This corner of England’s
West Country is known for quiet villages and orchards – but it is also home to
exciting gastronomic traditions and contemporary spins on old-fashioned food.
Best for pub grub
Located in the village of Kilve, The Hood Arms dates
back to the 17th century. With an emphasis on real ales, fine wines and locally
sourced food, this former coaching inn has a seasonal menu of modern British
classics that may include Jerusalem artichoke, apple and onion soup, roast rib
of local beef, and plaice with lemon caper butter (nr Bridgwater; lunch mains
The latest offering from sibling restaurateurs Jon and Nick Rossi, the Mendip Inn takes the great British pub into the 21st
century without losing any of the welcoming features you’d hope to find in a good
old pub: big leather seats, roaring fires, plenty of nooks and crannies, and of
course, amazing food. The menu is hearty and wholesome, featuring steak and ale
pie, faggots and mash, and sharing plates (nr Bath; lunch mains from £4.95).
It may sound like a location from Star Wars, but the Wookey Hole Inn is in fact
a glorious gastropub situated in the village of Wookey Hole. Here, the inn’s
half-timbered heritage is brought up to date with top-notch local ciders and
ales and creative British cuisine – dishes such as pesto-rib of beef and
coconut sea bass are recent menu highlights. If the weather’s nice, take a
table in its sculptured garden (High St; lunch mains from £5.75).
Best for vegeterians
A much-loved Glastonbury haunt, the delightful, family-run Rainbows
End Café serves generous portions of Greek cheese parcels, fresh chilli
pasties, satisfying soups and homemade cakes. Potted plants and brightly
painted mismatched furniture help create a laid-back feel in the dining room
and there is also a patio out the back (17b High St; mains from £3).
In the market town of Frome, The Garden Café
is known for its organic, Fairtrade, free-range and locally sourced vegetarian
and vegan food, as well as its efforts to reduce waste. Chow down on spicy
cashew and bean patties, stone-baked pizzas – including a tasty tofu option –
and salads in its walled garden, before taking home ingredients (breads, oils,
sauces, fruit and vegetables) from its well-stocked shop (16 Stony St; mains
The food at Demuths is a world away from the stodgy quiches and
nut roasts found in many veggie establishments. This brilliant bistro turns out
some of Bath’s most imaginative food, from smoky ricotta fritters to a divine
fennel tagine. Also look out for Demuths’ monthly seven-course tasting menu
complete with wine pairings (2 North Parade Passage; mains from £4.95,
seven-course tasting menus £55 including wine).
Best for modern dining
Located downstairs in the Castle Hotel, Taunton, Brazz has a lively atmosphere and bright
décor. It serves British food with an emphasis on local produce. Expect to tuck
into dishes like Beech Hayes Farm sausages with red onion gravy and mash, and
ham hock and mustard pie served with buttered vegetables (Castle Green; mains
The village of Chew Magna is the somewhat incongruous setting for The Pony & Trap, a Michelin-starred country
pub. Headed up by chef Josh Eggleton, it’s arguably one of the most exciting
places to eat in the South West. Starters feature devilled pigeons’ livers and
hearts with mushrooms on toast, and mains include fillet of Cornish cod with
sautéed samphire and shrimp butter (Newtown; mains from £11.50).
Not only does the Clavelshay Barn restaurant
– a converted stone barn in North Petherton, on the edge of the Quantocks –
offer the cream of local Somerset ingredients, it also has its own farm
(providing produce to the restaurant). Baked Somerset goat’s cheese with
beetroot pureé and twice-cooked belly pork with scrumpy sauce are recent
highlights (North Petherton; mains from £16).
Where to stay
Apple is a traditional redbrick Victorian
townhouse in Glastonbury, which has recently had a contemporary refit. Abstract
artwork features in the rooms and there’s a small apple orchard where you can
take breakfast on sunny mornings (25 Norbins Rd, from £55).
Grade II-listed Three Abbey Green has retained period style –
its seven spacious rooms have subtle décor and each has a traditional sofa or
armchairs and a stylish en-suite bathroom (3 Abbey Green, Bath; from £90).
is a 15th-century former coaching inn in Wells, in the shadow of the cathedral.
The 48 bedrooms are individually styled and feature antique furnishings,
heritage wallpaper and quilted fabrics ( Sadler St; from £124).
By road, Somerset can be reached via the M4 from southern England and the M5
from the north. For Bath, direct
rail services can be taken from Cardiff, and Paddington and Waterloo in
London (Paddington from £30). For the rest of the country, services connect to Bath via Bristol
(Manchester from £90). Regular bus services from the
First group operate throughout the region and neighbouring Bristol, Devon
and Cornwall (day tickets £2.70).
The article 'Mini guide to dining in Somerset' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Traveller.