The George in Shipston, in Shakespeare country, is an affordable gem on the edge of the costly Cotswolds. Here’s our review…
The George is a handsome Georgian townhouse both inside and out. The bar’s a convivial combo of exposed stone, timber and tiled walls. To the right, a snug – with its leather chairs and come hither fireplace – is a haven after a hectic motorway drive, while the easy-going mix of guests and locals was a good sign that The George is a place with as many friends close to home as further afield.
Beyond the cosy hotel reception a library with deep red walls and a huge stone fireplace beckoned, but we headed straight up the stairs to our large, bright ensuite ‘asparagus’ bedroom. Decorated in earthy tones with contemporary silver furniture, it included a trendy sofa that wouldn’t look out of place in a Soho production office. Tasteful, comfortable and spotless with mod cons – TV, dvd player, ipod speaker dock – the only items lacking were the promised Molton Brown goodies.
If you enjoy admiring your food as much as you like eating it, picking this inn for a night or two away is a sage choice. Its USP is the food-themed rooms – each one named after such sensuous fodder as asparagus, chillies, chocolates and marshmallows, which feature in striking photographs above comfy beds.
Dinner was in a warmly-lit and welcoming restaurant attached to the bar. Starters were a promising opening: we shared an excellent beetroot-cured gravadlax with a dollop of creamy crème fraîche studded with salty caviar on a generously-sized homemade blini, and a fresh basil and chicken risotto with al dente rice and a perfectly poached egg.
Mains were a fine rack of lamb with a rose-tinted hue, potato cake, and just-cooked-right green beans, and a minute steak with fries. No complaints there – the flavourful steak was cooked to order, the string fries moreishly salted, and (being a lady) the well-dressed heap of salad appreciated. The medley of cabbage side order – often an afterthought in kitchens – was spot on.
For dessert we opted to share a poached pear with mulled wine sorbet, partly because it sounded like the kind of pud Masterchef’s Gregg Wallace would happily suck on his spoon for. Though the pear was a little bitter, the sorbet was light and cleansing – the flavours of winter married beautifully with textures of summer.
The friendly staff and homely atmosphere make The George’s restaurant a boon to the area. It serves fairly priced, good quality, well-proportioned food, and the chef showed flashes of real talent. The quality continued at breakfast; a pleasingly traditional Warwickshire fry-up was devoured alongside croissants, fresh fruit and yogurt, and an agreeably large pile of Sunday papers.
Overall, the George is more of an elegant inn than high-end boutique hotel but its lack of pretension adds to its appeal. Shipston-on-Stour is a pretty, historical market town that’s often overlooked in favour of its more famous, more touristy neighbours such as Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick. Ideally located and excellent value for money, staying there was an inexpensive treat.
Weeknights range from £65-£85: weekends range from £75-£95.