Review: The Sheep, Stow-on-the-Wold
"Displays a simple and unfussy ethos whilst keeping quality high."
I have a bit of a soft spot for Stow-on-the-Wold. The farmers’ markets and the beautiful square itself, the quirky pubs, independent shops, glowing Cotswold stone and stunning views of the surrounding countryside … Stow is the thinking man’s Chipping Norton. You heard it here first. Still, Stow is a hotspot for tourists, so it’s also a place where a hotel or restaurant can sit back and rely on the one-time customer without much thought, so let’s not take brilliance as a given.
Aptly positioned on Sheep Street, The Sheep is a vast but relatively unassuming pub-hotel-bar-restaurant, boasting a spacious and beautifully decorated dining room – think mismatched chairs, exposed beams and a tiled wooden floor. The atmosphere on a weekend evening is buzzy and fun, The Sheep clearly being a hit with locals as well as the ‘destination’ crowd.
Heading to the bar, there’s a decent selection of bottled craft beers, although the management are missing a trick by not including any local breweries. Wine and gin fare much better, with the former starting at £17.50 a bottle and enjoying a journey around South America and Europe, ending up no higher than £38. Bartenders are courteous and effortlessly funny without seeming to try too hard, which is a blessed relief for someone who tends to drink in Jericho.
Food-wise, The Sheep displays a simple and unfussy ethos whilst keeping quality high. Starters focus on seafood, with king prawns, squid, fishcakes, scallops and prawn spring rolls all making an appearance and ranging from £6 to £9. The scallops are undoubtedly the highlight here, generously served in their shell with the salty punch of bacon and mineral kick of fresh peas.
Mains are a little more varied, with three cuts of steak and burgers ranging from spiced lamb to grilled halloumi, and some fairly inventive woodfired sourdough pizzas, with toppings including Berkswell cheese, pomegranate, spiced aubergines and lamb, with a selection of six other dishes. Go for the duck cassoulet, which is rich and generously served, or a perfectly prepared fillet steak.
So, the food is excellent and the service is up to scratch, but where The Sheep really comes into its own is in its 22 rooms. The exposed beams from the dining room make a reappearance, this time alongside equally exposed brickwork, luxurious bathrooms and those muted, duck egg, blue-grey colour schemes. You know the ones. Views across Stow’s quaint market square are stunning and when it’s time to block them out, blackout curtains allow you to sleep off last night’s excess for as long as it takes. Outside of the bedrooms, The Sheep’s patio and garden area is a flawless suntrap, adorned with more mismatched furniture and a beautiful gas fireplace. This is the sort of place you could easily lose an entire weekend to, and why not?
For a proper, indulgent weekend you’ll want a premium room – around £150 a night – but less extravagant lodgings are available for £90. For a proper escape from the city, under an hour’s drive away, it’s an absolute steal. Recommended.