Not many people will have heard of Gordon Russell, but he was a key figure in the world of 20th-century design and craftsmanship. Born in London in 1892, he became director of the Design Council, was awarded a knighthood in 1955, and paved the way for a whole generation of architects and designers to come. At a recent RCA graduation ceremony in the Albert Hall in London, Sir Terence Conran credited Russell as his inspiration. Influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, Russell designed and manufactured wartime utility furniture, as well as Murphy radio cabinets and one-off pieces for politicians and royalty. The tiny Cotswold village of Broadway was his home and HQ, and at one time, his firm employed more than 200 craftsmen.
It was Russell’s father who brought the family to Broadway from London in 1904, when he became a hotelier at the Lygon Arms. So it is perhaps fitting that the former workshops of the Gordon Russell empire is now a restaurant with rooms. Positioned in the middle of the picturesque high street, where stagecoaches once stopped en route to London, it’s every inch the country bolt hole. It’s also the ideal launching (or recovery) pad for walking the Great Cotswold Way, and a damn good place to kick back and relax a while.
The focal point of Russell’s is, of course, the restaurant, which takes up most of the ground floor of the building. The menu here is “British fusion”, featuring dishes such as baba ghanoush, grilled razor clams and roast duck with star anise jus. Down the side alley, next to a lavender-strewn pathway, is a less formal eatery called The Workshop, kitted out with some of Gordon Russell’s own handiwork no less. The menu here are more relaxed – fish finger sandwiches, Welsh rarebit made with Montgomery cheddar, homemade hamburgers, daily roasts, cold meats and salads. Perfect for lunch.
It was here that I met head chef Damien Clisby, who only arrived in June 2011 and promptly won Cotswold Life‘s New Chef of the Year. It’s fair to say Damien has injected a bit of oomph into proceedings and is full of ideas. On his hit list are a food market in the square, a new vegetable patch, Christmas markets and regular pig roasts, to name but a few. He pushes local and seasonal in his kitchen where possible (which isn’t hard in this part of the world), sourcing his meat from Tamworth or Bourton on the Water, veg from the Vale of Evesham, and bread from the bakery up the road.
Seven large, individually designed rooms provide lodgings, so you can sleep off supper. My room was up in the eaves of the house, in what was once the company’s drawing and design room. While they were renovating, the owners found an old Rolladex of Russell’s client list here, including the contact details for former Prime Minister Lloyd George. I had a huge bed, a massive roll-top bath in the middle of the bathroom, and views out over the honey-coloured high street and green hills beyond. ‘Twas the perfect piece of English country paradise.
The deets: Russell’s of Broadway, 20 High Street, Broadway, Worcestershire, WR12 7DT (01386 853555; russellsofbroadway.co.uk).
The damage: Rooms from £98, including breakfast.
Come here for: A slice of Cotswold life, antiques browsing, an education on Gordon Russell at the museum (www.gordonrussellmuseum.org) – opened by Russell-devotee Sir Terence Conran.
Foodie diversion: All along the high street are lovely little shops and cafes selling all manner of local produce, pub grub and cream teas. Try the deli next door for fresh veg, homemade pies and cakes, or stop in at the brilliant Broadway Wine Company down a side alley off the high street to sample some very reasonable local and international labels (www.broadwaywinecompany.co.uk) by the glass, which come served with nibbles. Visit Broadway has lots of local info.
Review by Katie Monk