The phrases “motel and diner” conjure up many photographs – US highways, neon, palm timber, Edward Hopper, cherry pie and low refills – however hardly ever rural Oxfordshire. But right here I’m, turning off an A street close to the gorgeous village of Buckland at a giant crimson signal for Mollie’s Motel & Diner.
The situation shouldn’t be the one uncommon factor about Mollie’s. It might be subsequent to a BP storage however the reception space’s glass cupboards stuffed with Hershey’s chocolate and popcorn, cabinets of design books, objets d’artwork and crops, and Scandi-style chairs really feel 1,000,000 miles from a petroleum forecourt. If I had booked through the app, because the billboards advise, I might have gone straight to the room utilizing my cellphone as a key. As an alternative, I wait at check-in behind households with accents as crisp as their shirts, who appear to be they’ve simply popped over from the closest Cotswolds village.
The brains behind Mollie’s is Nick Jones, credited with reinventing the nation home lodge when he opened Babington Home in 1998, and whose Soho Home empire now spans three continents, with members’ golf equipment, townhouses and seashore homes in a number of glamorous cities.

Now he’s on a mission to reinvent the roadside keep within the UK. He selected this spot on the A420 west of Oxford as a result of he lives close by and drives previous it day by day. Additionally, the numbers make sense: 24,000 vehicles use the A420 every single day however there may be little alternative for hungry drivers. Now a billboard promoting the diner, a drive-thru and “a spare room for an evening” goals to lure travellers heading for the brilliant lights of Swindon, or locals on the lookout for someplace to place up a visiting relative.
Mollie’s isn’t the UK’s first trendy motel – the eco-friendly Pig Shed opened on the A1065 in Norfolk late final 12 months; and the super-stylish Mhor 84 on the A84 within the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs nationwide park is one other success story for the Mhor assortment – however it might quickly turn into the best-known. Jones has already earmarked 10 websites throughout the UK, largely roadside however some in metropolis centres, too. The subsequent Mollie’s will open in 2020 at Cribbs Causeway simply off the M5 north of Bristol; Manchester will observe, with greater than 200 rooms, three eating places and a rooftop pool and bar. “I’ve been fascinated by the roadside ever since I used to be a child. However I feel there may be room for one thing completely different,” Jones tells me.
These newcomers apart, UK roadsides are in dire want of a revamp. However, as Heston Blumenthal’s efforts at Little Chef made clear, change isn’t all the time welcomed. The menu the Michelin-star chef devised for the Popham Little Chef in Hampshire in 2008 was dropped in 2013. Braised ox cheeks and mussels in white wine didn’t reduce the mustard with Britain’s drivers.

Mollie’s is a extra drastic overhaul. A Little Chef on the location because the early 1990s was knocked right down to make means for a dark-wood, boxy new-build diner and 79-room motel. Though the idea is impressed by US motels, Jones needed to keep away from the retro look; bedrooms are trendy and soothing due to blond-wood panelling, a pale color scheme and first rate sound-proofing – I can’t hear the visitors in any respect. And the Egyptian cotton, “rainforest” bathe and Cowshed merchandise (the spa model is a part of the Soho Home group) are a pleasing shock in a £50 room (£75 from Could). And as Mollie’s doesn’t seem on reserving websites – thereby avoiding 18% fee – these charges are mounted, slightly than “from”.
The diner can also be extra traditional than kitsch. I just like the greeny-blue leather-based cubicles, tiled ground and chrome bar – and so does most of Oxfordshire if the queue at 6.30pm final Saturday is something to go by. My eight-year-old son and I sit watching no less than eight cooks at work within the open kitchen. The menu options diner favourites: burgers, rotisserie rooster, shakes – however made with high-quality elements. The meals arrives rapidly however the kitchen appears to battle with a full home and drive-thru queue: my rooster quarter (£6, free-range, marinated for 24 hours) is juicy with a number of flavour; however one patty in my son’s “soiled double bacon burger” (£10) is burned to a crisp. Milkshakes are so candy even my little sugar-fiend might solely handle half.

If I had been with my companion, I may need had a drink within the reception space or headed down the street to the Lamb at Buckland. However we’re in our room by 8.30pm watching a TV doc about Chester Zoo. The subsequent morning it’s again to the diner: granola and yogurt for me; waffles (once more, too candy) with berries and cream for the boy. Breakfast isn’t included – there may be free espresso in reception – however with eggs on toast at £four and “discount baps” from £5, it compares with breakfast in Starbucks.
The preliminary success of Mollie’s is little question pushed partly by the Soho Home connection – not many motels host a celeb opening celebration – however as soon as the stardust has settled, the massive crimson signal will proceed to be a beacon to anybody intrigued by the concept of 1950s America on an English roadside.
• Lodging was offered by Mollie’s Motel (doubles £50, £75 from Could, room solely), Shrivenham Street, A420, Buckland, Faringdon, Oxfordshire
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Rachel Coltman, customer expertise supervisor, west Oxfordshire Nationwide Belief

Buscot lock and weir, Oxfordshire. {Photograph}: Alamy
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