11 Church Green, Witney, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom, OX28 4AZ
- Recommended for:
- Backpackers / Students, Business travellers, Foodies, Sporty types, Travellers with pets, Chilling out, Nature / wildlife, Special occasions
Expert review of The Fleece
The Fleece was one of the first Peach Pubs created by two men, Lee Cash and Hamish Stoddart, with a passion for good food and excellent service. Add in Hamish’s wife, Jo Eames, who does the interior design and you have a mini-chain stretching across the Midlands, and south through Oxford, that is making English pub food something special.
The building may well be a Georgian coaching inn on the route from Oxford to Gloucester but if so, Victorian bay windows have obscured the clean eighteenth-century lines. It certainly served its time as a local brewery and did even more stalwart service keeping Dylan Tomas topped up when he lived nearby.
When Hamish, Lee and Jo took over The Fleece five years ago, it was a failing bistro. They moved the bar forward to a welcoming distance from the front door and reworked the rooms above into somewhere you might want to stay. The transformation had been effective. During the week, The Fleece is a destination pub for shoppers who walk down the green from Witney’s High Street. It’s also popular with local business types who want somewhere informal to meet. At weekends walkers and wedding parties move in.
It was Lee who decided this chain of thirteen hostelries should be called Peach Pubs and the adjective “Peachy” is now applied to whatever the company stands for. Staff, décor and food were all distinctly “Peachy” when my wife and I stayed the weekend recently. The bedrooms were looking a bit tired and could probably be made “Peachier”. I’d really recommend this as a place to stay the night if you’d like to be based a little way outside Oxford. Or if you intend to have too much to eat or drink – and it’s easy to indulge at The Fleece.
Witney is the constituency of British prime minister David Cameron, a prosperous Cotswold town which has grown out from the elongated village green that stands in its centre. The Fleece sits on the long eastern side of the green within sight of the statuesque parish church of St Mary and its alms houses. All you need is for artificial snow to fall and this could be a Richard Curtis movie.
There are 10 en suite bedrooms, mostly on the first floor of the pub itself. Each is comfortably designed with wardrobes, desks and comfy armchair providing the period touches while the beds have the kind of giant padded headboards that have became the signature of hotel décor in the early 2000s. Bathrooms with wallmounted dispensers of toiletries from the White Company.
It’s a cut above the average “pub with rooms” ambience, but not enough to keep you indoors all afternoon. These are bedrooms for crashing after a hearty meal, for changing into your wedding best or for coming back to at the end of a good, long, muddy walk.
In-room WiFi access is free and strong. You just have to not mind the youth of Oxfordshire deciding to have a shouting competition outside your bedroom window at two in the morning. You are sleeping above a pub after all...
The bar downstairs is divided into four areas. Immediately in front of the bar there are stools for the serious drinkers. On the other side of the front door there are tables for those who want to read papers or drink coffee (depending on the time of day). Then towards the back there is an informal dining area of freestanding tables and finally, next to the kitchen, something more like a restaurant. The four areas blend together.
I’m not sure there was a television. If there was, it knew its place.
There is a large private dining room in the outbuildings which would be great for a family reunion or party.
As at all Peach Pubs, head chef Rob offers an interesting alternative to starters, six deli boards on which you get different assortments of English tapas: cheese, meats, olives, hummus, paté.
Peach Pubs are proud of their local sourcing of meat and fish. Free-range pork and 28-day dry-aged Aberdeenshire steak do taste better than average British pub fare. Vegetables are seasonal and there is no truck with Air Miles ingredients.
Good selection of wines by the glass and bottle. Greene King IPA is the resident real ale on tap. In fact Greene King have actually owned The Fleece for years.
When coffee is served you get a small dish of Smarties to nibble, and the sugar cubes come in a green Tate & Lyle syrup tin.
The bar and wait staff wear black Ts with a white Fleece motif. Anybody else is either Suzie, the manager or Hamish Stoddart, who keeps his hand in behind the bar. In fact he tells the story that the first pint he ever pulled was the day he and Lee took over The Fleece and his first customer was a young roofing contractor who came in off the street, and who is now head chef. Hamish believes in training his staff to achieve their dreams and his faith in Peachy training does seem to pay off. Everyone at Peach Pubs seems interested in the customers and making sure people have a good time.
Business people with customers in the area around Witney. Tourists who want to stay out of Oxford or enjoy an English country pub.
Surprisingly, quite a few locals also book rooms for friends and family when they come to visit.
There are single and double rooms with a small price differential. Room rates always include breakfast and stay the same all year round. There is no midweek or low-season reduction.
More information on The Fleece:
- 11 Church Green, Witney, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom, OX28 4AZ
- Free tags / Keywords:
- Dylan Thomas, David Cameron, Literary Associations
- High-Speed Internet, Parking, Pets Allowed, Restaurant, Room Service