ARRIVING at The Sheep Hotel in Stow on the Wold for a mid week break, my friend and I are hoping for a chance to relax and catch up after a busy summer.

Walking from the car park (a definite plus point in Stow) through the hotel’s beautiful and already bustling courtyard garden, a quick glance at the cocktails and relaxed faces of guests suggests that we might have come to the right place.

The hotel unveiled its new-look and name in July (the hotel is now under Brakspear ownership and was previously The Grapevine) and we are eager to have a look.

The décor is an instant hit - not just with us but with the locals who seem to have already taken the hotel to their hearts and are starting to arrive for early evening drinks in the bar.

We are made welcome at reception and shown to our room, a twin that combines modern facilities (nespresso coffee maker and huge power shower) with quirky and ecletic furnishings.

The palette of soft greys, greens and blues add to the luxurious and up the date feel.

Add in the crisp white linens and cloud-like bedding and we are feeling suitably pampered.

A pre-dinner drink is a must in the courtyard and my friend is persuaded (easily) to try one of the speciality cocktails - a Bombay red and green, which is a mixture of gin, chilli, coriander and mint, while I stick to predictable prosecco.

We move inside for dinner and it is reassuring to see how busy the restaurant is, even on a Tuesday night.

Again the décor is spot on, with green and blue jewel coloured velvet seats and unusual lampshades.

There is so much to look around at (including some of the cooking being done in the open kitchen and wood burning stove – the hotel has an extensive and creative pizza menu) that I have to force myself back to concentrating on the menu.

My companion’s starter of scallops with peas and bacon is declared “really lovely” with a great mix of textures as well as flavour.

Having wimped out of the chilli cocktail, I make up for it with my starter of Gambas Pil Pil with bloody Mary mayonnaise. Having just returned from 10 days in Spain, this is easily on a par with some of the best Tapas food in Andalucia and keeps me in the holiday spirit.

For mains I try the sirloin steak and fries, which are expertly cooked and seasoned. My friend is torn between one of the pizzas (they do look seriously good) and the fish. She opts for the sea bass, with lovely Thai flavours without too much spice, and fresh green vegetables.

She has wisely ordered an extra portion of the sweet potato fries, which are a great addition.

Having failed to order the pizza, my friend makes up for it with pudding, trying the chocolate, marshmallow and strawberry pizzetta. This may just be to make her children jealous when she shows them a picture, but it actually tastes really good.

My choice of oven fired plums with granola, yoghurt and Cotswold honey feels like the healthy options, but no less tasty for it. A mixture of sticky, sweet and sharp, the meal ends as it began on a high.

We wash it all down with a suitably cold Chardonnay that is perfect on a summer’s evening. A good night's sleep is assured and easily follows.

Breakfast the next day is served in the same beautiful dining room with doors thrown open to the courtyard. Still full from the night before, I opt for buttermilk pancakes, with bacon and maple syrup, in the (mistaken) hope that it might be a lighter option than the full English!

My friend's Eggs Royale is declared a big hit, and with fresh fruit and cereals to choose from, we leave feeling ready to return to the routine of everyday reality.

The Sheep has more than ticked all the boxes of lovely and stylish accommodation coupled with a terrific menu, that is obviously a hit with locals and visitors alike.

As we leave we both make plans to return - but perhaps with the children to sample that pizza menu.

  •  The Sheep Hotel is at Sheep Street, Stow-on-the-Wold, GL54 1AG. Telephone: 01451 830344. To book a room email or visit