Little London’s Wersha Bharadwa heads to the The Fish Hotel – a Cotswolds estate that makes for an ultra-cool, quintessentially British luxury family getaway – for a weekend full of back-to-nature adventures for kids and blissfully grown-up glamour for parents.
Review: The Fish Hotel, a Luxury Family Retreat
A class of its own, The Fish Hotel is nestled deep inside 400 sprawling acres of idyllic parkland that make up the Farncombe Estate in Broadway, Worcestershire – also home to glitzy sister hotels Dormy House and Foxhill Manor.
You’ll find leaving the seriously hip country retreat a struggle, but if you do, head out to Capability Brown designed folly, Broadway Tower. It’s the second highest point in the Cotswolds and a 10-minute drive away. If time allows, hop over to the chocolate-box Broadway village for a nose around honey-stoned shops, a famous deli, cutesy cafes and traditional pubs.
The drive down is tremendous fun and as theatrical as it gets. You’ll drive past Foxhill Manor first, and some staggeringly beautiful views over the Vale of Evesham. Cute signage tells you to watch out for deer and roaming Guinea fowl. Indeed, arriving at dusk ups your chances of spotting the wild stag known to graze serenely on roadside lawns inside the estate.
You can’t really call The Fish a hotel either; it’s more a quirky, elite village-within-in-a village with bedrooms and suites spread and scattered across a hill and in varying detached buildings such as former coach houses, pretty painted stables, dreamy shepherds’ huts, exclusive-use farmhouses and three swanky treehouses.
The game changer here is the resort like feeling. Bin whatever notions you had of what a luxury hotel should be because here the guest accommodation is so varied with each offering a different sleeping experience, you’ll come back to road test them all.
But where some large, resort-style hotels lack the personal touch, The Fish buzzes with affable staff (all are friends making the place feel like a proper community) and in spoiling big and little kids rotten.
Formalities are shed at check-in; Natalie and Lee offer us complimentary drinks and printed, hand-illustrated maps of the area in The Lodge – a nature-inspired entertaining hub and where you’ll find reception, a cosy bar and the hotel’s memorable restaurant, The Hook.
A large formal lounge and games room sits opposite, and is filled with plump sofas, armchairs and tables. It’s perfect for an afternoon of boardgames or an evening banging out tunes on the piano (guests are always welcome to play).
Suite Dreams: Rooms at The Fish Hotel
There are 63 bedrooms and suites in total, including five Hilly Huts, three treehouses and 10 hideaway huts, all serene and equally sumptuous. Entry to the gracious treehouses is via a wobbling rope bridge – terrific fun for children who’ll also enjoy splashing around in twin private outdoor baths on sizeable wooden outdoor terraces which wrap around treehouses.
Each of the arboreal abodes come with log burner fires and comfy bunk beds for the kids. Treehouse number three has its own paddle boat for moonlit rowing across a private lake. Designed by the team behind the famed treehouses at Chewton Glen, you’ll need to book early as they’re always in demand.
Book one of the five Shepherd’s Huts for a parents-only getaway; all are stupendously romantic and packed with thoughtful extras including binoculars, board games, classic books and flip flops for wood-fired hot tubs you’ll spend hours soaking in.
The new Hillside Hangouts offer the best of both worlds for larger families too. As roomy, self-catering farmhouses they’re kitted out with high end tech and give guests full access to hotel facilities. Suites inside the recently renovated Coach House are luxury in every sense. A former coaching inn, the team have been careful to retain the building’s original features with huge windows opposite cloud-like king beds and private outdoor terraces offering panoramic views over the downs.
Partition walls separate open-plan hygge-inspired bedrooms from spacious living rooms hosting sofa beds that easily convert into additional doubles for smaller kids. Two large flat-screen TV’s come with Chromecast to hook up with your own Netflix, Disney, and Amazon Prime accounts and, thankfully, USB sockets are plentiful. Room service is equally flashy; everything is ordered via an in-room tablet.
Alongside soothing interiors and thoughtfully placed in-room Monopoly boards, there’s a nice selection of welcome gifts; boxed handmade Fish shaped chocolates and bottles of red are carefully presented next to Nespresso machines and Bluetooth speakers.
