After battling an M5’s worth of rush hour traffic I was virtually hallucinating a gin and tonic when we arrived at the Kings Head Hotel
in Cirencester. So the welcome gin kit in the room complete with the crucial Fever Tree tonic and an ice bucket was an excellent start.
Originally a coaching inn from as far back as the 14th
century, evidence of this pops up everywhere around the hotel, including a section of glass floor in the reception area which looks down on the original stone street level. Unsurprising then that the place is now listed as a building of special architectural and historical interest. Looking out onto the market place and the Abbey, the building was derelict for a long time until local property owner, Mark Booth, took the brave leap and spent many years and the same again in millions converting it. Locally this seems to have been a popular decision as people praise the regeneration of the hotel and how it has in turn benefited the town. And the hotel is constantly looking for ways to involve the community through events and offers as well as its bar and restaurant.
There are 45 bedrooms in total with a mix of contemporary and classic interiors. The ‘feature’ rooms in the eaves have brickwork, beams and a country house feel. The more contemporary rooms are sleek, edging towards corporate but they all have excellent attention to detail including the most comfortable king size beds, luxurious upholstery, digital technology and serious showers. This is clearly the work of someone who puts guests before budget as there is no apparent corner cutting.
Fortified by gin and the gleaming sight of a mighty copper bath in our ‘indulgent’ room we headed down for supper. The bar and restaurant occupy much of the ground floor in an open plan, over generous way. I love a big bar with a good cocktail menu and this does the job but here comes the But. I don’t like a big open dining space as it lacks atmosphere, lighting and ambience. We spied a smaller dark panelled room off to one side which is used on busier evenings and wished we could sit there.
The brasserie menu boasts Robata style grilled dishes based on Japanese grill cooking and showcases local producers through its seasonal selections. The main courses were good – salt baked chargrilled cauliflower with roasted beetroot, duck with wild rice, raisins and cabbage. The star of the evening was undoubtedly the wine list, chosen by award winning sommelier Alan Holmes, and stored in the impressive vaulted cellar which also doubles as an event space and tasting room. It is one of many event spaces that pop up around the tardis like hotel (plus a damn fine spa and treatment area) and cater for all occasions. This hotel tries to be all things to all people and has set itself the unenviable task of mixing corporate guests and conferences with minibreakers, weddings and fairs. The good news is that the staff are up to the job. Attentive, charming and informed, from the receptionist to the restaurant manager (who presided over our dinner and then popped up to our room with breakfast) to the jolly waitress Jen (who brought her pal from reception to the hotel restaurant for her birthday on their night off so that’s high praise) the service was impeccable.
We tried to delay our departure by taking a quick stroll around the town and wishing we had all day to do it justice. But we did stop for a cappuccino at Keith’s coffee shop as people have been doing for the last 40 years and it was a blessed relief after the recent influx of trendy cafes. And thank goodness we walked further up Black Jack Street and spotted Octavia’s Bookshop. Lured in by the clever Halloween window with tutu wearing Moomins and the definitive selection of children’s literature it was almost impossible to leave. And it turns out Octavia loves a cocktail at the Kings Head Hotel too.