Mollie’s Motel offers up something even better than rooftop bars and heated pools: an American fantasy, minus the long-haul flight.
Thelma & Louise, Easy Rider, Britney Spears’ Crossroads: if there’s anything I’ve learnt from the movies, it’s that there’s nothing as glamorous as the American road trip. And Mollie’s Motel and Diner, the newest member of Soho House group that’s open to all, may be perched opposite a petrol station just off the A420 in Buckland between Oxford and Swindon, but it serves up this classic American Dream with aplomb.
From the get-go, the neon signage lures in weary drivers with the promise of a diner, a drive-thru and “a spare room for a night”. The stylish reception area, filled to bursting with comfy sofas and American goodies (Hershey’s chocolate, hoppy craft beers and bubblegum) triples as a shop and hotel bar. The 79 rooms boast vast beds swathed in Egyptian cotton, rainforest showers and enormous flatscreen TVs you can tether to your smartphone or tablet.
It is the diner part of Mollie’s Motel & Diner, though, that is guaranteed to get any Yankophile excited.
On a Saturday night, we queued among a throng of excited locals and visitors who had driven more than 40 minutes to get there, and had drinks while we waited for our table (I can recommend the refreshing eastern standard with gin, mint, cucumber and lime). Despite the crowds, service was quick: we soon slid into a leather booth next to the DJ, who kept things authentic with classics like Dolly Parton’s 9 To 5 and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama.
As a recent (and still somewhat reluctant) vegetarian, I felt a slight pang as I glanced at the ribs, hot dogs, rotisserie chicken and steaks sailing past me on trays. However, the aptly- named Pure F!lth Burger isn’t just one of the only vegan options, it’s also one of the best on the menu full-stop.
The bun was squishy, the ‘cheese’ gooey, the patty thick and covered in crispy onions, ketchup and garlicky mayo. Plus the whole thing was packed with three of my five-a-day, and, as I opted in for the ‘Dirty Deal’, a total bargain, too: for £12.50 you also get a generous portion of crinkle-cut fries and a strawberry milkshake. (Full disclosure: I have the sweet tooth of a small child and even I couldn’t handle the heady sugar rush of that milkshake. It took me two hours to get through half of it.)
Breakfast is every bit as delicious. Both the traditional and vegetarian Full English options come with an American twist: sausage patties for the former, corn and avocado for the latter. For those in the mood for something drenched in syrup, you can order a plate of fluffy pancakes or waffles.
Line your stomach well, then set off for nearby Oxford, where you can catch the Jeff Koons exhibition at the Ashmolean (ashmolean.org) before dropping by the roof terrace at The Alchemist for a sour rhubarb and custard cocktail (thealchemist.uk.com). Bicester Village’s designer outlets are just a 35-minute drive away and feminist history buffs will want to visit the pretty village of Swinbrook, final resting place of the trailblazing Mitford sisters.
Mollie’s may not be the full luxury experience that Soho House fans are used to, but it is excellent value for money. And it offers up something even better than rooftop bars and heated pools: an American fantasy, minus the long-haul flight.
Rooms at Mollie’s Motel start at £50; molliesmotel.com
Images: Soho House