Muddy Reviews: The Frogmill, Cheltenham
Looking for a good all-rounder pub with a huge rustic heart? The award-winning Frogmill is just a stone's throw from the bright lights of Cheltenham but has max country charm appeal. We checked in for lunch and a stay to see what it was like.
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’s Cosmo-quaffing bar scene, but this quintessential Cotswold hamlet – with its headcount of 365, one pretty church and the River Coln running 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. It’s clearly had an impact as the pub scooped County Pub of the Year 2022 for Gloucestershire in the National Pub & Bar Awards recently.
The first thing that strikes you is how big this place is for a Cotswold pub. There’s usually a bun fight for the last remaining pub table on any given 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.
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 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 (extra Muddy brownie points).
When we arrived it was a Sunday afternoon and jam-packed with families, professional Sunday lunchers, wellie-ed up dog walkers and a few tourists thrown in for good measure – but geneerally it has a pleasantly low-key and local vibe.
We were spoilt for choice where to sit with our signature Grapefruit G&Ts (btw you simply have to try these). 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 jazzy cocktails and a fine line up of wines and there’s an array of non-boozy mocktails and botanical spirits to choose from.
Outside there is a huge, honey-hued pub garden and terrace which is extremely pretty to sit out in, with gorgeous gardens bursting with beds of lavender and flowers and a trickling stream. It’s a top spot 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 is perfect for those selfies, and the original water wheel where it gets its name is quite the back drop.
SCOFF AND QUAFF
We’d been for dinner here before in the past, but always in the main restaurant which is a lovely place, with its quirky country cottage charms, hanging wicker lampshades and old photos.
This time we opted to have a more relaxed lunch experience and, having the pooch in tow, we sat in the bar which is welcoming and rustic with its big flagstones and chunky church pews, a long, snaking bar that you’d never fight to get a drink at.
The menu is well thought out and curated with a fairly conservative choice of seven to nine dishes per course to choose from. For starters I had the Chapel & Swan Smoked Salmon which was delicious, with lots of perky, salty cornichons and slithers of sourdough.
My other half had the Crispy Salt and Pepper Squid which passed the fresh and zesty test with flying colours. For mains I really felt like a salad with the heat that day, not something I’d normally go for but I was so glad I did.
The Waldorf Salad with Chicken comes with fresh grapes, apple, celery, and the most amazing candied walnuts ever to end up in lettuce. Since visiting I have tossed these rock and roll nuggets into every salad I have made they were that good. I also ordered extra halloumi to make it a bit more substantial which was utterly delicious, although not actually necessary as it was quite hearty anyway.
Mr T went for the Crab and Prawn Linguine which I was really tempted by, but he beat me to it. Nicely proportioned as you can get overly full on pasta, it was really tasty with huge prawns. We both thought an extra bit of heat would have made it even better, but a splash of chilli oil sorted out that problem instantly.
For desserts the menu has every British classic covered, I went for the Eton Mess Cheesecake which was absolutely delicious, light, and super summery twist on the classic dish.
My Muddy other half went for the Belgian Dark & White Layered Chocolate Mousse Cake which was fabulously indulgent and had the most moorish pieces of crunchy honeycomb scattered over it. Heaven on a plate.
The pub also does a Low & No menu if you are Gluten Free or Vegan – the Miso Shitake Mushroom Ramen and Cacao & Avocado Mousse sounded amazing if that’s your bag.
In the morning, breakfast was also impressive, with a fresh spread of breads and cereals and fruit, and some great options on the cooked menu, including Avo Toast which was really good.
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 place for exploring the area from.
Located ten minutes from Cheltenham – head to John Lewis, The Ivy, No.131 or the chic Montpellier boutiques, or sit out in the beautifully manicured Imperial Gardens.
You are also nanoseconds from the A40 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.
THE EXTRA FACTOR
The Frogmill 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 other games to play.
My 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 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.
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.
Essentially, The Frogmill is a proper all-rounder country pub. Perfect for summer with its pretty terrace 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) and each time it’s been a great experience.
Good For: Lovers of rustic, country charm. 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 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 £9 and mains around £16. Our three course lunch without wine came to £75.
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.