The Review: Rural England's Much-Anticipated Soho Farmhouse
Soho House recently opened its most ambitious property yet: Soho Farmhouse, a massive rural retreat spread over 100 acres of verdant countryside in Oxfordshire, about 90 minutes west of London. We left the city to take a look.
A grand country hotel with an unbuttoned aesthetic, aimed at stylish weekenders looking to break away from city life (but not disconnect entirely).
If London is taking cues from Brooklyn, the natural extension is that the English countryside would take cues from the Catskills. That’s the case here: the 40 cabins riff on the rustic chic sensibility of upstate New York, with reclaimed wood details, log-burning stoves, and velvet-cushioned chairs that look like fabulous vintage finds. (There are also two bigger houses—one with four bedrooms, one with seven—for groups.) With plenty of space between cabins, it’s easy to forget you’re actually at a hotel … until your room service smoothies arrive, transported on a repurposed milk truck.
The hotel’s mostly-British guests tend to come for a couple days to relax over leisurely lunches, often with their dogs and kids (who have access to a “Teeny Camp” if they’re not tired out by running around the expansive property). Despite the chilled out vibe, there’s still a vague sense of creative types networking. We spotted tastemakers in designer sneakers and Frame Denim jeans, and English pop stars wouldn’t feel out of place lingering over a pint of lager in the Mill Room, the hotel pub. This is still Soho House, after all.
Americans could find the pace of service overly leisurely, even for a country property, at both of the restaurants and the massive (but wonderful) Cowshed spa. Still, the staff is so friendly that it’s hard to be grumpy. There are plenty of people around to eagerly help with, say, booking a ride with one of the 11 horses in the property’s impressively spotless stables. And if you’re too full to stroll back to your cabin after dinner, any of the attendants would be happy to offer you a ride (via milk truck, naturally).
There’s great charm in many of the hotel’s well-thought out details, like the Wellington rain boots you’re given upon arrival or the complimentary Foffa bikes in a variety of sizes. And there’s so much to do—including tennis, soccer (aka football), swimming, ice skating (seasonally), cooking classes, and horseback riding—that it’s impossible to get bored. Even still, the most tempting activity is simply spending an afternoon with a good book and a glass of Cotes-du-Rhone from the ample Wine Cellar.
What We Loved
The proximity to London makes this the ideal place for even a quick one-night visit, best punctuated with a trip to nearby Bicester Village (a luxury outlet mall with Celine and Saint Laurent amongst its brands). The property’s car-free environment makes it easy to feel immediately relaxed. And the upscale comfort food is simply delicious. (Order Soho House classics like chili-flecked chunks of avocado on toast with poached eggs, or salads made with produce that’s grown on-premises). Make sure to stock up in the duplex gift shop, which sells Barbouresque waxed cotton jackets and floral tea sets that would look lovely back home in an American kitchen.
What We Wish Had Been Better
Although the hotel is open, it’s not 100 percent completed: there’s still quite a lot being built, like a 60-person cinema. In other words, there’s still a presence of equipment and noise that’s definitely not relaxing. The sheer number of families, particularly on weekends, means you won’t get a break from children running around the breakfast table—if that’s what you’re after. And although you’ll see guests walking in their Wellies on misty mornings, the vast grounds are best experienced on clear days—a rarity in England, even in the summertime.