Big flavours, a big grill and a big, friendly welcome is the order of the day at this newly zhuzhed up country pub near Cheltenham.
The culinary gem that is The Frogmill is conveniently located just off the A40 seven miles out of Cheltenham in the teeny tiny village of Shipton Oliffe (population around 300!), which has a teeny tiny tributary of the River Coln running through it, as well as the Gloucestershire Way. The countryside is A star and being so close to a main road does not detract from the bucolic atmosphere – it just makes it easy to get to!
A 16th-century, Grade II-listed Cotswold beauty, a lot of time (more than two years) and money (£3.5 million) has been poured into transforming the erstwhile Marco Pierre White eatery into an all-singing, all-dancing gastro pub with rooms – and it’s paid off. The perfect mix of quirky and classic, loads of the original features are still intact – fireplaces, flagstone floors, exposed beams – but mismatched vintage furniture, William Morris wallpaper and eye-catching individualistic touches (a pink stiletto on the door of the ladies for one – which is right up Muddy’s street) elevate the old inn from country pub to des-res dining (and overnighting) bolthole.
The bar is a good-looking space with said retro tables and chairs and a low, oak-beamed ceiling festooned with hops, while the restaurant, a light, airy affair with the same furniture aesthetic, has curvy wicker lampshades hanging from the ceiling. Both areas have walls heaving with prints, plates and a mish-mash of collectibles that look like they’ve been picked up by your stylish friend who has a flea-market habit.
The outdoor space is just as gorgeous with the original watermill, a stone pergola draped with wisteria, a massive dining terrace, tempting sun loungers (mine’s a G&T, ta) and a boules court. I’ve said it before but I’m going to say it again – the Continent, eat your heart out!! Long gone are the UK’s dark days of culinary shame.
SCOFF & QUAFF
It’s imperative to arrive hungry, the hungrier the better because you’re in for a feast and the portions are big! As well as the obligatory fresh, local ingredients, they have a rather swish Spanish Josper coal-fired oven and American smoker at their disposal. This, people, means big flavours.
We decided to share two starters, one of them being a main – smoked ham hock and pea terrine, and Gloucester Old Spot pork ribeye – and mighty fine they were too. The pork in particular was melt-in-your-mouth fantastic, and as it’s Gloucester Old Spot you can even ask for it a little bit pink!
Mains were pretty impressive too. Mudlets One and Two had Dexter beef burgers (obvs) with absolutely delicious fries, yours truly had the chicken and asparagus pie (truly yum) and Mr Muddy plumped for the Brakspear Ale battered haddock.
Mudlet Three chose from the fab kids’ menu, going for her staple bangers and mash. A jug of gravy was offered on the side – a lovely touch.
And of course there was room for pudding. We shared a salted caramel fondant with milk ice cream but, oh my God, the piece de resistance was the sticky toffee pudding, which could quite possibly be the best I’ve ever tasted.
The pub has an impressive 28 boutique bedrooms to overnight in with Feather & Black beds, cosy decor, slipper baths and waterfall showers. The rooms are accessed via a maze of quirky corridors which make you feel as if you’ve stepped into the pages of Alice in Wonderland, but when you walk through the door, it’s throw your watch away and let time slip by.
All the rooms feel homely and welcoming, and they’re all different, with assorted paintings hanging on the walls, sofas or leather chairs to sink into and cute touches like old-fashioned alarm clocks on the bedside table. There’s a lot of wow factor going on – from a contemporary four-poster bed, wood-burning stove and side-by-side showers in the Suite (top choice for brides and grooms, see below) to the bed romantically tucked under the eaves and private roof terrace complete with sofa in the attic Signature Room.
If you’ve got nuptials coming up, you need to put The Frogmill on your list of venues to check out. The Mill Room is just scrumptious with its modern-style chandeliers and vaulted ceiling. It caters for up to 150 seated guests (200 for evening celebrations) and has its own entrance and terrace, as well as a second cosy private space which feels like a posh sitting room with comfy sofas to sit and have a chat in and a ping-pong table to keep kids (and big kids) amused. The acoustics are incredible if you’re thinking live band or disco (and speeches obvs, too).
I should say so. With the spacious outdoor area to let small people loose in, they should stay amused once they’ve bolted from the yummy mini menu – fish & fries, burger, sausage & mash, macaroni & cheese – which also includes colouring and word search-type activities to keep them at the table long enough for the food to arrive. They are doggie friendly too.
OUT & ABOUT
You’re very near Chedworth Roman Villa, one of the largest Roman villas in Britain and a great place to take kids – there are often activities going on there, especially during the school holidays. Cheltenham is a short drive away with all the delights – from shopping to sightseeing to carousing – the Regency spa town has to offer. Ramblers walking the Gloucestershire Way can enjoy a superior refuelling pit stop here and if you’re on a picturesque Cotswold villages road trip, nearby Andoversford will be on your list.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Whether you’re with a crowd or on a romantic expedition, The Frogmill will tick the box for most occasions and with such amazing food, I can’t really imagine anyone who wouldn’t like this pub.
Not for: See above!
The damage: Not too butt-clenching, with starters, salads and sandwiches around £9 and mains coming in at the £13 mark. The grill is a bit pricier – think north of £20. Puddings are £6 or £6.50 and the cheeseboard (a quaint sounding selection of, among other things, Ragstone goat’s cheese and damson and sloe gin conserve) is £11.95.
The Frogmill, Shipton Oliffe, Andoversford, Glos GL54 4HT; email: email@example.com; tel: 01242 386364; thefrogmill.co.uk