Muddy eats: The Cotley Inn, Wambrook, nr Chard
On the Cotley Estate, in the village of Wambrook, on the side of an idyllic valley on the edge of the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, about three miles west of Chard. Close to the village, the lane turns twisty-turny downwards to Wambrook with high Devon hedges on either side; no surprise, you’re almost on the Devon border. The valley is spectacular, wooded, with a few stone houses dotted around and the Wambrook church tower just visible through the trees.
Owners Maddie and Ben travelled and worked in hospitality – from nachos and beer to silver service – around the world, most recently in the Canadian Rockies, before returning to Somerset to take over and re-furb The Cotley Inn in 2018. The Cotley logo sums up their passion for the area and the country lifestyle: an apple for Somerset, a pitch fork for the land and a hunting horn.
This is the village pub – reclaimed wood floors, mismatched wooden tables, chairs, lamps and artworks acquired from auctions and elsewhere, wood burners and open fires – where farmers can pop in for a pint after work, vote (it’s the polling station), play skittles but it’s also a fab destination pub for the rest of us to rock up to for good food and drink and a warm welcome.
Linen napkins, quality cutlery, jugs of chilled water on the table are all nice touches.
Selfie opportunity with Randy the moose, a reminder of Canadian connections.
Yahtzee or Scrabble anyone?
Loads of seating outside on the south facing terrace and in their large gardens, with a little wooded area and pond, with croquet and BBQs in the summer.
SCOFF & QUAFF
Like many good country pubs the food is seasonal and locally sourced but we’re not talking food miles here but food metres. Some of the lambs and cows grazing on the adjacent hillside could find their way onto your plate via neighbouring Cotley Farm. There’s game is in them thar hills too – both Maddie and Ben are beaters – so in the winter months, guinea fowl, pheasant and venison feature on the menu. Huge herb bushes grow on the terrace. A kitchen garden out back will soon be supplying salads and veg. Other ingredients come from within a 25-mile radius.
The dinner/lunch menu, which celebrates the land, has been designed to have broad appeal, with four to six starters (turnip and horseradish soup, duck liver parfait) and mains (pheasant, steak, pan roasted cod), pub classics (burgers, beer battered fish), bar snacks (squid, sausages, pork pies) and sarnies (steak, smoked salmon, at lunch time only). There’s always a veggie option but vegans should phone ahead.
The starter of mixed charcuterie – chorizo, salami, dry-cured ham – with pickled artichokes, sun blush toms, cornichons, chutney and toasted sourdough (which they make themselves) – was snaffled up by the Teen.
Mine was the pithivier (try saying that when you’ve had a few), a puff pastry parcel filled with melting, creamy Somerset goat cheese, with sweet and tangy pickled beetroots, drizzled with basil oil.
The Cotley Farm burger (remember those cows I mentioned earlier), in a toasted brioche and topped with Ogleshield cheese (from Cadbury, Somerset), aioli and BBQ sauce, was big, super flavoursome and juicy. The chips were crisp not flabby, and fluffy inside.
And so to the Instagram dish: guinea fowl ballotine, a confit leg of guinea fowl stuffed with a basil mousse, a bundle of multi-coloured heritage carrots, tender stem broccoli, fondant potato and a game jus.
A choice of four desserts, local ice creams and West Country cheeses. Here’s the seasonal blood orange parfait with a slice of orange, two different types of meringue – one soft and torched, the other ever so slowly baked – with biscuits and caramel sauce. Pretty, and pretty delicious.
The local emphasis extends to much of the booze, too, with cask ales brewed within 50 miles of the pub, five ciders on tap and some unusual bottle ciders, Somerset Brandy, Black Cow Gin; a planned cider flight sounds good. Same goes for the wine on their carefully curated wine list, with local Dalwood Vineyard alongside world wines. There’s a monthly changing selection of ‘Fun Tipples’ wine to try out.
Walks, walks and more walks in the glorious Blackdown Hills. The pub can supply you with maps and info.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Super local food from the land, in a pub that’s cosy in winter, has suntrap gardens in summer, and glorious walks all year around. Steak supper clubs. Coming next year: a clutch of family and single/double rooms which will make this place the perfect base for exploring the area. Lots of parking. Dog friendly (in the bar).
Not for: Rocking up on a Monday – it’s closed.
The damage. Good value. Set lunch menu: 2 courses for £16; 3 courses for £20. A la carte lunch and dinner menu: starters £6.50–£8; mains £15 – £19.50; pub classics £12.50–£13; bar snacks £5–£8; sarnies £9; desserts/cheese £1.80 – £10.
Opening hours Tues – Sat 12pm – 3pm; 6pm – 11pm (food 12pm – 2pm; 6.30pm – 9pm). Sun 12pm – 10pm (food until 2.30pm; 6.30pm – 9pm).
The Cotley Inn, Wambrook, Chard, Somerset TA20 3EN. 01460 62348. cotleyinnwambrook.co.uk