I recently stayed at The Fleece in Witney, Oxfordshire with my Mum over a particularly snowy weekend in February, and we both loved the cosy and friendly atmosphere!
Part of the Peach Pubs group, The Fleece sits on Witney’s Church Green (which was covered in a blanket of white during our visit), with the church stood starkly at one end surrounded by a few cottages, and the high street with shops and restaurants at the other. A really quaint little town, it wouldn’t have looked out of place if it was in a Midsummer Murders or Last of the Summer Wine episode!
We arrived a little early and managed to secure the last spot in the hotel’s small car park, but despite this our room was ready and we were shown straight to it.
The hotel was full of quirky touches and there was rarely any wall space going spare! As we were shown to our room we walked past several pictures and comical signs on the walls which really added to the friendly, laid back vibe.
Our room was decorated beautifully with lovely touches like the velvet headboard and bright yellow cushions against dark wood accents giving the feel of retro, but the delicate wallpaper and turquoise chevroned bathroom tiles working together wonderfully to give the room a modern finish.
The rooms were also full of quirky, but perfectly placed knick knacks and included some really lovely retro flourishes like the old storage trunks at the foot of the bed and the shabby chic box the tea and coffee sat in. The contrast between new and old in this room had been designed to perfection – I loved it!
Mum and I tried to get a table for lunch in the busy dining room, but it was absolutely packed – this restaurant is clearly a favourite with the locals (always a very good sign)! Instead we headed out into the snow and found a pub a short walk away before we explored Witney. The high street isn’t huge, but there are several shops to keep everyone happy (we went in most of them!) including the Witney Blanket Shop which was also a museum we could have got lost in for hours.
We found everyone we spoke to to be so charming and willing to give us tips and insider info on where to go when they found out we were only here for a short time. One shop owner shared how to get to the River Windrush, which is only a short walk from the high street and we decided to divert on the way back to the hotel before our dinner reservation. I’m glad we did, it was beautiful in the snow.
We headed to the dining room for dinner at 7pm and were shown to our table that gave us a great view of the restaurant (and the door which did not stop moving – this restaurant is clearly loved by locals). General Manager Mike came over to introduce himself which was a really lovely touch and introduced our attentive waiter Sam who talked us through the specials board; a big blackboard that is moved around the restaurant by staff and stood on a chair so each table can see it. Sam was great and you can tell he really knew the menu well, he also suggested a delicious bottle of white wine to go with our meal too.
As someone who loves food, I’d already looked at the menu ahead of time to make sure I didn’t miss anything, but I still took forever to choose after looking at the specials board! In the end, I chose crab linguine and Mum opted for buttermilk chicken for a starter.
For mains there was so much I wanted to try, but in the end I plumped for one of the specials; pan-fried hake with a sorrel crumb, roasted new potatoes, samphire and tomato salsa; Mum chose the pan-fried cod with puy lentils, leeks and salsa verde, and we ordered a side of maple and thyme roasted Chantenay carrots to share. All the dishes came out really quickly and everything was piping hot. I really enjoyed the contrast of the cold salsa and hot fish on my meal, it’s something I’ve never tried before but it would be easy to replicate at home when you’re trying to impress!
Normally when I go out for dinner I try and order things that I wouldn’t make myself, but my all time favourite pud was on the dessert menu and I couldn’t not try it! My huge sticky toffee pudding came out with its own moat of toffee sauce and I have never been happier – it didn’t disappoint! My Mum was also a huge fan of the Black Forest sundae she ordered, and despite not needing any more food we finished them both!
Before we retired back to our room Mike came over again to ask how our meal was and whether we needed anything else. He, and all the staff, were so lovely to talk to and were attentive without being overbearing (despite having a constantly full restaurant to attend to).
After a sleep in the wonderfully comfy bed and a wash under the lavish waterfall shower (another mental note for my future house…), we headed down to the dining room for breakfast. With a cheery “morning!” and a smile, Mike showed us to a table next to the cereal, fruit and juice, and took our order of coffee while we pored over the breakfast menu.
I chose eggs royale, as I’d never make this for myself and the combination of smoked salmon and beautifully poached eggs is bliss to me, and Mum went for a very healthy bowl of coconut milk porridge with raisins, almonds, seeds and honey. Both were delicious and I devoured my eggs in no time! I really enjoyed the spoonful of porridge I had too, I’ll definitely be making mine with coconut milk in the future. You can also make your own toast at the bar where a selection of spreads is offered including butter, jam and Marmite (my Mum’s favourite!).
The dining room is light and airy and every corner, wall and shelf is adorned with quirky, carefully placed bits and bobs; most running with the woolly theme, like a ram’s horn and sheep ornaments. You could sit looking at everything for ages and still spot something new!
I would highly recommend The Fleece to anyone thinking of taking a trip to Oxfordshire soon. Not only do you have the wonderful village of Witney on your doorstep, you’re only half an hour from both the centre of Oxford and Bicester Village.
We loved staying at The Fleece, the staff were so lovely and attentive, we were never left to want for anything, and Mike and Sam were a breath of fresh air to talk to! If you can’t stay at the hotel, I would definitely recommend popping in for a meal if you can, the food was divine and if I’m ever nearby I will absolutely stop off to try more of that menu!
There was a sense of fun at this hotel, which chains can sometimes lack, but The Fleece is full of character that was created not just by the building and decor, but by the people that clearly love working there.
My stay at The Fleece was complimentary for the purposes of review, but all opinions are my own.