Sue Heady checks into The George Inn for a comfortable countryside stay with charm
Barford St. Michael is a small village of warm iron-rich limestone houses, known mainly for its pretty church dating to Norman times, a record label and recording studio.
It’s also home to The George Inn, a thatched gem at the heart of the community. Banbury lies roughly six miles to the north and Soho Farmhouse just over five miles to the south-west in Great Tew.
The George Inn has been a pub since 1697, but recently underwent a major refurbishment when it was bought by local businessman Louis Holtzhausen, who created additional rooms in a building designed to look like a stable block in the gardens.
Louis has now leased The George Inn to Michael Regan, who also runs The White Horse at Duns Tew, which garners rave reviews.
On the Thursday evening we visited, a handful of locals clustered in the main bar area, with its original flagstone floor, stripped beams, exposed stone work and a log burner in the inglenook fireplace.
The ambiance was warm and welcoming, with nostalgic 80s music playing in the background.
The dining area, located beyond the bar with views over the garden terrace, was significantly quieter, but there were plenty of interior features to distract us while we waited for our food: a row of mounted horns, a wall made from wooden wine crates and horsey prints on a cerise red panelled wall (which opens to reveal a big screen TV during major sporting events).
There are nine rooms in total, three in the original building and six in the newly-built accommodation block, each with their own individual style.
The rooms above the pub have old-school charm on account of their exposed beams, but I would not recommend the room where the toilet was shielded from the bed by just a portable screen for a first date!
We stayed in one of the new rooms, which are light and airy with high ceilings, equipped to a high standard.
There was underfloor heating in the bedroom and bathroom, plus great quality thick curtains, to ensure guests stay cosy in winter.
A comfy king-size bed and the tranquillity of the location ensured a great night’s sleep.
The Food & Drink
The evening menu, which changes regularly according to seasonal produce while retaining favourites such aa a burger and fish & chips, was not long but offered plenty of variety.
We ordered the garlic tiger prawns, chilli & lime (£8) and smoked mackerel pate with pickled cucumber & dill (£7), both served with delicious sourdough, which were the highlight of the meal.
The rare bavette steak with fries, salad & garlic butter (£18) and sausage chili & rosemary ragu with tagliatelle (£14) were hearty; the kind of food appreciated by the hunting parties that the pub sometimes hosts.
The desserts – a plum, pear & almost tart (£6) and cheese board (£8) – were disappointing as they both had a supermarket air about them.
Breakfast was a choice of cereal or a full English; I opted for scrambled eggs on toast, but fruit or yoghurt would have been welcome. Generally, there is a lighter menu at lunchtimes, but traditional roasts (£14/£15) are served on Sundays.
The Wordrobe Verdict
It is early days for The George Inn and there are teething issues: the over-bath shower created a substantial puddle, which when I mentioned it to the manager was told was happening in several rooms.
The food, too, could be better and will hopefully be helped by the imminent arrival of a new chef. Once these issues are ironed out, The George Inn has the potential to be as popular as its sister property at Duns Tew, thanks to its solid base of historic inn and delightful modern rooms.
Make it happen
Cost: From £140 for two sharing on a B&B basis; call 01869 338 160 to book.
Bookings: Please visit thegeorgebarford.co.uk to make a reservation.
Words by Sue Heady