Race you to The Pheasant
This stylish inn nr Lambourn is an odds on favourite for scoffing and quaffing before staggering to bed.
Gallop down the M4 to the heart of National Hunt racing country and discover The Pheasant Inn. On the outskirts of the village of Shefford Woodlands between Lambourn and Hungerford, this stylish country inn is just off the motorway, but weirdly feels like your in the middle of nowhere. Yes, there’s the vague hum of traffic while you’re stood outside and you can amuse yourself with the occasional lorry flying across the horizon. So pause, drink in the breathtaking view across the Berkshire Downs, then trot inside his 450-year-old drovers’ inn, loosen your reins and settle in for the night.
There was a mixed crowd packing out the bar and restaurant on the Friday evening that we visited. Given it’s proximity to the local racing yards, you get your fair share of jockeys and trainers enjoying a pint after a long day on the gallops alongside couples and families who come for the quality food and relaxing atmosphere. The pub was totally refurbished in 2016. Can you believe it shut for just two weeks while owner Jack Greenall and interior designer Flora Soames spruced the place up to create a stylish but cosy country bolthole? Me neither. But time is money. The end result is sympathetic – finished with squishy leather banquettes, wooden tables, a fair few horsey pictures, quirky artwork (there are some saucy sketches in the gents loos – unconfirmed by me, you’ll be pleased to hear) and the occasional bit of taxidermy.
The rooms are lovely – deep mattress and toppers, good quality bed linen, big knit blanket and a lush Scandi whicker chair. Although the bathrooms are quite small, they’re big enough to swing a cat (if you wish to try) with full-sized Bramley smellies (nice touch). Every effort is made to ensure your stay is restful and relaxing – tea and coffee was laid on a pretty tray, each room has a selection of books and a hot water bottle with knitted jacket was left on the bed. It ticks all the boxes for a boutique country bolthole. Although our room for the night was quite beige, I know many of the other 10 rooms have more colour, pattern and personality.
SCOFF & QUAFF
We ploughed through an excellent 3-course dinner. The menu is modern British, not overly fussy just really good pub grub made with top quality local and seasonal ingredients. The for me were the pickled mackerel on soda bread starter – so pretty, delicate and full of flavour. Special mention also goes out for the celery and celeriac soup which was light, delicious and served with two slices of bread that I just wanted to stick my face in. Yum …
The lemon and thyme guinea fowl on wild rice and Provencal veg was perfectly executed – moist bird, no soggy veggies. Happy days..
All the puds coming out of the kitchen looked and smelled lush. But we plumped for the cheese. There’s a great selection (£2.50 each) but we tried Chevington (first produced in 1895 and revived in 2001), West Country brie, Beauvale, a mild blue, and a stilton called Colton Bassett PDO. Just because.
OUT AND ABOUT
You’re spoilt for choice. There are plenty of rural walks or pop into Hungerford for a mooch. It’s only four miles down the road and you’ll find plenty of chi-chi boutiques, antique shops and cafes. Alternatively, enjoy a nose around the historic Welford Park or gallop off to Newbury Races for the day.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: There’s a lot to be a said for an overnighter in your own ‘hood – who wants to spend half the day sat in motorway traffic? The Pheasant is the prefect a rural escape from the mundanities of real life despite being geographically close by. If you’re looking for a romantic recharge, this is absolutely your spot. Equally it’d work well for girl’s night out or posh family meal.
Not for: Those with young families – the vibe is more grown up and with only a relatively small enclosed garden, parents might find it hard to relax. The food is amazing, but I’m not sure my ankle biters would really appreciate the niceties of something more refined that an chunky fish finger.
The damage: Doubles from £110 per night, including breakfast. It’s really good value and you will only pay £20 more (£130) per night for the best bedrooms. A 3-course dinner for two, with drinks, is around £100 so it’s what I would expect to pay in a good gastro pub.
The Pheasant, Ermin St, Shefford Woodlands, Hungerford RG17 7AA. Tel: 01488 648 284, thepheasant-inn.co.uk