HomeLifestyleFood & RecipesHolm, Somerset, restaurant review: A worthy competitor to buzzy Bruton

Holm, Somerset, restaurant review: A worthy competitor to buzzy Bruton

Every city dweller dreams of packing up and moving to the countryside, where fresh air and space are so abundant they no longer seem like luxuries.

Chef and restauranteur Nicholas Balfe has done just that – he moved back “home home” to Somerset. Or should that be Holm?

The restaurant name is a bit of a play on the word, as Balfe wanted the restaurant to feel just like home. I certainly wish my home looked as good as this, with its chic Scandi-inspired interiors, bare plaster walls adorned with simple art prints. As if you needed to ask, yes, it’s highly Instagramable.

There’s a roaring fire at the entrance, and a totally open kitchen with nowhere to hide, which goes to show how confident the chefs are in their craft.

Holm is the fourth creation from Balfe along with his team Matt Gurney and Matt Bushnell, who are behind three successful restaurants in south London, Levan and Larry’s, both in Peckham, and Salon (until it closed this summer).

The restaurant is on the site of former bank in the little village of South Petherton, about 40 minutes southwest of the ever popular town of Bruton. Outside, it’s all honey-coloured sandstone, complete with columns and a gable above, a grand entrace fitting for what’s to come. Save for the Natwest cash machine sitting on the outside wall, you couldn’t guess its former life, although the old vault inside has rather fittingly been used to store the wine.

Chic, Scandi-inspired interiors are worthy of an Instagram post

(Ed Reeve)

When I visited mid-September, Balfe was preparing a barbecue for locals in the restaurant’s community garden. For Balfe, maintaining a connection to local life was always important. He didn’t want to just pick up a London restaurant and plonk down in a rural village.

Holm must not only appeal to the locals, but also to its bread and butter community. It’s a delicate balancing act, which is reflected in the menu prices: the two-course set lunch is £25 or £30 for three, while the chef’s table is £59. Locals might still baulk at that price, but for Londoners used to three figures or more, it’s a bargain.

While we’re outside, people stop and chat to Balfe about food and local goings on. He’s already pretty entrenched in the community after only opening in November last year. This connection is reflected in the ingredients, too – Balfe cuts out the middle man and buys directly from nearby producers.

Perfectly cooked Cornish brill

(Emma Henderson)

This means the menu is seasonally led, directed by what’s on offer at the time. One stalwart, though, seems to be the Westcombe cheddar fries – a signature dish for Holm, which is where our meal kicks off. They’re little squares of fluffy potato, doused in a very generous amount of cheese. which is ticking all the right boxes for me so far.

Next up, Pitney Farm squash flowers stuffed with ricotta, which have been lightly battered and are so deliciously sweet, thanks to a little drizzling of East Lambrook honey.

Stuffed squash flowers are delicately sweet, thanks to a drizzle of local honey

(Emma Henderson)

The snacks are rounded off with a smoked cod’s roe tomato tartlet. In short: divine. The filo casing is so fine and delicate it’s hard maintain any form of grace while eating it, bar to shove it all in at once. The star of this little show is the zingy tomatoes, which really sing.

The first bigger plate is a meaty slice of baked Cornish brill that’s perfectly cooked and so creamy in texture and taste that it melts as soon as my fork nears it. The chefs pour a vivid green elderflower sauce over it at the table, and its served with a few girolles to add a touch of pepperiness.

This isn’t just any apple parfait – it’s a South Petherton apple parfait

(Emma Henderson)

Otter Valley Farm hogget comes in a few ways. On the plate it’s a couple of barbecued belly cuts. They’re glossy and crunchy with layers of sweet fat, topped with wilted bitter beetroot leaves, in a rich jus, finished off with dollops of aubergine yoghurt.

To share on the table are cutlets, cooked rare (really only kissed with heat) and doused generously in salt flakes. They’re devoured in seconds. Another sharer is the little hogget croquettes. Stout little oblongs, with a crunchy golden brown exterior. Inside is pulled meat, which is utterly heavenly. We could eat at least two more.

We finish with an apple parfait, blackberries and fig leaf. But it’s not just any apple parfait, it’s a South Petherton apple parfait. It’s wonderfully tart and juicy and rounds off an indulgent and superbly cooked feast.

Where Balfe has gone, others will follow. He’s currently crowdfunding in order to renovate the rooms upstairs to make it more of a destination for the weekend, rather than just relying on passersby who might detour en route to Cornwall or Devon. Then a lot more people can call Holm home.

Nearby Bruton and Frome are well cemented for their food offerings now, but Holm can still co-exist as a newbie. I’m sure this is only the beginning of things to come for the area, where London’s tight monopoly over Britain’s best restaurants continues to dissipate across the rest of the country. After all, we all know west is best, don’t we?

Holm, 28 St James Street, South Petherton, Somerset TA13 5BW | info@holmsomerset.co.uk | 01460 712 470

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