What is the city dweller looking for when taking a break heading for the country side? Well, I can only speak for myself, at last having the chance to taste the culture of the English country pub. Invited to visit a newly refurbished pub in the Cotswolds I had no hesitation accepting eager to enjoy local cask ales and good food cooked with locally sourced ingredients, idyllic rural surroundings, a building proud of it's heritage, friendly atmosphere and a comfortable bed for the night.
All this you would expect in a decent English Inn but this place proved to have in stall a touch more with the pedigree of the new gastropubs that mix tradition with gastronomical excellence and attention to detail, furnished in a themed, stylish manner 'a la boutique'. Baylis and Harding products entrepreneur Tanya Fossey and her brother Adrian Slater are behind the renovation of this pub which was a local blacksmith and then in the 18th century a popular Coaching Inn.
It is tricky to strike the perfect balance between rustic traditional culture and the more modern touch of chic and refined luxuries that the customer has come to expect. The owners of The Fuzzy Duck have however achieved just that. A quintessentially English country pub with what they aptly claim boutique bed & breakfast this lovely place is set in the picturesque Warwickshire hamlet of Armscote. Located just a few miles south of historic Stratford-upon-Avon, it offers the perfect country retreat and is an ideal base from which to explore Shakespeare’s haunts and the rolling hills and river valleys of the Cotswolds.
On arrival we are welcomed by the attentive staff and can't wait ot see our chosen room and a hard choice it was. Each of four rooms bears the name of a species of duck, some of which can be found on Armscote’s pond and the lakes of Armscote Manor. Take your pick, fancy the romantic Muscovy room with its king-size bed, or one of the family rooms with additional loft bed above the bathroom. Each room is designed with art deco touches, to the highest standard and boasts top of the range technology including a flat-screen, smart TV. And each of the comfortable and spacious ensuite bathrooms is stocked with the finest Baylis & Harding Skin Spa not surprisingly. Our favorite was Buff Orphington not least for the large freestanding bathtub.
This was promising to be a weekend to remember. Relaxed and rested we were ready for our romantic supper in the sophisticated restaurant and cosy private dining area, separated by a double aspect fireplace. The waiter was impressingly knowledgable about the origin and quality of the produce and told us that the chef, Richard Craven, takes great pride in working with the best local suppliers to create delicious and diverse dishes for the seasonal menus and daily specials. ‘Our style’, he told us, ‘can be described as ‘Contemporary Cotswold’, featuring local flavour combinations’. Delicious as it was in every aspect this meal will however be rememberd for a chocolate cake made exclusivley for the occasion, my birthday. But don't worry, most of it is represented in the house signature chocolate desert, Watchamacallit, a must and always available. But for all the good food to be enjoyed at this place it was perhaps the humble breakfast that surprised us the most and not least the way it was served, with a genuine smile and courteous but unintrusive conversation that you would expect from the staff of such a lovely place.
After Saturday´s breakfast we were ready for the Fuzzy Duck Waddle, a two and three-quarter mile ramble which takes in neighbouring Newbold on Stour. Buzzy and beautiful Stratford-upon-Avon was visitied in the afternoon taking the local bus from the village of Tredington nearby with its own charm and history. On Sunday morning Tredington village church St.Gregory's seemed a fitting place to visit and we were happy to join a service meeting local residents who were all too keen to enquire what had brought us there. It didn't surprise us that all had heard of the rejuvenation of the local pub in Armscote and were pleased to see the increasing number of visitors. The church has the tallest spire in Warwickshire, while the front door still shows the remains of bullet marks left over from the English Civil War.
The Sunday afternoon saw us relaxing in the most welcoming garden where you can enjoy the excellent range of real ales on tap and an ever changing guest ale. The Fuzzy Duck also holds a cask marque award for serving great quality real ale. We opted for Purity Brewing's Mad Goose to go with our light snack before our departure to Moreton-in-Marsh station. A weekend came to an end with every promise fulfilled. The Fuzzy Duck will not have to wait long for our return.