Sophisticated, intimate, warm and affordable: The Pheasant Inn is the perfect weekend bolthole, says our series editor Fiona Duncan. An old sheep drover’s inn surrounded by the unspoiled countryside of the Berkshire Downs, it has uninterrupted views and a feeling of wonderful seclusion, while being only minutes from the M4.
Young owner Jack Greenall has refurbished the inn with the help of interior designer Flora Soames. The result is stylish and cosy down to the last detail. The ground-floor bar and restaurant have a rustic feel, with red leather banquette benches and wooden tables. Greens and blues in the decoration remind you that this is racing country: trainers and jockeys are historic patrons of The Pheasant.
The inn’s history is celebrated in the details. In the bar there is a hook attached to the wall and a string attached to the ceiling. They used to be part of a game called Bullring; test your aim throwing the ring at the end of the string onto the hook.
In the 11 immaculate bedrooms upstairs beds stand out for their comfort and quality with luxurious fabric headboards and attractive toppers. Coffee and tea are available on lovely trays, there are universal phone chargers and interesting books: all signs of an owner who didn’t leave anything up to chance. The bathrooms, while on the small side, are marble-clad and the products are top-quality. The bedrooms are very good value for money, much as The Pheasant’s food.
From sandwiches and snacks to Dover sole, we like the way this inn keeps both locals and visitors happy. Chef Andy Watts’ Scotch eggs and the salt-baked saddle of lamb we enjoyed were a testament to unpretentious, flavoursome cooking. The atmosphere in the restaurant is animated, but there are also comfy corners for quiet dining.
Only if you stand outside the pub you can hear the thrum of traffic, but when inside everything else seems light years away. During the day wander in the green fields or visit the nearby cities of Marlborough and Hungerford, or head to Highclere Castle, Downtown Abbey’s titular mansion.