUT AND ABOUT

You may not be in the middle of a bustling Cotswold market town, but you are near several, which makes it a perfect bolthole for exploring.

Located ten minutes from Cheltenham – head to John Lewis, The Ivy or the chic Montpellier boutiques, or take a ride on the Big Wheel in Imperial Gardens which gives you a birds eye view of this grand Regency town.

You are also nanoseconds from the A40 as mentioned, which snakes past places like the lovely Bourton-on-the-Water (amazing 40-flavour ice cream parlour and cream tea shops), Stow-on-the-Wold (for upmarket nick-nack buying and gallery browsing) and the much-photographed villages of Upper and Lower Slaughter.

Head 15 minutes south and find yourself in Roman Cirencester, with its cobbled streets, quirky cafes and brilliant New Brewery Arts Centre.

EXTRA FACTOR

The place knows how to throw a party. Peek through the door marked ‘Snug’ and you’re met with the biggest Snug we’ve ever seen. Big enough for a full sized table tennis table – which I obviously therr-ashed the Muddy man on – and loads of games to play.

hotel games woman

My gaming highlight was the 20-foot long Shuffleboard. I had no idea what Shuffleboarding was until I came here, and I’m still not sure I was shuffling correctly, but it was a hell of a lot of fun. A bit like air hockey without a power socket. I can see the kids been kept happy in here for days on end.

woman game room

The Snug also leads on to The Mill Room (see below), a wow-factor space which can cater for up to 150 seated guests and 200 standing. With its contemporary chandeliers hanging from its vaulted ceiling and awesome acoustics – what a place for a wedding, birthday, business event or party of dreams.

hall chairs lights

Essentially, The Frogmill is a proper all-rounder country pub. Perfect for summer with its terrace and fire pits and a go-to in winter with its roaring open fires and cosy nooks.

It must be good, we’ve been back twice (not solely for the G&Ts, I promise) since we reviewed, and each time it’s been so much fun.

Good For: Lovers of rustic chic. Brilliant for families, wriggly toddlers as there’s loads of space to spread out in, dog lovers, and super sociable types with long, chunky oak tables to pitch up around. Perfect for fun-seeking weekenders with its proximity to Cheltenham.

Not For: Anyone wanting a terribly quiet or private tete a tete. This pub has a big sociable heart and hearth. Nor for the dress-to-impress crowd, it’s wholesomely down to earth and casual – a giant hug in a pub.

The Damage: Prices are pretty reasonable with starters averaging £7 and mains around £16. A typical 3-course dinner without wine came to £37pp.

Stay at The Frogmill from £80 for a cosy double,  up to £225 for The Signature Suite.

To book your stay at The Frogmill click here.

Find more ideas here

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