In the Somerset village of Mells, close to arty Frome, The Talbot Inn is a pretty country pub that ticks so many boxes it’s in danger of getting repetitive strain injury: honey-coloured stone walls, mismatched wooden tables, brass-buttoned chairs, low-ceilinged bar, open fires, cobbled courtyard and a secret garden. And while it’s possible to drop in for just a pint and a posh sausage roll, it’s a destination retreat as much as a village boozer. Relaxed, affordable cookery classes and demos with food writer Joanna Weinberg also take place at the pub. (kitchentablecookery.co.uk)
What to eat Swedish head chef Pravin Nayar’s local, sustainable, smartly assembled but fuss-free food has won the pub a Bib Gourmand. Go on Friday or Saturday evenings for shared suppers cooked over a wood fire (suckling pig, barbecued pulled pork baps, Longhorn forerib on the bone) in the pub’s barn-like grill room, or book a table in the pub’s cosy warren of dining rooms any day of the week for chicken liver parfait with kohlrabi, apple purée and toast, whole Cornish mackerel with warm vegetable salad, or superb steaks served with grilled pimiento, chimichurri and chips.
The booze Keystone Brewery’s Talbot Ale has been specially brewed for the pub but there’s a great wine list, too, with some interesting bottles (try the on-trend Picpoul de Pinet, Domaine de Bellemare). If you’re there in summer, you can order a drink at the bar and sip it over the road at the Walled Garden. (thewalledgardenatmells.co.uk)
Star suppliers Look out for free-range chicken from Castlemead in nearby Radstock, mackerel and sea trout from Kingfisher in Brixham, and cheddar from Westcombe Dairy in Evercreech.
The bed Seven of the eight bedrooms have baths as well as showers and, with Bramley smellies on tap, it’s worth a soak. All feature king-size beds and a sophisticated but unshowy style; room seven can be configured as a family suite, and although room one is directly above the bar, it’s the most impressive, with a minimalist four-poster bed and a stand-alone roll-top bath by a large, sunny window.
The breakfast A small but well executed buffet includes freshly squeezed orange juice, freshly baked pastries and cereals, while everything from eggy bread with bacon to beans on toast and a full English. If you happen to be recovering from wedding celebrations at neighbouring Babington House, there’s also a handy hangover station stocked with Berocca, Strepsils and mix-your-own bloody marys.
The bill double rooms from £95 b&b. Mains from £10. (talbotinn.com)
Written October 2015
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