Hotel of the year, you say? Muddy checks in
The Pointer in Bucks is hoovering up awards right now but what’s the Muddy verdict on its new B&B rooms
This week The Sunday Times declared The Pointer in Brill, Bucks their Hotel Of The Year – obviously they’d taken note of the fact that it won the Best Destination Pub in this year’s Muddy Bucks and Oxon awards (we’re agenda-setting like that, you see!) Ever one step ahead of the press pack, Muddy checked in earlier this month, to enjoy a luxe sleepover in one of the four new B&B rooms.
We’ve been long-term fans of the food at The Pointer, a gastro-pub which walks the line between being a local boozer cum village centre point with a 500 year history and a chi-chi gourmet destination restaurant that lures in London foodies. Hero (Muddy Bucks/Oxon) reviewed the pub here, but in the summer they opened four B&B rooms in a 19th century Victorian terraced house directly across the road. (Please note, it’s a very quiet road, in case you’re concerned about stumbling back from the bar after a few too many sherries.)
It’s a relaxed, friendly place to hang out, with everyone welcome – a glimpse around the bar on arrival reveals a healthy mix of local dogwalkers in their wellies and glammed up, young out-of-towners who seemed to be en route to a wedding. The bar has two open fires and various squidgy sofas and arm chairs to sink into, while behind the open kitchen is a candle-lit, cosy dining room in a converted barn, that was scattered with seasonal squashes and pumpkins ahead of Halloween. There’s a pretty walled beer garden outside, a butcher’s onsite and on the Saturday morning we were in residence, a local producers/farmers’ market in the car park.
The oak-beamed, minimal, expensively appointed bedrooms are a cut above bog-standard B&B rooms, to say the least – owner Fiona Howden did the interiors fluffing and has clearly spent a lot of time in top-end boutique hotels. In fact, our ground-floor room was so chic and cosseting I was tempted to claim squatters’ rights and never go home. For a start, the fact the rooms are in a separate building means you’re not kept awake by drunkards in the bar (I would never be a drunkard in a bar, obviously, absolutely not). And the beds are The Business – enormous Hypnos, soothing, sleep-inducing slabs, dressed with crisp White Company linen. I shared mine with my starfish-esque 6-year-old and still had the best night’s slumber in weeks.
The limestone-floored bathroom was vast, with two butler sinks, a shower area bigger than some flats I’ve lived in, a sleek roll-top bath and fluffy robes in which to waft around it. You can of course tell a lot about a hotel by its attention to detail and even my superlative nit-picking skills came unstuck here. I loved all the little touches – proper, chilled milk in diddy retro bottles for your cuppa, excellent wi-fi, a Nespresso machine, complimentary bottled water, Hunter wellies to borrow for walking and the vintage sewing kit and copy of The Hobbit in the bedside drawer.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Meat is the main event at The Pointer, with 70 percent of the lamb, beef, pork and chicken coming from the owners’ nearby farm, along with a huge swathe of the veg, fruit and herbs used in the kitchen – when they say local produce, they mean seriously local. Dishes tend to be very simple to let the A-list ingredients shine. A woman cannot live on meat alone, so to start I got my vits in with a delicious heirloom tomato salad with burrata, olives, basil and rocket.
Do you like my steak? I certainly did. Although I only ended up with two of those chunky beef dripping-basted chips once my thieving children had finished grabbing. As for the little ‘uns, they both liked the short-but-sweet children’s menu, plumping for bowls of macaroni with a tomato sauce, followed by ice cream. Then they tucked into my lemon meringue pie with lemon sorbet and lemon verbena puree before I could get a snap of it.
As for drinks, I am deeply boring so had my usual glass of French Sauvignon from the excellent wine list, but next time I’ll try Dinton Folly, an English sparkling wine with grapes grown in the nearby titular village. On a similarly local tip, there’s also ale from the XT Brewing Company, including the Pointer Pint.
Speaking of booze, my favourite detail of the entire stay was the fact that at breakfast the next day, which was served in the bar, there was a Bloody Mary kit on offer, complete with Worcester Sauce and homemade peppercorn vodka. What a brilliant idea to kick a hangover into touch – it was just a shame I had my car and the kids. There was also a stash of Berocca and paracetamol for guests who’d experienced a somewhat wilder night than mine.
The buffet table was groaning with home-made granola, sourdough and pastries, and freshly squeezed orange juice but I managed to restrain myself enough to leave room for a full English, complete with farm sausages, bacon, eggs, tomato and mushrooms. I gave the black pudding and beef-dripping fried bread a miss though – sometime you need to know when to stop (oi, stop sniggering). The fry-up was completely and utterly faultless, so I was pleased to hear from the staff that they’re considering opening up the pub for breakfast service, meaning you wouldn’t have to kip over to indulge. Given the scarcity of decent breakfast spots around these parts (stale Costa muffin, anyone?) I reckon that’s a very good idea indeed.
Yes, absolutely – the affable manager Richard couldn’t have been more accommodating of my children and arranged for a camp bed in our room for my eldest. Please note though, while well-sized, these are not family rooms – if there’s four or more of you, you’ll need to book two. And while there were lots of families enjoying an early evening dinner when we stayed, it might not be ideal if you have toddlers or children who want to constantly run around in circles. The bar is higgledy-piggledy with open fires and the beer garden isn’t the sprawling kind with climbing frames. My two had a fantastic time but, if you have the choice, I’d say come for a romantic, indulgent dinner and night away – and get stuck into the Bloody Marys the next day.
OUT & ABOUT
Villages don’t come much more chocolate box-gorgeous than Brill – it’s like someone has applied a giant Instagram filter called ‘Quaint’ over the entire place. We went for a stroll, during which I admired the little cottages with roses growing around their front doors while my children whinged about going back to the room to watch The A Team on the flatscreen TV. The big draw in Brill is the 18th century windmill, one of the oldest in the country, which sits atop a very hilly common (it used to be quarried for clay). We live nearby and often come up here for a run around to blow away the cobwebs and take in the exquisite views across the Bucks countryside – it’s a lovely spot. There’s not much else to see in Brill, but Bicester Village is just a 15 min drive away, with Waddesdon Manor 20 mins in the car.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: If you’ve got picky in-laws or City slicker friends visiting for the weekend and can’t/won’t put them up chez vous, this would be a deeply impressive choice. Or for a special birthday or anniversary meal, you could upgrade your evening and stay over afterwards (rather a 10 sec stumble home than a long taxi ride, right?).
Not for: Big families, as mentioned. And those craving bright lights/ big city thrills may find Brill a tad serene. But to be honest, that’s the whole point – you come here for utterly luxe R&R. (And actually the bar is surprisingly lively on a Friday night.)
The damage: Bed and breakfast including that amazing fry-up is from £130 – very reasonable given the quality of the rooms, food and service. I would go now before they hoik the prices up and all those Sunday Times readers flood in. In the restaurant, starters are around £8, mains £25 and desserts £7, bringing it in at around £40 per head, without drinks – again very reasonable for food of such quality.
The Pointer, 27 Church St, Brill, Bucks HP18 9RT. Tel: 01844 238339. thepointerbrill.co.uk
Words: Kerry Potter