Southrop is not the kind of place one finds oneself in by chance. Sitting in splendid isolation in a forgotten corner of the Cotswolds, surrounded by water meadows bang on the Oxfordshire-Gloucestershire border, it is not really on the way to anywhere and, until fairly recently, the only reason to visit was to gawp at its gorgeous cottages, clipped gardens or to eat and drink at its superlative village pub, The Swan.

However, this time warp of a hamlet is fast becoming one of the most fashionable addresses in the Cotswolds thanks to a remarkable destination hotel and restaurant.

From the outside, Thyme looks like just another of those generously proportioned houses which stud the countryside in that part of the world, but a crunch up the gravel of its sweeping drive reveals what its owners refer to as a ‘village within a village’.

Boasting a hotel, cosy bar, new spa, cookery school, farm, cottage garden and restaurant alongside a very fine manor house, it is a manicured enclave of good taste – a slice of rural England with the mud brushed off, where barely a twig is out of place. And with the opening of a new restaurant in a converted cow barn, the secret is well and truly out.

The Ox Barn is exactly that – a sweetly weathered farm building used for generations as shelter for cattle. And while the original features remain, the interior has been transformed, with stalls and straw replaced with statement pieces of furniture, good art on the walls, state-of-the-art sound and lighting and gorgeous solid wood tables – including a wonderful long table with benches for communal dining. There is a stylish bar and, behind, a gleaming open plan kitchen at which head chef Charlie Hibbert and his team conjure up imaginative fare crafted with produce overwhelmingly sourced on the premises – from its farm, orchard and kitchen gardens.

The Oxford Times:

The restaurant, set to become a destination in its own right, is the final piece in the Thyme jigsaw, complementing the Meadow Spa, created during the summer, and featuring an open air pool, and new rooms in a converted Georgian rectory and in restored buildings. The overall impression is of a diminutive and very exclusive version of Soho Farmhouse, styled for the Daylesford set. It even has a rack of liveried bikes and green wellies at the disposal of guests keen to venture beyond their room, the bar and the restaurant.

Arriving alone on a Thursday evening I was greeted by cheery receptionists in matching floral print dresses, and introduced to the other guests, with whom I would be sharing the long table in the Ox Barn (individual tables are, of course also available).

We were treated to a set menu showcasing not only Charlie’s talents but the fruit of Thyme’s pastoral acres – tended by his family. It is very much a ‘family firm’ with mother Caryn the driving force behind the project and lending her expertise to everything from gardening to interior design and painting the horticultural art which adorns the walls, menus and publicity.

The Oxford Times:

We start with an amuse-bouche of ricotta and pickled pumpkin crostini – the rich flavours of the tender fleshy pumpkin setting the tone for a meal rich in imaginative twists on hearty homegrown produce. It is incredibly moreish, the tang of the whey cheese pleasingly tempered with a glass of English fizz – a distinguished Castle Brook Brut Rosé from the Wye Valley.

There was more garden produce to follow in the shape of slices of raw yakon (a crunchy tuber with the texture of water chestnut), tangy Stichelton cheese, hazelnut, quince, artichoke and bottarga (salted, cured fish roe) and generous strips of farm-raised pork. It was a fabulous concoction – an explosion of freshness with deep flavours and a riot of textures: tender meat, juicy quince, crumbled creamy cheese and the subtle crunch of that yakon.

Roast hogget came next, served with braised beans and salsa verde. It was excellent, the Thyme-raised lamb served in thick pink slices, balanced by the fragrant herby salsa and a well-chosen English pinot noir from the Bolney Estate in Sussex – a pleasingly light wine with hints of cherry.

It was finished off perfectly with a comforting almond and crab apple tart – with a big dollop of ice cream.

It was all very English yet excitingly unfamiliar; traditional ingredients and bold invention – a new English cuisine... and one well worth travelling to this for.

We have only just heard the start of Thyme. Southrop is now very much on the culinary map.

  • Thyme, Southrop Manor Estate, Gloucestershire GL7 3NX
  • Phone: 01367 850174 or email
  • info@thyme.co.uk
  • Details at thyme.co.uk
  • Parking: Ample room on site
  • Stay: There is accommodation on site in beautifully restored farm buildings and a Georgian rectory. Take a lantern from the rack in reception and follow the illuminated paths to sumptuous bedrooms in the Ox Houses, the Dairy, the Tallet or Lodge – with massive beds, beautiful linen, huge bathrooms with roll top baths, free wifi and an honesty bar.
  • The Oxford Times: