Hotel review: The Lion Inn, Winchcombe, Gloucestershire

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Unusually I uncover tonight's pub flicking through an interiors magazine. Goodness, hostelries are upping their game. A well hung oil painting and a bit of exposed stone do not a great pub make, however. The proof will be in the eating, sleeping and bar-propping.

Funny, I pass the pub, but no car park, so I ditch the car and scurry back along a street glittering with festive shop windows. Love at first sight might be overstating things, but not much can match, in my book, the palpable good cheer of a local at the weekend's start – and it's happening in here. In spades. Wine is being sipped from fireside armchairs. Tables bear pints and fresh flowers, and none of the occupants of wide wooden barstools turns around to stare. Instead, staff smile and say hello and when I say I'm checking in, the publican, Annie Fox-Hamilton, introduces herself and offers to show me the car park.

Ah – I was only being a bit ditzy. It's a public car park accessed down a very narrow turning into a lane. They could give us a clue on the website.

Back in that inviting bar, candles flicker, logs blaze and across the hall glasses sparkle on wooden tables laid for dinner. The bar is a shiny length of American oak but the pumps dispense pure tradition from Hook Norton, Brakspear, Ringwood and Prescott breweries.

There are five rooms above this old Cotswolds inn. Furnishings in room two are smartly rustic – fresh flowers in the stone fireplace, pine bedside tables, an upright gilt-legged sofa beneath the stone mullion windows and simple antique pine wardrobe. Hairdryer, game of Scrabble, no nasty black TV screen in a corner. Suits me (but apparently 10 guests have not agreed). The tiled and shuttered shower room reminds me of the Dean Street Townhouse in London – must be the Cowshed products lined up along the shelf. Pity I can't turn the shower on until I'm under the showerhead though. Tea and coffee are on room service, says the info, or a kettle if you really insist.

At the bar, I await Bea and Mr Bea for dinner and soon a silver-tongued Sardinian bartender is pouring a golden-hued gavi from the vineyards of La Minaia. It's ?8.50 a glass and slips down a treat.

"This pub's got heart," says Bea, surveying a cheery family party seated at a long table in the dining room. Confit chicken terrine with spicy chilli jam, a salad of tender venison and goat cheese crostini with warm figs and pickled vegetables kick things off, followed by gourmet pizzas.

"Custard a bit thin but it was good," Mr Bea says of his warm apple and cinnamon crumble.

"I wrestled that cheese platter to the ground," says Bea, replacing her knife on the slate board in triumph.

Only one thing mars my stay. Rowdy, crack-of-dawn deliveries to the Co-op across the road. Breakfast? Well there's no room, but you've got the idea by now. If you want a perfect pub in a country town, this comes pretty close.

Follow Sally on Twitter @sallyshalam

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