Tewkesbury Park review

Tewkesbury Park: A country-house hotel in the heart of the Cotswolds

21 Nov 2022 | |By Rob Crossan

The recently-refurbished Tewkesbury Park offers value for money in an increasingly overpriced area of English countryside

The Cotswolds were a popular visitor attraction long before Soho Farmhouse moved in and several market towns began resembling off-shoots of Notting Hill, just with even more scented-candle shops. This region was a popular stop-off on the Roman Fosse Way, which linked the south-west to the north-east of Britain. That was before the area became a wool-producing region of note; some 20,000 sheep would be sold at the market in Stow-on-the-Wold each day.

Today, the chief reason urbanites who love mud-free wellies and un-silage-splattered Land Rovers come here is for the landscape; a Laurie Lee daydream of sun-dappled steeples, meadows and hedgerows with, ideally, clouds as light as aerosol cream sitting above honey-coloured merchant houses and fields where the wind doesn’t shake the barley but gives it a lengthy massage.

Tewkesbury Park is pretty much exactly the kind of place that a city dweller with a love of biscuit-tin bucolic scenery, but a fear of livestock and threshing equipment, would want to bed down in. A white-washed sprawl of rooms and suites surrounded by an 18-hole golf course and a butter-spread view of the Malvern Hills beyond.

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The hotel’s Mint restaurant was distressingly empty on my Saturday evening visit, however, with just two other tables occupied in a room that tries hard to feel like a statement but actually feels like an afterthought. Possibly an old conference room that has been retro-fitted with a few plants yet has retained the kind of low, cheap, tiled ceiling you see in branches of Argos.

The food, with an impressive lack of food miles throughout, is mostly extremely pleasant. An absolute knockout spinach and ricotta tortellini was a lavish, buttery, sybaritic affair, fattened and thickened with lemon, wild mushrooms and crème fraiche. A crispy topping of Grano Padano gave the surface a perfect cheese-toastie-like texture.  

The tempura cauliflower wings with ginger and soy dipping sauce were sufficiently well cooked but needed much more tempura (I like tempura to have a coat as thick as a war reporter’s flak jacket). The hake ‘meen moilee’, meanwhile, was a bouncy, egg-white-coloured, glorious slab of an absurdly under-rated fish. Yet it lacked the shake, rattle and spice that one would expect from tamarind peanut rice, ginger, garlic and mustard tempering. The dish was a purring Aston Martin. But I wanted the kick of a Harley Davidson.

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I stayed in one of the hotel’s lowest-priced Terrace rooms. At £124 a night, it might just provide the most affordable accommodation in this part of England. The room comes with a little patio with table, chairs, parasol and, in my case, a ringside seat for an hour-long argument between the couple sitting on the terrace next door (separated from mine only by the flimsiest of bamboo fences).

Still, the bed was large and comfy, the water pressure in the shower excellent (this is pretty much the most important thing to get right in any hotel, from Sydney to Stevenage) and the view over the golf course suitably genteel. The only sound was the occasional, erratically-driven golf buggy quietly chugging over the slopes.

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Not knowing a pitching wedge from a nine iron myself, I took to the indoor pool which has a huge patio door leading out to a hot tub and a Scandi-style sauna hut that’s shaped like a mini sausage roll. The problem is that there’s no view; the hot tub overlooks some abandoned boards piled against a wall. How I longed, while I let the bubbles work their magic, to have a view of those hills.

Tewkesbury Park is showing its age, slightly, and is definitely in need of some minor sprucing. My uneven experience reached its zenith over breakfast the next morning, again in the Mint restaurant.

A faux-rural style breakfast table of yoghurts, juices, fruits, cereals and teas looked exquisite. The cooked items less so; sweating out on what looked like a death-row line up of hotplates. I suspect the sausages wouldn’t have looked quite so tempting after half-an-hour of lounging in the heat-trapped, condensation-drenched metal tubs.

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Yet, what I really took away from Tewkesbury Park, other than the very lovely views and the often outstanding dishes at Mint, was the unevenness of the staff. At check in, my receptionist, Amelia, was a beaming, charming delight. Yet at other times, the staff looked like they were thinking about setting sail for the colonies that very night.

My waitress at dinner (who looked like she’d spent the day listening to Joy Division and Morrissey albums on loop) shuffled over and enquired glumly, ‘Can I get you anything?’ Well, yes, we’re in a restaurant. No ‘Good evening’. No ‘How are you?’ If this woman were a cartoon she would have had a rain cloud over her head and a Charlie Brown yellow-and-black T-shirt on. Other staff refused to make eye contact or say ‘hello’ when crossing my path in the grounds or in the corridors. The hotel seriously needs to fix this.

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Tewkesbury Park offers outstanding value for money in one of the most expensive areas of England. Yet it needs some tweaking before it truly gives that Cider with Rosie sense of folderol-free, rural contentment.

Doubles from £124, tewkesburypark.co.uk

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