Review: The Kings Head Hotel, Cirencester

Adam Lowe

Adam Lowe

Adam Lowe is an award-winning author, editor and publisher from Leeds, now based in Manchester. He runs Dog Horn Publishing and is Director and Writing Coordinator for Young Enigma, a writer development programme for LGBT young people.
Adam Lowe

The Kings Head Hotel is a newly renovated but long-lived Grade II-listed landmark in Cirencester. Reopened in September 2014, the history of the hotel dates back centuries – with Roman ruins beneath the buildings suggesting an even older legacy. What is known is that it was a coaching inn in the 14th Century, and was owned by the High Sheriff in Gloucester in records dating from 1550.

Location

Located as it is within easy reach of London and the Midlands, Cirencester provides the perfect leaping off point to explore the gorgeous English beauty of the Cotswolds. But the hotel itself is more than feast enough for the senses, combining a fabulous history with contemporary design, with the result that this is one of the best hotels we’ve visited for a long time.

Accommodation

The first thing you’ll note upon arrival is that The Kings Head is deceptively large. The front seen from the street is just (literally) a facade, revealing very little of the hotel’s complex. 11 buildings together comprise the entirety of the hotel, which offers 45 exquisite bedrooms, a smart casual restaurant, a trendy bar and several events and conference spaces. What’s more, the hotel has nearly completed its in-house spa and downstairs jazz club – meaning The Kings Head will soon offer an even more impressive package for travellers.

The hotel has a unique blend of customers – with trendy 20-somethings imbibing cocktails at the bar before hitting the clubs, to suited colleagues sharing an evening meal, to a more mature crowd that visits during the day for tea or a taste of the bar’s real ales.

The historic fabric of the hotel reappears throughout the trendy contemporary flourishes – so that exposed beams, aged bricks and once forgotten chimneys provide bags of character. The colour schemes are similarly influenced by antiquity: stony greys, earthy browns, dashes of pastel for highlights. You’ll be surprised at the winding corridors which reveal hidden corners and features, and this adds to the charm.

The exclusive meeting, private dining, events and wedding facilities mean you can host a range of events here, including your special day. The subterranean dry spa will have four treatment rooms, a relaxation room and a gym with top of the range equipment.

The rooms themselves are impressive. There are rooms to suit all budgets – from modest twins to expansive suites – and all of them boast their own features. Top of the bunch are the gorgeous bridal suite with four-poster bed and the converted Medieval loft with exposed beams.

Many of the rooms have modern panelling, as a legacy of the Grade II-listed status, which means that the panelled rooms have to keep this authentic traditional feature. It adds a touch of elegant austerity among the plush furniture and fine cotton sheets, and makes a nice change to wallpaper.

There are lovely extras, too, such as the free gin, olives and nuts in each room, plus a mini-fridge with milk and water, and tea and Nespresso facilities. All rooms get these, and the lovely toiletries in the bathroom, inclusive of the room rate – whether you’re a mid-week business traveller or a weekend honeymooner on a deluxe package in peak season.

The design of the hotel has also been developed with functionality in mind – so little things like not getting your arm wet when turning on the shower have been taken into account when designing the bathrooms. This is a small thing, but something which can be a source of irritation for travellers. When done properly, like at The Kings Head, the guests won’t even notice – which is how it should be.

Staff at the hotel are extremely welcoming. As this incarnation of the hotel is relatively new, the team feels fresh and dynamic, with lots of keen faces and a genuine passion for what they do. From providing a potted history of the building to suggesting fabulous cocktails off the cuff, the staff know their stuff.

Dining

The in-house restaurant is also an achievement, and is worth checking out whether you’re a resident or not. The food is simple, tasty and done very, very well.

We dined at 7pm and found the food flew out of the kitchen, which was great. The wait staff were helpful and offered to match wine for each course – but we opted instead for cocktails.

When we asked for the cocktail menu, we were simply told, ‘Jack is the cocktail menu!’ Jack, who wowed with his mixology skills, had a prodigious memory for cocktail recipes.

We wanted to be surprised, though, so told the barman what our favourite spirits were, and whether we liked long or short cocktails, and he whipped up an array of tasty liquid treats: from a bramble to a zombie to a lemon meringue.

For food we opted for the chicken parfait and paprika calamari for starters, followed by the venison and monkfish for mains, with ice cream and a peanut butter creme brulee to finish. The restaurant started filling up about 8.30pm, so we arrived at a good time.

Our food came out promptly, though not so soon as to be a problem, and it was frankly superb. There are also a number of private dining options available for parties or intimate settings.

The verdict

With exceptional service, an intriguing historic character and great rooms, The Kings Head Hotel comes highly recommended.

For bookings and more information, please visit kingshead-hotel.co.uk.

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