HOLM is where the heart is: A triumphant restaurant with rooms in Somerset’s South Petherton

A former bank turned restaurant with rooms in Somerset is right on the money, says Rosie Paterson.

Too often a restaurant with rooms, seemingly two halves of a whole, is all restaurant, or all rooms. The other half is neglected, an overlooked afterthought. The brains behind HOLMNicholas Balfe, who relocated, along with his family, from London — wisely decided to walk before he could run.

The restaurant — a total triumph that I knew I had to visit when one wise friend who knows his way around a kitchen excitedly said was home to the ‘best potatoes I’ve ever had’ — came first. Once firmly established, the rooms followed. 

I spent my childhood summers negotiating the A303 in both directions, the stop start motion of the car as it battled to pass Stonehenge and navigate the two lanes to one lane to two lanes to one lane at infuriating random, burned deep into a part of my brain I’d rather excoriate it from. 

Two, three decades ago there was a dearth of places to find refuge in, let alone good food. Nowadays there are plenty (click here to read more about some of our favourites), but oh how I wish HOLM had existed back then. Not for me — whatever I might like to think, my palette was definitely not that refined — but for my parents who famously (in our family at least) once had to wait a half hour for two slices of buttered white toast inside the Ilminster Little Chef. (It should concern us all that there’s an online ‘fandom’ forum for the now shuttered Little Chef restaurant chain.)

The younger Rosie of two, three decades ago, who loved the A303 solely because of what lay in wait at the end, would likely find it hard to believe that the older Rosie of right now loves the A303 because of the bounty of excellent places to stop at along the way. HOLM included. 

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The rooms 

The rooms — seven of them, to the restaurant’s 34 covers — opened in Autumn 2023. They’re named after British trees and furnished in a beautifully executed midcentury style that you’re probably more accustomed to seeing in big budget and city hotels. 

Their simplicity, the lack of frills and fuss and florals and cottage-core, is the perfect foil to Mr Balfe’s food (more below) and it suits this part of proper British countryside. 

Elm (above) is the largest and the most expensive. It’s also dog friendly. Its name comes from the fact that the building’s original structure was made out of elm and some of the original beams were salvaged and given a second lease of life as steak knives. 

There’s a four poster bed covered in Devon Duvet linen, boucle-effect sofa, heavy woollen maroon curtains and a jute carpet. Vases of feathery dried flowers and grasses echo the ones in the polished concrete stairwell. It’s a room that, despite its muted colour palette and restraint, feels deeply homely and welcoming.  

Five of the bedrooms, including Elm, have a smooth and wide in-room tub; Sessile and Juniper have showers only; Rowan and Hornbeam are on the top floor, under the eaves. 

On the first floor, there’s also a sitting room space with an honesty bar and views onto a pretty garden. 

Eating and drinking 

Nicholas Balfe (above) cut his teeth under Margot Henderson (who has since opened The Three Horseshoes in Batcombe, also in Somerset) and made a name for himself opening Levan and Larry’s, both in London. What he’s created here is nothing short of spectacular. 

Sod the idea of using Holm as a stop-off on your way to Devon or Cornwall. The food is worthy of a trip in itself. A fact that is made abundantly clear when you first arrive, open the door and step practically into the open kitchen itself. The composite concrete service counter — which looks like it’s made from Venetian terrazzo — doubles as a check-in desk for the rooms, a situation I hope that they never change. The kitchen, after all, is often dubbed the heart of every home. 

Mr Balfe sources the majority of his ingredients directly from local producers which means that the menu changes often, depending on what is in season and available to him. When they need more of the Honeypot Farm apple juice, served at breakfast, a member of staff texts owners Colin and Julie with the order.

There’s a Chef’s Menu (£69pp), a two- or three-course lunch menu and a supper menu. The Westcombe cheddar fries (above) are a stalwart of all three. Chunky cubes of cheesy potato deliciousness. Meat is regularly sourced from Bagnell Farm, also in Somerset, which rears rare and ancient breeds including Ruby Red Devon cows.  

Dinner typically starts with an aperitivo. The Holm negroni, with Cyner, an artichoke-based bitter liqueur, packs a punch and the Twinkle, a cross between a martini and elderflower spritz (a healthy glug of gin, elderflower and sparkling wine) is a delicious slippery slope. 

And whatever you do, don’t miss breakfast — the most elegant cooked breakfast I’ve ever had the good fortune to come across. 

Rooms at HOLM Somerset from £179 on a B&B basis.