Restaurant Review: Holm, Somerset

By Sandy Carr

6 months ago

Holm sweet Holm


Looking for somewhere to eat in Somerset? Sandy Carr checks out Holm, a new contemporary restaurant serving seasonal dishes inspired by the beautiful West Country landscape.

Restaurant Review: Holm, Somerset

Image: Ed Schofield

South Petherton is one of the prettiest villages in Somerset, with honey-coloured hamstone cottages, elegant merchant houses, a flurry of tantalising local shops and artisan butchers and bakeries. It exudes a traditional community warmth and welcome that feels timeless – so it’s not surprising that, in 2021, chef Nicholas Balfe chose this as the location for a new restaurant. With two former colleagues, he had decamped from South London, where they were responsible for Levan in Peckham and Salon in Brixton (now sadly closed). Two of the trio moved back to the city, but Balfe has planted his roots deeply into the fertile soil of Somerset. Not only has the restaurant become a firm favourite on the restaurant circuit in the south-west, but he has recently added seven ensuite rooms above, so dining can be truly relaxed without having to face that tedious trip home.

Part of the attraction of the area is the abundance of fine local produce on the doorstep, and from producers who are just as passionate about quality, freshness and sustainability as Balfe is himself. Developing close, continuing relationships with these people is an important element in the culture of Holm –  and that connection with community has been transposed into the concept and design of the rooms, too.

The early-19th-century stone building on the main street was formerly a bank, and it has a sturdy, self-confident elegance about it.  When you step through the door, the atmosphere is lively, warm and welcoming. Some guests cluster around the wood-burning stove with snacks and drinks, while others perch on stools at the chef’s counter, enjoying the bustle of the kitchen. The main dining room is light and airy (and on our visit, it’s packed with customers). It has 34 covers, two of which are dog-friendly. The old bank vault houses the wine cellar and an intimate private dining room seating up to ten diners, which can be booked for special occasions. Outside at the back of the building is a spacious terrace with an outside kitchen and pretty herb garden with fruit trees and raised vegetable beds, which would be very tempting in good weather.

Image: Ed Schofield

The entire building including the rooms has been sympathetically restored to retain original features while promoting a Scandi, mid-century modern vibe crossed with rustic chic. Expect polished bare plaster, exposed brick walls and reclaimed timber floorboards alongside Ercol and G-plan furniture and artisanal textiles, crafts and ceramics (much of which is sourced locally). It is all very thoughtful and idiosyncratic, from the abstract paintings of Polish artist Caziel, who was active in interwar Paris but spent his last years in Somerset, to the bespoke items by local furniture designer Tortie Hoare and the vintage Penguin paperbacks in the studio, which doubles as a sitting room for guests. This last is envisaged as a community space in which anything from yoga classes to art exhibitions might take place.

The main attraction of any visit to Holm will be the food. Menus are driven principally by the seasons and the desire for that close connection with the local environment: ‘We work’, says Balfe, ‘with local farmers, growers, butchers, gamekeepers, fishermen and anyone who shares our love of exceptional ingredients, treated with care and respect.’ Listings change regularly, depending on whatever fresh produce arrives daily. 

It follows that our menu had a distinctly autumnal feel: we settled happily for roasted venison, pork loin (sadly without crackling), a puree of crown prince squash with sage, braised red cabbage, wild mushrooms, pickles, a perfect tarte tatin and a totally delectable chocolate cremeux. We also drank fabulous Holm Negronis – an intriguing well-balanced concoction of gin, Cynar, vermouth and Pomona from the Somerset Cider Brandy company just up the road. (We’ll be trying these at home this Christmas.) The wine list is short, focused on artisanal natural winemaking by modern producers tied to terroir but including a few classic stalwarts. We chose a Garnacha from Spain’s Sierra de Gredos, deliciously light and fruity. Locally produced beers and ciders are also available.

Image: Ed Schofield

If you’re staying the night, breakfast is an interesting, innovative take on the full English, and all the better for it: crunchy homemade granola with fruit compote, grilled pork belly slices, smoked trout, soft boiled eggs, hash browns, soda bread toast and cinnamon pastries. All cooked and served impeccably and with style. The addition of seasonal greens was superfluous.

As a base for exploring this part of Somerset, Holm is ideally placed. Two of Somerset’s most beautiful gardens – East Lambrook Manor and Barrington Court – are nearby, as is Temperley’s Burrow Hill cider farm and Alice Temperley’s glitzy emporium in Ilminster. Further afield are the atmospheric Levels and the arty delights of Bruton. To the south the Jurassic coast is just 40 minutes away. And its position minutes off the A303 makes it the perfect pit-stop on the east-west route.

Image: Dave Watts

BOOK IT

The restaurant is open 12pm-11pm Wednesday-Saturday; 12pm-6pm Sunday. B&B from £140 per night, available Wednesday to Saturday inclusive.

28 St James Street, South Petherton, Somerset TA13 5BW

01460 712470

holmsomerset.co.uk