Mollie’s Motel & Diner opened a few weeks ago to a fanfare of national press and with a scattering of celebrities. It’s not often the launch of a new Oxfordshire eaterie attracts Jeremy Clarkson, Paloma Faith, Declan Donnelly, GC, The Guardian and the Telegraph. But, now Mollie’s has been open a few weeks, how’s it settling in – and does it live up to the huge hype?
Sat between Kingston Bagpuize and Faringdon on the A420, Mollie’s is about 30 minutes drive from Oxford and styled on classic 1950’s American diners. The restaurant (which also offers a drive-through and takeout!) has ribbed leather booths, with squeezy tomato shaped sauce bottles on the table and retro light fittings aplenty.
The motel decor, however, is more Scandi chic. Light wooden panelling and pale grey paint on the bedroom walls, minimalist furniture, and soft, cosy furnishings. There’s a bright communal lounge area with free-flowing, self serve tea and coffee, plus a small shop with essentials and snacks. The seating here in the lounge is a combination of one huge communal table, sofa or more intimate tables for two.
Long overdue a catch up with my bestie, Rox, I booked in for a Saturday night stay in a standard double/twin, plus dinner and breakfast. With cocktails on the menu, we arrived shortly after check-in at 3pm, settled into the room and had a good old nosey around before heading down to dinner.
Checking in was straight forward, via the shop counter in the motel lounge. This would have been easier still if booked via their app, as this allows keyless check-in, room entry and check-out. You’ll eventually be able to book food for takeaway via the app also.
A short walk up a flight of stairs to our room (there’s no lift, so if you struggle with stairs be sure to book the ground floor), we checked into a room overlooking a small landscaped terrace with bistro-style seating. The room was basic in amenities – no tea or coffee, no robes, no fridge/mini bar – but full of quality. Plush pillows and duvet are covered in Egyptian cotton, and Cowshed products are provided in the bathroom. Motel hallways have water available from dispensers and wall-mounted TV’s in the rooms double up as guides, with no ugly paperwork littering the vibe.
The room is gorgeous, as you would expect from Soho Home, the people behind all the styling at Soho House venues. In fact, every direction you look in Mollie’s is picture perfect, an Instagram dream if you will.
The bed was comfortable, if a little firm for my personal liking. The high-pressure rain shower was high pressure indeed, though not ideal if you want to keep your hair dry. The lack of hot drinks in the room is a little frustrating in the morning, unless you are happy to get dressed before you’ve had your caffeine hit. The bathroom is nicely done, but lacks a shelf in the shower on which to put your own products, meaning they get scattered on the shower floor.
Complimentary hair dryers and an iron/ ironing board are available to borrow from the General Store, and interconnecting rooms are available upon booking. Plug sockets are all in useful places – near bedsides, mirrors, etc. The thermostat could have done with some instructions, because we only managed to figure it out the following morning, by which point we’d sweltered through the night with no opening window and a thermostat stuck on 26 while insinuating 16.
Our complaints were fairly minor and easily brushed off as teething problems, so off we went for dinner.
Dinner and Cocktails
The diner was absolutely buzzing when we got there. Bookings aren’t available and, according to staff, the restaurant is regularly busy, so plan to get there earlier than hanger strikes! Music provided by a DJ mixed with chattering customers to create a good atmosphere, with Grease classics setting the backdrop for a combination of family groups and date nights. There were loads of kids there too, from younger children to teens, lapping up the cool setting and digging into kid-friendly food.
Talking of food… It’s not gastronomy at it’s finest, but it’s tasty, fun, fulfilling and a little bit naughty. Roxi and I delved straight into the cocktails – an Espresso Martini for me, extra spicy Bloody Mary for her – before heading straight for the mains. There are a range of ‘bites’, soups and small portion salads if you fancy a starter, but knowing we were planning on big mains AND a desert, we saved some room (you can view the full menu here).
I’d been eyeing up the rotisserie chickens cooking away behind the bar, so ordered a Mollie’s Chicken Tray for one (£12), with 24-hour marinated rotisserie chicken, corn on the cob and crinkle cut fries (swapped for sweet potato fries). Roxi had her eyes firmly on the Dirty Burger (£7) – beef patty, cheddar, mustard, mayo, iceberg lettuce, gherkin, tomato – which she ordered along with crinkle cut fries (£3).
The chicken was good, flavoured with Mollie’s special sauce and charred on the outside over hickory wood and charcoal. The sweet potato fries were excellent, especially dipped in Mollie’s Smokey or Chilli sauce. The corn, while looking pretty basic, was actually a real hit – with salty (caper or anchovy?) butter melted over.
Rox was happy with her burger, but to be honest I was far too pleased with mine to take more than a glance. We also ordered sides of an excellent Mac & Cheese – proper cheezy and gooey with well-cooked macaroni and no lasting taste of flour – plus an avocado and sweetcorn salad, which was nice but no star.
Two more cocktails ordered, this time two Mollie’s Mules. Good but a little lacking in sweetness for my palette, but a good hit of alcohol to keep us in the swing.
Pudding time came around and we were hugely impressed by the Apple Pie Roxi had decided on – served fresh at the table from a homely pie dish, with Mr Whippy style vanilla ice cream on the side (or proper custard if you prefer). Having chosen what I thought would be a lighter option, I was presented with a HUGE sundae glass filled with the aforementioned ice cream, mixed with apple pie filling, crumble and sauce. What a showstopper to end with.
The staff were amazing, professional but fun and happy to help. The mood of the place was electric, with every table full of smiles and laughter. Happily sated we retired to our room and called it a night.
The morning after, we missed our ‘getting dressed’ caffeine fix, but made it over to the diner in good time for an early’ish breakfast. Served from 7am – 12noon on weekends, 7am – 10pm on weekdays with an all-day breakfast menu available from 11am till 10pm, you’ve got plenty of scope if you prefer to eat early or late. On arriving for breakfast we found out the site had lost some power that morning, and the kitchen was running a limited breakfast menu.
It didn’t make a huge impact though, scrambled eggs were off the menu but I was happy with poached eggs on toast with bacon, and Rox was equally happy with poached eggs and avocado on toast. A couple of minor communication issues – the motel staff were supposed to notify guests of the power issue, which hadn’t happened with us, and my food arrived with the addition of avocado that I hadn’t ordered. Neither particularly complaint-worthy, but in need of addressing as an overall communication point.
Breakfast was tasty, but not quite perfect. The bacon was delicious, and clearly excellent quality, but so thick it was more like slices of gammon – I like my bacon fat crispy, not possible when it’s that thick. The avocado was quite chunky, and a little underripe in places, but the toast and eggs were on point, as were our coffees and orange juice.
Stay complete and checkout navigated with ease (before the oh so leisurely noon checkout time), we spent our drive home chatting about our stay. There were niggles, absolutely, but the effort they’ve gone to with the styling and atmosphere are way above what you would get from a competing hotel at this price point. A standard double room this next Saturday would cost just £55, or a bunk room sleeping four costs £100, but there isn’t one available on a Saturday night until the beginning of June!
£55 for a double room is exceptionally good value. I could only find a handful of places nearby that were cheaper, and all were far less appealing. The nearest Premier Inns cost between £60-120 for a standard double on the same night. No wonder Mollie’s is busy. And not just because of the value, but because it offers more than just food and a roof over your head for the night; Mollie’s offers an experience, a fun one at that!
We stayed and dined as guests of Mollie’s