Speaking of in-room swag, those Smeg mini bars aren’t just complimentary; they’re sure-fired high end luxury and chock-a-block full of gourmet flavoured popcorn, organic cookies, canned water, soft drinks, pre-mixed cocktails, beers and prosecco. Honestly, it’s so well executed you’ll find it irksome how other luxury hotels haven’t latched on to this excellent example.
The takeaway perks continue into bathrooms featuring free-standing tubs and separate, walk-in overhead rain showers in the form of luxury pamper boxes bursting with Temple Spa lotions and potions.
Food at The Fish Hotel
Hook is a casual operation and particular adept at attracting a stylish and tweedy crowd along with their families. Culinary director, Martin Burge (who earned his two Michelin stars running the kitchen at Whatley Manor) is behind the maritime-centric menu and serves up first-rate, fresh and responsibly sourced seafood and fish with some excellent meat options for those wanting to satiate a more carnivorous appetite. Like the hotel, it’s set deep in the woodland.
With more windows than walls, the restaurant is spacious and light-filled during the day and appropriately glowing from flickering candles in the evening. Diners get to be completely immersed in the fairytale, open-kitchen setting with interior designer Hannah Lohan (a former BBC producer) adding extra rusticity with Scandinavian-chic touches and cosy geometric textiles on upholstered sofas and chairs alongside a 360-fire and wooden floors.
Little ones are well taken care of with a dedicated kids’ menus and dinner time activity packs stuffed with colouring books and pencils. Those in need of a grown-ups only meal needn’t worry either; the hotel offers an excellent babysitting and childcare service.
We’re served by Helen, a local farmer (see what we meant about community?) who’s also an expert in Hook’s culinary delights as well as the local area and Farncombe Estate. She offers superb recommendations from the menu. After an obligatory round of Cornish oysters followed by home-baked breads served with the restaurant’s signature seaweed butter, we tuck into starters of crispy goats’ cheese with melon, olives and mint and plump, slurp-worthy Fowey mussels, in white wine and parsley.
Substantial mains of Cod Kyiv served with miso mayonnaise and yummy crispy seaweed fries and barbecued monkfish tail with Café de Paris butter are hard to beat. A dedicated vegetarian menu features a delicious thyme arancini served with beetroot ketchup and dukkah, and a wholesome cauliflower steak topped with vadouvan sauce and Bombay mix.
The lounge is the perfect spot to grab an unfussy bite and unwind with a glass of Champagne or local Cotswolds craft beer. Be sure to order either the tacos or pizza – both are sublime. Outdoors dining is fairly big thing at the Fish too. The Feasting Deck has been transformed into a high-class Alpine style retreat serving up piping-hot cheese fondues, bratwurst sausages and braised salt beef with apple strudels and chocolate tarts to finish.
What You’ll Love
• The fun and generously-sized playground opposite The Lodge will have the kids entertained for hours and is constructed entirely from reclaimed wood on the estate and recycled aeroplane tyres.
• The baby bottle service; staff will clean, sterilise and heat bottles and deliver fresh milk to rooms 24 hours a day.
• Guests in coach houses are chauffeur-driven to suites via a Thunderbird – a brightly-coloured 4×4 inspired entirely by the TV show (Danish owner, Nette Reynold, is a big fan of the series).
• The Fish’ eco credentials: zero percent of waste is sent to landfill, water is from natural springs and the entire place is powered by green energy.
• Getting stuck into a myriad of activities including axe throwing, falconry , archery yoga, tennis and hovercraft sessions. All are available to guests daily. Private and group sessions can be booked individually too.
• Herding up the family in the 14-seat cinema room for popcorn and a flick of your choice.
• The installation of flashy wine machines opposite the main bar offering specialty fine wines from around the world – on tap.
• In case you forgot to pack your own, guests are welcome to borrow complimentary wellies in all colours and sizes from a design-led Boot Room.
• Bringing the dog? You’ll love the post-walk, warm water outdoor pet bath (which comes with doggy shampoo and conditioner), pooch-friendly hydration stations, a dedicated pet agility course, pizza for dogs and a luxury afternoon tea menu which includes offerings from The Barking Bakery and Woof & Brew. Other complimentary treats to make your dog feel extra welcome include pet beds, toys, food and water bowls.
How to Book
The Fish, Farncombe Estate, Broadway WR12 7LH. Nightly rates at The Fish start from £175 on a B&B basis, based on double occupancy. Visit www.thefishhotel.co.uk and contact: +44(0)1386 858000 or email email@example.com.