The Vicarage Freehouse and Rooms is a recently refurbished 17th Century Grade II listed country pub, restaurant and hotel in the heart of Cheshire, and is part of the new family run hotel group, Flat Cap Hotels. Mr ESLT and I were invited to stay the evening a couple of weeks ago in one of their newly opened suites, which are in addition to the hotel’s 20 existing en-suite bedrooms. When we visited we’d had a busy day – we’d flew into Manchester Airport that morning from a trip to Hamburg and then headed into Manchester city centre to apply for Russian visas for an upcoming trip to St Petersburg. So by the time we arrived at The Vicarage we were ready to kick our shoes off and relax for a while.
The Vicarage is located in the tiny village of Cranage just on the outskirts of the larger yet equally charming village of Holmes Chapel in Cheshire, with Manchester Airport a mere 30 minutes’ drive away and Manchester city centre accessible in under an hour. I think it is perfectly located if you have a flight the next day and you need to stay over the night before, it is SO much nicer than chain hotels located at Manchester Airport itself. Equally as perfect if you are looking for a night or two, or even longer, in a countryside retreat, especially if a homely feel, a friendly welcome and delicious food are what you are looking for.
The Vicarage has a large, free car park for guests and visitors and we found a spot no problem. After unloading the car we made our way to reception to check in. We were greeted by a lovely, warm and friendly lady who took our details and checked us in swiftly. Check in at The Vicarage is from 2.00pm, we arrived just before 2.00pm and luckily for us, our suite was ready. She offered to carry our luggage to our suite however that was of course Mr ESLT’s job. We were led through the bar area and up a flight of stair to one of the brand spanking new luxury suites, of which there are six. These spacious new rooms all differ in style and have been individually designed with a distinct, bespoke touch to accentuate the hotel’s elegant yet rustic country-inn style decor. So new in fact, I think we were the first people to stay in it and the smell of fresh paint lingered in the air.
Our suite was perfect, seriously, I could have moved in and happily lived there forever. With massive bed, large flat screen TV, plenty of storage, Nespresso machine, not to mention the fact it was beautifully decorated and had a thick soft carpet and amazing exposed beams (the dream!). We were shown around and told to make ourselves at home, which we did instantly. It was hard not too in such a homely and comfortable room. The first thing I did, as in most hotels, was put the kettle on for a cup of tea. With locally sourced Tea from the Manor tea bags, fresh milk offered and home-made biscuits, I really didn’t want to leave. The only concern we initially had was that the suite looked out onto the main road. However, we needn’t have worried as we could not hear a thing, it was so quiet in fact, we fell asleep for a couple of hours in the lovely clean and crisp sheets, content and happy in our surroundings.
With dinner reservations at 8pm, I woke and was pleased to see that I had plenty of time to get ready. Enough time in fact to have a bath in one of the largest bathrooms I have ever had the pleasure of using. With free-standing roll top bath (bath goals!), separate large walk in shower cubical, toilet, sink and full length mirror, there was still more than enough room to swing half a dozen cats. With the curtains drawn and plenty of bubble bath used, I enjoyed a lovely long soak something I very rarely get the chance to do, therefore making our stay at The Vicarage a very relaxing one and one that I won’t forget in a hurry. We both loved the way the bathroom was decorated so much we have already started putting plans in motion to decorate our own bathroom at home in the same style – yes we loved it that much!
As we were ready slightly before our dinner reservation time we decided to head down to the bar to enjoy a pre meal drink. We grabbed a Drinks Dictionary from the bar, which included so many delicious sounding cocktails and numerous spirits and beers, basically a tipple to suit everyone’s taste. We also asked for the wine menu and after a lot of deliberation chose a lovely bottle of Rose Pinot Gregio. Our table for dinner was in the bar area, therefore we took our seats and were presented with the menu to peruse at our leisure. The bar, and dining area, had a very laid back and welcoming vibe, with loads of cosy seating areas which were lit in a very inviting way. I was shocked to see how busy it was for a Thursday evening, however it was completely understandable, if I lived closer I think I would visit often too. It was evident that there was a real mix of people dining and drinking from friends and family to couples and business travellers, proving it is a top spot for a catch up, a celebratory meal or even a meeting.
