Meander down a quiet country lane to the small parish of Holcombe, in the northeast of the Mendip Hills, where you’ll find a dreamy place to eat, drink and stay named The Holcombe. Built in the 17th Century, this traditional Somerset pub has been refreshed by the owners into a stunning restaurant with rooms.
The building is what I like to call a ‘Mendip stunner’. A beautiful painted property with countryside views, offering good food, refreshing drinks and a cosy place to rest your head.
Location wise, it’s pretty perfect for Somerset. Pull off the A37, the main trunk road which links rather nicely to Bath, Frome, Wells or Glastonbury or further to Bristol and beyond. The grounds are beautifully kept, parking is plentiful and pollinators buzz in the flower borders. Neighbours include cows in the field next to the new for 2022 Garden Terrace, this quiet idyll is just what you need to rejuvenate in the Somerset countryside.
Walk into Reception, where a warm and genuine welcome awaits you from the owner-operators Caroline Gardiner and Alan Lucas and their staff. Both are trained chefs with over 30 years experience running London based catering and event companies. The Holcombe is surrounded with tranquil gardens and fields beyond. The growing garden is available for guests and is ‘home’ to herbs, vegetables, fruit trees, fruit bushes, edible hedgerows and wildlife. Oh, and the most incredible edible flowers that adorn your cocktail and plate!
Affordable Luxury at The Holcombe
On a rather overcast Somerset day in June, Alan and Caroline welcomed members of the local press to find out more about the ethos of The Holcombe, with particular emphasis on the new outside terrace and sustainability initiative.
Welcomed with a glorious home made Elderflower Presse (with a sprig of rosemary and paper straw), nothing delights me more than a beautifully decorated and delicious drink in a nice crystal cut glass! The elderflower is grown on site, as is most of the ingredients, and this theme was evident throughout my time at The Holcombe.
The outside space makes this a great location for families wanting to meet up after lockdowns, children are welcomed and dogs on leads can come along. Truffle the dog and Pickle the cat are residents too.
Although generally warm in the summer, ambient and great for gardeners, Somerset has a penchant for being warm and temperate in the summer, according to the experts. To you and me that’s code for warm and rainy, although, Somerset isn’t known for extremes of weather, so the canopy is more to protect you from getting drizzle on your plate and your head from getting burnt, than to protect you from a summer storm. A wooden sharing table, made locally from Douglas Fir, is big enough seating for a large party. If a storm does brew, then a quick step into the restaurant is always an option. And a rather beautiful option at that.
Gazing from the Garden Terrace across the fields to Downside Abbey, I mused that you could be fooled into thinking you’re in the middle of no-where. But you are so close to the main trunk road, making The Holcombe a fantastic choice to getaway, while also being able to get back to whatever normal life is for you when the time comes to depart.
SUSTAINABILITY AND ETHOS
The Holcombe recently launched a new sustainability initiative. The couple bought the 11 bedroom property in November 2019, just before the first lockdown. Whilst forced to close, Alan and Caroline focused their time and energy on rebranding and decorating throughout. They also erected a 42st poly tunnel! Enabling the couple to focus on their key objectives of living and working as sustainably as possible. A new insect wall has been installed in the garden, alongside bee hives and edible hedgerows which have been planted for the bees and pollinators, with a second edible hedgerow serving the kitchen.
THE DINING SPACE AND BAR AREA
Welcoming the outside in, Caroline and Alan worked with notable UK Interior Designer and Decorator, Annabelle Holland Designs to bring their vision to life. Having the garden ‘feeling’ inside was an important part of that brief, pulling in muted green tones on the wooden panelling, art ‘drawings from my kitchen garden’ by local artist Simone Smart and soft window finishes. The tables match in a delicious non-matchy way. Vintage and ‘new to you’ sits nicely together in this dining space.
Each table has it’s own vignette. The restaurant as a whole exudes a warm, cosy and elevated mood, with painted wooden panelling in Little Greene paint. Glassware is sturdy and feels good in the hand, plates are rustic modern with a splash of colour. Local flowers, glass candle votives and cloth napkins decorate the space while letting the grain of the wood breathe.
The bar, a cosy area with bar stools which shares the wood burner with the dining space, serves the usual tipples as well as local Somerset wines and out of this world home made gins and vodkas which are lined up enticingly along the bar with hand made labels (try the strawberry gin, its delightful) . The cocktails are stunning, fresh and adorned with edible flowers from the garden, and without sounding cliche, as pretty as a picture.
THE GROWING GARDEN
After our drinks and introductions, we had a brilliant tour of the garden from owner Alan, a chef passionate about his growing garden and with decades of experience in hotels such as the Mandarin Oriental and alongside Michelin star chefs. Both Alan and Caroline, a fine dining chef, turning their skills to running large scale London event catering to great success before buying The Holcombe Inn.
Garden to plate philosophy was clear, as Alan walked us around the garden and explained the various aspects in his down to earth London tone, its crystal clear Alan and Caroline are passionate about this growing garden and sustainability. Every nuance, such as the compost pile which uses scraps including egg shells from the kitchen, points towards their goal of making the world a better place.
Everything in the garden is meticulously planned and implemented with the present and future in mind. No short cuts, sustainable growing is being brought into being, one good decision at a time. Passion for growing include newly planted hedgerows, which cleverly aren’t just there to provide sloes, hazelnuts, elderberry and bramble to the restaurant, but also as a gift to the wildlife.
Terracotta pots of line up in a row brimming with every variety of herb + beautiful edible flowers planted in pots or under fruit trees (apple, pear, plum and cherry) means no space goes to waste, from seed to plate its all here at The Holcombe.
TASTING PLATES AND DRINKS
Time to eat all of this glorious produce we’d seen growing a few moments before. Our menu was a taster of 7 small plates, each one a vignette and a delight for the eyes and palate. Food at The Holcombe has caught the eye of trusted food publications such as Food Magazine.
There’s no compromise on taste, but the plate has to look good. That’s really important. And there’s no flaff, it’s about a simple garnish with fresh ingredients.
Somerset meats, cheese and individual artisan makers and producers are suppliers of The Holcombe, including Bruton based Longman’s who supply the butter and Langham wines from Langport. Radford Farm produce whatever The Holcombe can’t, apart from lemons, limes and black truffles. No olive oil is used, instead rapeseed from a local supplier is used. The closer the supplier can be, the better. And there’s a solid foundation of ‘no compromise on taste.’
STAY AT THE HOLCOMBE
Caroline and Alan have transformed this traditional pub into a contemporary foodie destination with comfortable rooms with little touches like Noble Isle products for luxury bathing. And we get to share in the essence of that, whether for the day, night or weekend.
PR Invite: I was invited to visit The Holcombe for a press event, where we were shown around the property, gardens and were served lunch. All words are my own and 100% honest, If you’d like me to review your business, get in touch at email@example.com