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28 Market Place in a nutshell
The latest in a string of high-profile Somerset restaurant openings, this new dining room – plus bakery, gelateria and wine shop – strings together a beautifully wonky collection of 17th-century buildings in the southwest of the county.
Run by Ben Crofton (formerly of Soho House group and The French Laundry), and wife Vanessa (ex-Gordon Ramsay), this is elegant dining with an open-doors policy. Great British Menu finalist Dan Fletcher is head chef while the bakery is managed by expert barista Alba Lage.
What’s the vibe?
More refined than rustic, there are green Bert & May floor tiles, a canopy of layered woven lampshades and sculptural dried floral arrangements. Glimpses of history remain – including a curved stone staircase leading up from the reception and a low Tudor door in the bakery area – but a pared-back front room and a glass ceiling’d dining space set a modern tone.
The restaurant design says ‘special occasion’ rather than ‘neighbourhood hangout’ (even if the latter is the intention), with mossy velvet cushions, perfectly plastered walls and dinky marble tables.
What’s the food like?
For date-night diners, it’s well-judged; Fletcher’s cooking has a quiet confidence. We started with springy slices of the house sourdough. Next came a creamy white onion soup, poured at the table over a flower of pearly onion ‘petals’, with more sourdough, this time topped with grilled sweet Montgomery cheddar on a bed of aromatic rosemary. A parmesan and sweet shallot tart, served at room temperature came topped by peppery salad leaves and gorgeously caramelised nuggets of roast, smoked celeriac.
A main course of meltingly thin slices of beef, served with baby turnips and pressed potatoes, was spiced up by glossy little dollops of rich black sesame sauce, but roast pollock was the star of the show. Beautifully cooked fish – crisp on top, plumply soft beneath – arrived with crunchy leeks, bacon, fat mussels and a buttery, bisque-like sauce flooding fronds of sea vegetables (sea purslane, sea beet, sea rosemary and the aptly named salty fingers) and pumpkin gnocchi. The only slightly missed note was a side of broccoli, which came with a brown butter sabayon that was unnecessary.
Hit desserts included a delicate Ivy House clotted cream tart served with fresh clementine, pomegranate pips and scoops of sharp lime and clementine ice cream.
And the drinks?
Non-alcoholic drinks include Double Dutch and DASH sodas, plus a couple of zero-alcohol beers, while drinkers can kick off with an excellent Somerton negroni, made with Temperley’s Pomona. Wine is the real focus, though. The neighbouring wine shop sells more than 100 different bottles and diners can either order from the restaurant wine list or buy a bottle from the shop and pay £15 corkage. It’s a neat idea, with some especially interesting wines to choose from if you go down the shop route (Cotswolds bacchus, biodynamic burgundy and single-vineyard cinsault from South Africa among them).
The surroundings don’t suggest a space where sauce-splattering, noise-making families might feel at home but children are welcome; dishes can be made smaller and less elaborate for younger diners. There are also plans to offer more casual savoury options at the bakery.
28 Market Place, 28 Market Place, Somerton, TA11 7LZ
Words by Rhiannon Batten