This post was created in collaboration with Artist Residence.
For the last bank holiday of the year we headed up to Lincolnshire for the brilliant wedding of our friends, Helen and Alex. (Alex, by the way, runs pop-ups in London and his food is always outstanding.) It was a pretty indulgent weekend and neither of us could face heading back into London on the bank holiday Monday, only to get stuck in traffic for hours, so we decided to take a detour to Oxfordshire and spend the night there, returning to the city early in the morning. And boy was it a good idea, the moment we arrived at Mr Hanbury’s Mason Arms we both felt that we’d made the right decision. Set in the Oxfordshire countryside, the country pub, restaurant and hotel is part of the small but perfectly formed Artist Residence boutique hotel group. It’s a beautiful thatched building that, from the outside, appears quite normal, except for the two fibreglass penguins that greet you at the entrance. Inside it has been decorated in a quirky yet incredibly comfortable way. The first thing you notice is the cool artwork that lines many of the walls. There are cosy nooks by fireplaces for cold days, and a lovely garden and courtyard for the warmer ones.
We arrived at lunchtime and, after a quick game of ping pong in the garden, sat down to share a bowl of mussels and the best Ploughman’s I’ve ever eaten! The food here is really good, in less than 24 hours we managed to eat three meals (lunch, dinner and breakfast) so I feel well-qualified to state this. Some of the ingredients are grown on-site, some are foraged and others are locally sourced. Tops marks to their head chef, Leon Smith for a creative menu that still has all your pub favourites.
The most incredible thing about our stay was our room. We were in the Farmhouse Loft (room 2) towards the back of the building. It has a high pitched ceiling and windows on two sides which gives it a light, airy feel. The style of the room is kind of cosy minimalism with vintage finds, warm wood accents, soft textiles, and (of course) quirky artwork. The well stocked ‘mini-bar’ has lots of yummy treats and there’s a great selection of magazines. We both slept so well in the large bed, so much so I didn’t want to get out of it but my anguish was soon eased by the shower, the large head drenches you and is somehow both gentle and powerful at the same time, by far the best I’ve experienced. The Victorian style roll-top bath had seduced me the night before, by the way. The bathroom isn’t large but everything is well positioned. The big fluffy towels, dressing-gowns and an abundance of organic Bramley products to use during our stay made it feel luxurious.
There’s a lovely story behind how Artist Residence began and what inspired its name. Back in 2006, Justin Salisbury dropped out of university to help with the running of his family’s B&B on the Brighton seafront. His mum had been badly injured and Justin stepped up and took over. The guest house was in a bad state and he had to come up with a clever way to re-invigorate the place without a budget. A little like the Colombe d’Or, Justin reached out to the Brighton art scene, he offered them board in exchange for decorating the rooms. It didn’t immediately take-off and it took a visit from Alex Polizzi to put Justin on the right track. He’s since been joined by his now wife, Charlie, whom he met at university before leaving. Fast forward to 2017 and they have places in Brighton, Cornwall, Pimlico, and most recently, Oxfordshire.