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, head chef Jonathon Pons also has a rather swish Spanish Josper coal-fired oven and American smoker at his disposal. This, people, means big flavours.
Muddy sales supremo Kate and husband Tim couldn’t whittle down their choice of starters to just one each, so decided to get three (loving their style) – juniper cured & smoked salmon, Jospered asparagus and venison & Old Spot pork Scotch egg – and mighty fine they look too. Kate doesn’t even like smoked salmon, but couldn’t get enough of it. (Maybe that was something to do with the fact that it’s smoked over whiskey oak barrel clippings? Just a thought.)
The grill was calling them for mains (note: while it is the main event, you can also get your pub classics like fish & chips, gammon & chips and burgers, as well as tasty veg fare such as grilled Mediterranean vegetable open sandwiches and aubergine & harissa ragout). The idea with the grill is you choose your protein (seafood or meat) and build your meal around it with a selection of sides. Kate opted for half a lobster with sides of steamed & chargrilled broccoli, topped with chilli & Stilton butter & crispy shallots.
Tim had the 16oz Tomahawk pork steak – which was succulent, juicy and HUGE – with sides of maple & beer-glazed carrots and parmesan & truffle fries. Chunky, crispy and fluffy on the inside, the latter were “to die for”, reports Kate who “helped” Tim eat them.
Alas, there was no room for pudding which sounds like a shame because the choice of warm treacle tart, strawberry Eton mess, passion fruit posset and chocolate delice (chocolate “soil” and salted maple ice cream) also sound to die for.
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 newly renovated 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). And for 2019, prices start from just £1,750! I know!
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.
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 £14 mark. The grill is a bit pricier – think north of £20. Puddings are £5.50 or £6 and the cheeseboard (a quaint sounding selection of, among other things, Mrs Kirkham’s cheddar and crab apple jelly) is £8.
The Frogmill, Shipton Oliffe, Andoversford, Glos GL54 4HT; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; tel: 01242 386364; thefrogmill.co.uk