The Feathers Hotel, Woodstock - travel review
I was faced with a dilemma - here I was looking an array of 425 bottles of gin and I had never touched a drop of the spirit since my teenage years because I didn't like the 'perfumed' taste. I had always been a vodka drinker.
But, it seemed such a shame to waste such an opportunity and with the expertise of Maitre d' Octavin Onisorun at The Feathers Hotel in Woodstock I was guided through every step of finding the 'perfect' gin for me.
I was asked whether I preferred citrus, perfumed or oak. Easy choice - citrus. And then I found a major stumbling block to my liking of gin - the mixer. Easy choice again - drop the tonic and replace with lemonade.
Octavin let me sample several gins (just a drop) and we opted for one with a citrus taste.The gin was a perfect aperitif.
The Feathers has won awards for its specialist gin bar and it has also broken a Guinness Book record for its collection of the spirit.
We were staying at the boutique hotel for the weekend. It's an interesting building with plenty of nooks and crannies.
In previous years, parts of the 17th Century building have been a Sanatorium, a draper' shop and a butchers.
Contemporary, but retaining its historic charm, the intimate town house hotel is just eight miles from Oxford in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds.
Our room was delightful with dark furniture mixed with bright blue and ruby red furnishings. The contemporary and huge bathroom added to the chic air of this four-star hotel.
Our pre-dinner drinks were taken in the bar area with a delightful view of the courtyard. We had our eye on having a drink there before our meal, but unfortunately the British weather had decided otherwise!
We were led through to the restaurant area, which was light and airy. The menu by Dominic Chapman - head chef at Heston Blumenthal's Michelin-starred Hinds Head and Michael Parkinson's Royal Oak - is exciting with good use of seasonal ingredients.
Our starters were Seared South Devon Mackerel with Salsa Agresto, fennel and gooseberry and wood pigeon breast, watercress, quail egg, beetroot, candied walnuts and pickled girolles.
Mains were roast Cornish cod, chorizo and chick peas with tender stem broccoli and pan fried sea bream, mussels, samphire, peas, radishes and beurre blanc.
Both courses were delicious, but the piece de resistance was the desserts with my husband talking about the virtues of his sticky toffee pudding with Tonka Bean ice cream and me taking a huge step back in time with baked Alaska and cherries. My only minor grumble was that the meringue was a lot softer than I remembered in the 'good old days'.
The Feathers is at the gates of Blenheim Palace - a beautiful country home.
Home to the 12th Duke of Marlborough and his family and the birth place of Sir Winston Churchill, Blenheim Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We spent a delightful few hours strolling around the house and also the immaculate grounds. Although we didn't manage to cover the whole 2,000 acres.
The Formal Gardens surround the Palace, and they include the majestic Water Terraces, the Duke's Private Italian Garden, the tranquil Secret Garden with all of its hidden treasures, the new Churchill Memorial Garden and the beautifully delicate Rose Garden.
The Park is now home to several Sites of Special Scientific Interest including the Great Lake and the ancient oaks in High Park.
It was interesting to not only find out about Churchill's links to Blenheim, but also the fascinating tales of its ancestors.
Woodstock is a picturesque town with twinky shops, restaurants and bars.
It's just a short drive to Oxford, Chipping Norton and other parts of the Cotswolds.
The Feathers was a prime example of trying something a little different and dispelling any misconceptions - I could now be a gin convert. You never know I might return to sample a few more of the 425 tipples.