Once we had decided on what we wanted to eat, which was a very tough decision as EVERYTHING sounded fantastic, our order was taken. We sat back, chatted away and enjoyed our wine until our feast arrived. The Vicarage try to source all of their produce locally with a menu driven by the gardeners, foragers, farmers and suppliers of Cheshire and that is evident. The menu is very eclectic, with something for everyone, there are also a number of vegetarian and gluten-free options on it. Yes The Vicarage calls itself a pub but the fare on offer is certainly not ‘pub grub’.
Share Platter – bread selection, olives, crisps, hummus, tzatziki, Williams chipolatas, homemade chicken liver parfait and red onion chutney.
Vicarage Burger – ground beef, brioche, fries, homemade coleslaw, blush ketchup, cheddar, bacon and beerkins
Cod Fillet – sweet dauphinoise, buttered kale, confit chorizo, chilli and garlic salsa
Chocolate Brownie – crushed honeycomb, chocolate sauce, honeycomb ice cream and raspberries
Chocolate marquise – set chocolate mousse, hazelnut brittle, white chocolate, raspberry and Oreo ice cream
As a destination food-led venue we were expecting great things from our dinner at The Vicarage and we were not disappointed. Our sharing platter was phenomenal and the perfect way to start our meal. I recommended it for couples/groups who want to nibble whilst enjoying a glass of wine and a chat. We love sociable dining options and the platter was certainly that. I must admit, we hit the sharing platter hard and fast and did not pace ourselves at all – it was just too good. Therefore, we needed quite a break between the starter and our mains. This was not a problem, our waitress asked that we just let her know when we were ready for our main courses. When they did arrive they looked amazing. I ordered the burger and had requested it well done (don’t judge!). It was perfect. As desert is my favourite course of any meal I did leave some fries and the brioche in favour of the chocolate brownie which was served warm – yum. Mr ESLT is not a desert person so surprised me when even he chose one from the menu.
The food we ate at The Vicarage was by far nicer than some food we have eaten in ‘top’ restaurants and for a fraction of the cost. With starters around £7, mains between £11 and £20 and deserts around £7, it proves it is possible to have a great meal without paying a premium – the quality, taste and presentation were second to none.
After a fantastic night’s sleep and a cheeky lie in, we showered and packed before heading down for breakfast. It wasn’t particularly clear where we should sit but once the waitress saw us looking lost she showed us to a table in the light and bright conservatory area and asked if we would like tea of coffee to start. With drinks ordered we took a look at the menu. I’ll be honest I was still full from the delightful dinner we had eaten the night before and opted for the quintessential British crumpet, whereas Mr ESLT chose the full English breakfast including baked beans, a lot of hotels don’t include them on their breakfast, I personally don’t think a fry up is complete without them. My crumpets where lovely and Mr ESLT certainly enjoyed his breakfast or at least that’s what the empty plate indicated. A lovely and filling way to start the day. It set us up wonderfully for our drive home.
Check out and summary
Once we had finished breakfast we had a little wander around the quaint and homely pub, eyeing up the funky wallpaper, funny signs and quirky rooms, including the games room. Each room and area felt so different, like different buildings yet when put together, fitted perfectly. We begrudgingly grabbed our bags from the room and headed back to reception to check out which was an extremely easy process. We had a thoroughly relaxed and enjoyable stay and felt completely refreshed. With prices starting from £140 per room per night with a full English breakfast the following morning we think it is great value for money. It’s also worth pointing out that the hotel is pet friendly and for a £10 surcharge you can take your furry friend with you.
- We were hosted by The Vicarage Freehouse and Rooms on a DBB basis in exchange for honest review.