A review of The Holcombe, a restaurant with rooms in Somerset

Great British boltholes: Inside the Somerset restaurant with rooms offering mouthwatering food… and views

  •  Alice Smellie checks into The Holcombe, which has views of one of England’s great neo-Gothic churches
  •  There are two dog-friendly lodges kitted out with freshly made cookies and wood-burning stoves
  • She is impressed with the presentation of the food – dishes are scattered with the garden’s edible flowers
  • The sweeping views that stretch across acres of fields from The Holcombe to the stunning neo-Gothic Downside Abbey church are breathtaking when we visit this country inn on a beautiful summer evening.

    Owners Caroline Gardiner and Alan Lucas have upgraded the 17th Century inn from a pub to a restaurant with rooms, with a muted cosy vibe. If your idea of heaven is stomping around the Mendip Hills with your dog, then this is an ideal place to lay both your heads.

    As well as lovely walks around the village and surrounding countryside, the inn has two dog-friendly lodges. Here it’s all about the detail. Barlake, where I settle down with my spaniel Bumble, has a water bowl, a soft dog bed and a blanket. Just outside the door is a large field in which hounds can have an evening sniff and potter.

    Alice Smellie stays at The Holcombe in Holcombe, Somerset, which has countryside views and a 'muted cosy vibe'

    Alice Smellie stays at The Holcombe in Holcombe, Somerset, which has countryside views and a ‘muted cosy vibe’

    Pictured is a room in one of the inn's dog-friendly lodges, which features a freestanding bath. Alice describes the inn as a 'luxurious little haven'

    Pictured is a room in one of the inn’s dog-friendly lodges, which features a freestanding bath. Alice describes the inn as a ‘luxurious little haven’

    For humans, the lodge is a luxurious little haven, with freshly made cookies and a wood-burning stove in the bedroom, and a freestanding bath and Noble Isle toiletries in the bathroom. 

    The only sound from outside is the cooing of wood pigeons.

    The eight main house rooms are suitably rustic, with clever contemporary twists; there are hand-printed fabrics and soft goose-down duvets and pillows.

    'The eight main house rooms (one of which is pictured) are suitably rustic, with clever contemporary twists,' notes Alice

    ‘The eight main house rooms (one of which is pictured) are suitably rustic, with clever contemporary twists,’ notes Alice

    There¿s masses of room to sit, and both the dining room and small sitting room (above) have wood-burners ¿ 'perfect if you visit on a rainy day', says Alice

    There’s masses of room to sit, and both the dining room and small sitting room (above) have wood-burners – ‘perfect if you visit on a rainy day’, says Alice 

    Sustainable food is a huge focus at The Holcombe, with as much as possible sourced locally and seasonal produce grown in the kitchen garden

    Sustainable food is a huge focus at The Holcombe, with as much as possible sourced locally and seasonal produce grown in the kitchen garden

    Above is one of the inn's dishes, scattered with the garden¿s edible flowers

    Above is one of the inn’s dishes, scattered with the garden’s edible flowers

    The inn sits on the edge of Holcombe, which is surrounded by villages such as Kilmersdon, famous for its very steep Jack and Jill Hill, and Mells, which offers pretty walks and an excellent village shop and cafe. The magnificent Downside Abbey church, built in 1878, is a five-minute drive away. 

    It is considered one of England’s great neo-Gothic churches and is riddled with extraordinary historical details, such as the console of its organ – made from timber from HMS Bellerophon, the ship Napoleon surrendered to soon after Waterloo in 1815.

    Sustainable food is a huge focus at The Holcombe, with as much as possible sourced locally and seasonal produce grown in the impressive raised beds and polytunnels of the kitchen garden. 

    'If your idea of heaven is stomping around the Mendip Hills (pictured) with your dog, then this is an ideal place to lay both your heads,' Alice says of the inn

    ‘If your idea of heaven is stomping around the Mendip Hills (pictured) with your dog, then this is an ideal place to lay both your heads,’ Alice says of the inn

    Holcombe is surrounded by villages such as Mells, which offers pretty walks and an excellent village shop and cafe. Above is the village's manor, Mells Park House

    Holcombe is surrounded by villages such as Mells, which offers pretty walks and an excellent village shop and cafe. Above is the village’s manor, Mells Park House

    The magnificent Downside Abbey church (pictured), built in 1878, is a five-minute drive away from The Holcombe

    The magnificent Downside Abbey church (pictured), built in 1878, is a five-minute drive away from The Holcombe 

    A Somerset sirloin steak is served with mizuna and herb pesto and pan-fried loin of lamb with aubergine salsa, sour cream and pomegranate. It’s hardly standard pub fare, and the presentation is exquisite – dishes are scattered with the garden’s edible flowers, a signature of the chef. 

    We eat supper at a long table on the terrace, watching the sun go down over the fields, with the final golden rays silhouetting the tower of the distant Abbey church. There is an arch heavy with wisteria at one end and the gardens are bordered by bee-friendly flowerbeds.

    Inside, there’s masses of room to sit, and both the dining room and small sitting room have wood-burners – perfect if you visit on a rainy day. 

    Bumble and I have breakfast by the bar, and I can tell his review would be equally glowing.

    TRAVEL FACTS

    The Holcombe, Holcombe, Somerset. B&B from £170 per room per night (theholcombe.com).

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