Rural Somerset gets a slice of South London with the opening of Holm, says Kathryn Lewis
What’s the draw?
When South London restaurateurs Nicholas Balfe, Matt Gurney and Matt Bushnell announced a fourth addition to their collection of contemporary restaurants, no one could have guessed that the rural Somerset town of South Petherton would accompany Brixton and Peckham on their list of locations.
Joining the likes of Tom Adams (Coombeshead Farm), Merlin Labron-Johnson (Osip) and Robin Hutson (THE PIG), Nicholas is the latest in a line of chefs and restaurateurs who’ve struck out for the South West. He’s actually returning to the area where he grew up, and swapping the tube for tractors as he heads up the new restaurant as chef director.
A former bank in the heart of the town is the freshly remodelled setting for Holm. The ground-floor restaurant opened at the start of November 2021, but work continues upstairs to transform the offices into seven boutique bedrooms. An alfresco courtyard restaurant with a fire-based kitchen and seating for 60 is also in the pipeline.
In the airy dining room, stark bare brick and plaster walls are offset by sleek mid-century-modern furniture and accents of colour. It’s a gentle nod to the styled aesthetic of its sister restaurants (Salon, Levan and Larry’s), but pared back for the more traditional country setting.
The food is a collective effort from the team of chefs in the theatre kitchen. Head chef Henry Osmond (formerly of At the Chapel in Bruton) works alongside Nicholas to develop dishes that are inspired by their natural surroundings and champion local producers.
What to order?
The food is city quality but, thankfully, not at London prices. The set lunch menu is a steal at £25 for three courses while, come evening, the chef’s tasting menu is a very modest £55.
The set lunch starts the way all good meals should: with a sizeable slice of the morning’s homemade sourdough bread smothered in sea-salt spiked whipped butter. There are also snacks you can add to this pre-starter feast: a plate of Westcombe Cheddar fries (the local cheddar coated in chickpea flour, fried and then showered in more cheese and paired with a wonderfully tart pickled-walnut puree) is an unnecessary but unmissable addition.
We started with plump Fowey mussels, served sans shell in a Burrow Hill Cider, leek and crème fraîche sauce. For mains, we were introduced to gnudi: gnocchi’s close cousin whose heavy potato base is substituted for beautifully light and fresh ricotta. Dressed with cider-blanched swiss chard, sweet pickled girolles, salty seaweed and crisp breadcrumbs, it was a revelation of contrasting flavours which came together around seven perfectly formed cheesy, doughy orbs.
Got cash to spare? Snap up an investment property in South Petherton. With Holm drawing crowds from the cities, similar high-quality food and drink venues are bound to follow. Watch your back, Bruton.