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Muddy reviews: HOLM, South Petherton

We've been eagerly awaiting this new opening in south Somerset from the team behind three successful London restaurants but does it live up to expectations?

From the team behind successful south London restaurants Salon, Levan and Larry’s, comes HOLM, a ‘casual but refined’ restaurant promising delicious field to fork food and drink inspired by nature and in particular, by Somerset and the West Country. One of the owners has moved back home here, hence this new venture.

Table for two please…

THE LOCATION

On St James Street in the centre of the village of South Petherton in south Somerset, less than five minutes from the main A303/A30 route between London and Cornwall.

THE VIBE

The beautiful golden hamstone period exterior may hint at the building’s former life as a bank (there’s still an ATM in the wall – not working and said to be soon gone, so come armed with cash or card) but it belies the contemporary atmosphere within, which the owners describe as ‘casual yet refined’. We’d say that’s about right. It’s open plan – including the kitchen – with exposed brickwork, original abstract artworks on raw lime plaster walls, plain wooden tables, Ercol chairs and banquette seating. Cool tunes play in the background; and there’s a definite buzz in the air.

Have a drink before your meal or just come for a snack and a drink, with or without your dog, in the ‘snug’.

Sit at the Chef’s Counter if you fancy watching the experts at work while you enjoy the fruits (and veg, fish and meat) of their labour.

Tall bar-type tables overlook the street while the rest of the restaurant winds round to the right.

The wine cellar finds a home within the thick brick walls of the former bank vault.

At the rear, there’s a private dining room overlooking the garden area, with mid-century style table and chairs, a record deck and selection of vinyl (which all their restaurants have; it’s one of their trademark touches).

The terrace, which will be covered and have an outdoor kitchen, is a work in progress. Beyond there will be a kitchen garden and studio/work pods to be rented out. Coming in the Spring: seven rooms for sleepovers.

SCOFF & QUAFF

It’s all about seasonality, sustainability and provenance here, with most of the ingredients being super local and even foraged. And to prove it, there was a huge puffball mushroom in the kitchen, found earlier that day by Somerset’s Happy Forager, waiting ready to be turned into something delicious a hundred different ways.

We choose the 10-course chef’s tasting menu and the vegetarian tasting menus – just to ensure a thorough review, you understand.

Softly spoken and knowledgeable young waiters brought each dish, together with an explanation which feels helpful rather than pretentious.

Flavours are by turns intense and subtle; textures contrast and complement. Ingredients are understood and respected but no one speaks in hushed voices about the food. Everything has been carefully thought through and is beautifully presented. Nothing is wasted.

First up, diced smoked eel and beetroot in oh-so-delicate filo tart. A little tricky to eat (fingers or knife and fork?) without making a bit of a mess but bursting with flavour. Hazel nuts replaced the eel in the veggie version.

Westcombe cheddar fries turned out not to be cheesy chips but mouth-wateringly delicious pastry cubes topped with pickled walnuts and tangy grated cheddar – very moreish. More came in the form of super smooth, creamy rich chicken liver parfait on a slice of crisply toasted brioche – fabulous – and a dish of house pickled, jewel-coloured red cabbage, squash and carrots.

The smoked pumpkin soup with a dollop of yogurt and chewy homemade sourdough with whipped butter could have been a light lunch in itself.

The sweetness of the raw scallops was complemented perfectly by the peppery Mexican seasoning on the wafer-thin Jerusalem artichoke crisps and black garlic. My favourite dish….so far.

The veggie option was a rich and earthy roasted celeriac steak with a seaweed bearnaise and topped with cavolo nero.

We both had foraged maitake mushrooms with dashi custard (flavoured with seaweed for that savoury umami taste) and pangrattato – garlicky breadcrumbs made with yesterday’s soudough (we said nothing is ever wasted) – and my new favourite dish.

Then came partridge two ways: first a partridge tortellini with pickled elderberries (picked by the staff); then partridge crown with sweet pumpkin, plum and treviso, a type of radicchio. My photo doesn’t do it justice; this moved into pole position as my favourite dish.

The plant-based version: a root vegetable tortellini in an onion broth. Note the hand-forged cutlery.

For dessert, cunningly camouflaged ricotta alongside seared pear and puffed buckwheat. Yum yum yum.

And to finish, a couple of cheeky, light-as-a-feather cinnamon sugar doughnuts topped with apple gel. Could have been used to mop up any remaining juices from the pear but there really was no need – plates were (almost) clean enough to put right back in the cupboard.

And to drink? After perusing the four pages of local ciders and perries, beers, soft drinks (including their own lemonade) and wine – low intervention, organic and biodynamic wines from small artisanal producers both here and abroad – we plumped for a carafe of Ciello, Baglio Antico 2020 from Catarrato in Sicily. The orange wine (which I’d never heard of before) – made by fermenting white grapes with the skin on – was fruity (almost cidery) and yes, it was orange.

OUT AND ABOUT

A post prandial stroll around the cluster of independent businesses like Bloom Lifestyle, Grants of Somerset, Hattie & Heid and a wine shop in South Petherton or one of the walks from the village out into the pretty countryside should offset the eating.

MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Foodies, fans of MasterChef Professionals, anyone who values feeling a connection between what they’re eating and the land from which it comes (sounding a bit pretentious here) will want to make a beeline here. Vegetarians and meat-eaters are equally well-served. Enjoy a one, two or three-courser from the a la carte, or linger for longer with the 10-course tasting menus (one of which is vegetarian) and put the chefs through their paces. Although it’s not the first place you’d chose to bring children, they do offer a kids’ pasta dish to keep youngsters fed while you tuck in.

Not for: Those who just see food as fuel and want to fill up and leave. Come to savour the flavours.

The damage: The 10-course chef’s tasting menu and vegetarian tasting menus are £55 per person; wine pairing £35. Weekday three-course menu £25. A la carte and Sunday lunch menu: nibbles £4–£6; starters £8–£12; mains £16.50– £34; dessert £5-£6.50; cheese selection £14. Kids pasta £6.

Open from Weds to Saturdays 12pm – 11pm and Sunday 12pm – 7pm. Booking advisable. Free parking at the bottom of South Petherton.

HOLM, 28 St James St, South Petherton, Somerset TA13 5BW. 01460 712470. holmsomerset.co.uk

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