Comfort with class is the boast at this refurbished cosy-chic refuge in the Cotswolds, where a new restaurant has been created that takes its menu inspiration from the hotel’s name. Rosalind Mullen reports
Need to know
The 63-bedroom Fish hotel opened in 2015. It joined two luxurious sister boutique hotels, Dormy House and Foxhill Manor, on the 400-acre Farncombe Estate near Broadway in the Cotswolds, which is owned by the Philip-Sorensen family from Denmark.
The Fish has been described as “part-boutique hotel and part-adventure hideout”, and dubs itself a “back-to-nature bolthole with a little touch of luxury”.
That identity is even more apt following a recent £4m renovation project, which has refocused and streamlined the eclectic collection of buildings, including a lodge, stables, outhouse, coach house and farmhouse.
As well as creating a new seafood restaurant called Hook, the works include revamped interiors in the lodge and six-bedroom farmhouse, and the addition of three luxury treehouses, 10 new bedrooms in the coach house and five fun “hideaway huts”.
“The aim at Farncombe has always been to end up with one integrated estate where guests can cross-utilise all the facilities on offer at the three hotels, particularly when it comes to food and beverage, and meetings and events,” explains Andrew Grahame, the estate’s chief executive.
“We felt the Fish needed to evolve to bring it in line with sister properties Dormy House and Foxhill Manor. We are really pleased with the results so far.”
The new restaurant and treehouses took just two months to complete. The hotel closed on 2 January and relaunched on 6 March despite heavy snowfall forcing the team to stay on site and work through the nights to ensure the project was delivered on time. The rest of the works have been completed over the summer.
The treehouses and Hook restaurant were designed by Hannah Lohan Interiors. Other areas, such as the six-bedroom farmhouse, were created by design director Nette Reynolds.
“Design is central to the business and a key driver when it comes to performance,” says Grahame. “Owner Nette Reynolds also acts as
design director, and each venue has a strong ‘hygge’ look and feel. The family is originally from Denmark, and the hygge philosophy they brought with them is at the heart of the design ethos at Farncombe. Each hotel promises simple, Scandi-inspired design, comfy corners to hide away in, open fires to curl up in front of, and fantastic food and wine to share with friends and family.”
Hannah Lohan’s treehouse designs are playful, but don’t skimp on luxury. “From the outside, the tree perches look like contemporary pods that have landed in the middle of the woods from outer space,” Lohan says. “Inside, they are cosy and luxurious, with lots of natural materials, layers and textures that reflect their natural surroundings. The internal timber cladding wraps around the curves of the walls and makes guests feel as though they are in an extension of the tree.”
Guests enter the open-plan living and sleeping space from the large private deck outside. Inside, there is a bespoke bed and large, L-shaped daybed made to fit the unusual shape of the “perches” and use all the space.
Lohan wanted the soft furnishings throughout to be fun and playful, so chose a mix of beautiful, bright and bold fabrics in an array of colours and patterns that work well when layered up together. The feel is deliberately Scandi to reflect the heritage of the Danish owners.
The bathrooms are stylish and chic, with stunning acoustic floor tiles, inspired by the patterns of the stars, and all the modern amenities of luxury hotel bathrooms.
There is also a fun, grown-up bunk room for adults or kids – again, with bespoke beds that nestle into the curves of the walls.
“In a nutshell, I would describe the tree perches as extreme glamping in a unique, fun and playful pod,” says Lohan.
The hideaway huts
At 303 sq ft, the five new shepherd’s huts are double the size of the existing “hilly huts”.
Designed by Blackdown Shepherd Huts and set decorator Marina Morris, the hideaway huts allow guests to be more in touch with nature. Each has underfloor heating, double beds and a star-gazing roof, bespoke Tom Raffield lights, William Holland rolltop baths and living areas with vintage furniture and a wood burner stove. They also offer privacy and romance – outside on the decking there is even a bath for two people offering views of the valley.
Room types at the hotel are described as medium, medium-luxe, terrace and veranda, and there are two small suites and six big suites, many of which are family-friendly.
This spring, 10 bedrooms were added to the coach house building, which is an original coaching inn. The fresh, calming interiors were designed by Trevillion and, again, combine bespoke Scandi features with traditional Cotwolds stonework.
The main interiors in the lodge – which houses the hotel’s social areas – have been refreshed, including updated guest restrooms, some featuring rolltop baths and Modern Living bespoke tiling. A new boot room, designed in conjunction with the Original Muck Boot Company, supplies guests with maps and walking equipment.
Other family-friendly elements, such as a screening room and dog agility obstacle
course, have also been added.
Laid-back but luxurious, Hook launched on 6 March following a million-pound redevelopment of the original restaurant. It focuses on serving responsibly sourced seafood from an open kitchen.
The man behind the vision is former two-Michelin-starred chef Martin Burge, Farncombe’s culinary director, with input from head chef Carl Holmes and executive chef Jon Ingram.
To meet their brief, Lohan used lots of luxurious Romo fabrics in calm, relaxing blues, browns and taupes as well as contrasting patterns, subtly layered to create interest and texture.
Again, there is a nod to hygge, with the fusion of neutral interiors and cosy textiles.
“As Hook is a large space, we wanted to make sure it had lots of private sections for couples and small groups,” says Lohan. “It needed to feel intimate but still open. We did this by zoning areas with different types of furniture – this included long banquettes, booths, bespoke high sofas for lounge-style dining and then more formal seating. This mix made it feel interesting and homely.”
The team also took down dividing walls and added more internal windows in steel. This not only connected spaces and guests, but imparted a cool, edgy, industrial vibe that is perfect for the agricultural surroundings and the architecture of its home, the lodge (a rustic building that, according to the designer, looks a bit like a “shed” from the outside).
Signature dishes on the sustainably sourced seafood menu include Porthilly rock oysters, poached salmon, whole baked seabass and lobster thermidor, with the average F&B dinner bill coming in at £45. The all-day restaurant, which is open to hotel guests and non-residents alike, also has outdoor seating on the terrace with wood-fired ovens.
The Fish hotel
Farncombe Estate, Broadway, Cotswolds
Reopened 7 March 2018
Refurbishment cost £4m
General manager Tom Aspey
Head chef Carl Holmes, supported by executive chef Jon Ingram and culinary
director Martin Burge
Number of staff 65
Number of bedrooms 63 in total, across rooms, suites, treehouses, hilly huts and
Seats in bar 50
Seats in Hook (hotel restaurant) 100
Room rate From £150 per night B&B, but forecast to finish the year on an average room rate of £154
Average F&B dinner spend £45 per person
Hannah Lohan Interiors www.hannahlohaninteriors.com
Artisans of Devizes (bathrooms) www.artisansofdevizes.com
Buscott Woodworking (bespoke beds) www.buscottwoodworking.co.uk
Calico Interiors (soft furnishings) www.calicointeriors.co.uk
Linwood (furnishing fabrics) www.linwoodfabric.com
Blackdown Shepherd Huts www.blackdownshepherdhuts.co.uk
Tom Raffield (lighting) www.tomraffield.com
William Holland (roll-top baths) www.williamholland.com
Hook restaurant Fritz Fryer (lighting) www.fritzfryer.co.uk
Pooky Lighting (lighting) www.pooky.com
Romo (fabrics) www.romo.com
Style Matters (bespoke sofas) www.stylematters.co.uk