Best Food And Drink In Somerset
There is such a wealth of high-quality food and drink producers in Somerset that they were celebrated in a new food and drink trail that ran this July. The good news is that the majority of cider, cheese and other makers who were featured can be visited at any time. Somerset’s chefs also do a great job of putting all these superior ingredients together in well-regarded farm-to-fork restaurants.
An obvious place to start a foodie tour of the county would be in Cheddar, where the internationally popular cheese was first made during the 12th century. There are two producers selling independently-made cheddar here that is aged in the caves of Cheddar’s spectacular gorge.
Somerset’s farm shops sell the very best in fresh, local produce and there are some real gems to discover. Kimbers, near Wincanton, offers meat from its farm, like Aberdeen Angus grass-fed beef and – for something different, or for an ethical choice – diced goat. Teals, meanwhile, has a food market in a handsome barn setting close to Glastonbury and sells boxes of butchered meat, like a leg of butterflied lamb, as well as delicious deli pickings. There is also a restaurant serving breakfast and lunch.
South Petherton is a good base for visiting the Farm and Field Cafe at Frogmary Green Farm. It has a lovely setting, beside an arboretum and a wild flower meadow, and serves burritos, pizza, coffee and cake. Don’t leave without sitting down to lunch or dinner at Somerset’s best new restaurant – Holm. Situated at the heart of golden-stone South Petherton, this former bank now has a big terrace at the back, while minimal, contemporary art hangs inside. Chef-director Nicholas Balfe ran three other restaurants in London before moving out to Somerset. His menu is awash with delightful, modern cooking and is bursting with dishes that use ingredients brought in by local farmers.
In trendy Bruton, the restaurant Osip holds Somerset’s only Michelin star and it is a treat not to be missed. Chef Merlin Labron-Johnson is a master of precision, with an exacting command of flavours created using produce available right from the restaurant’s bright yellow door. Just a few shop fronts away on Bruton’s high street, the Old Pharmacy is also run by Labron-Johnson and is a cafe/bistro in a rustic space, with simple wooden furniture, a changing daily menu and plenty of wine to sample at night.
Sat in a converted barn alongside the Hauser & Wirth art gallery outside Bruton, Roth Bar & Grill is a Somerset favourite, a convivial space that is ideal for everything from brunch to dinner, with a long bar decorated with trinkets and a large store for ageing prime cuts of meat.
Just a few country lanes from here, Westcombe Dairy is a wonderful place to learn about cheesemaking in the 21st-century. Their rich, unpasteurised cheddar features on a number of menus and, if visitors are lucky, they can get a quick tour and learn about trials in diversifying soil and about cheddar recipes of old.
A ten-minute drive outside Wincanton is The Newt, one of England’s finest country house hotels which also makes its own cider. Tasting sessions reveal how the makers are experimenting with their methods. The hotel also has two excellent restaurants. The Garden Cafe, which looks onto the kitchen gardens and serves vegetable-led lunch dishes and The Botanical Rooms, for dinners from a seasonal menu.
Frome will please anyone who enjoys dining at independent eateries. Rye Bakery is a popular cafe, set in a former church beneath a beautiful organ. Collect bread, tuck into brunch or select from a range of sandwiches or wood-fired pizzas. It’s a great spot for families too, with an indoor play area that keeps little ones entertained. There is more pizza, great wine and beautiful, full-height windows facing winding Catherine Hill at Eight Stony Street. Just opposite, alternatively, High Pavement offers tapas with a Moorish influence and seating in a pretty back garden. Finally, Bistro Lotte is a snug, neighbourhood eatery with a convivial atmosphere and quality French cooking at wallet-friendly prices.
The market town of Ilminster, meanwhile, is home to the stylishly eclectic restaurant Today’s Menu and chic The Somerset Bar. The latter is housed within the Somerset studios of the Temperley fashion brand and features bar stools in a dusky pink velvet, art deco mirrors and a floral chandelier. The signature cocktails, such as the Temperley Spritz or Orchard Mist, are apple-based, many of them created with Somerset Cider Brandy, which is made on the Temperley family’s farm not too far from here. After a pre-dinner cocktail, cross over to Today’s Menu for varied, imaginative Mediterranean cooking.
Outside of Yeovil, West Country Water Buffalo has a herd of around 250 buffalo that graze here and a farm shop selling Buffalicious mozzarella cheese, ice cream and buffalo steaks, which are low in fat.
For the fruitiest apple juice in Somerset and for small-batch cider, Dowdings, outside Wincanton, is a family-run business producing bottles of Tower Brue. If that wasn’t dangerously drinkable in itself, they also recently created a very low-alcohol “Breakfast Cider”.
Taunton is just down the road from one of Somerset’s most well-known cider producers. Sheppy’s House of Cider has a bar and cafe. It also offers tastings and tours from its contemporary visitors’ centre and museum, which explores 200 years of cultivating orchards to create this golden elixir. When it comes to seeking out Somerset’s best food and drink producers, the main difficulty is finding time to fit them all in.