Earlier this year, Charlbury’s two largest pubs, the Bull and the Bell, changed hands. Both have been painstakingly relaunched as foodie venues with a commitment to Cotswold produce. There’s an intriguing edge too – these old inns stand next to one another, so there’s a sort of face-off between rivals.
Dating from the early 1500s, the Bull (01608 656957, doubles from £175) is in pole position at the central crossroads. Its refurb, largely completed in July, is radical, disrupting cosy-pretty Cotswold pub conventions with minimalist, monochrome looks. There are New York warehouse vibes.
Like many pubs in the area, it was hit hard by lockdown. Then, in December 2022, the Pelican, a newly trendy pub in London’s Notting Hill, staged a pop-up here (locals were aghast when Boris rocked up to its New Year’s Eve party). It was the overture for a serious takeover, masterminded by the Pelican’s James Gummer and restaurateur Phil Winser. A random decision? Not a bit of it. Both Gummer and Winser grew up near Charlbury, both left to run big-city restaurants (Gummer in London, Winser in New York), and now both have returned to their roots.