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Hotel review: The Castle at Taunton

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Don’t be fooled by The Castle’s trad facade; there’s a boundary-breaking restaurant and buzzy cocktail bar behind those wisteria-clad walls, reveals Kathryn Lewis

Liam Finnegan, head chef at The Castle in Taunton

Standing in the centre of Taunton for around 800 years, The Castle has provided shelter and sustenance for travellers passing through Somerset’s county town since the 12th century. Today the historic hostelry still serves those in search of supper and slumber, but with modern menus that mark the moment.

VISIT to experience the many faces of this former Norman fortress.

While the 44 tastefully furnished bedrooms are dressed to honour the hotel’s lengthy heritage, the two distinct dining spaces are dedicated to forward-thinking feasting.

At Art Deco restaurant Castle Bow, talented chef Liam Finnegan demonstrates his finesse with food through fine dining. Meanwhile, the fabulously informal baby brother Brazz (next door) is designed for pre-dinner drinks and brasserie bites.

A Saturday Kitchen schedule of chefs accrued their culinary clout at The Castle (Gary Rhodes and Phil Vickery for example) and, with his slick cooking, Finnegan (pictured) continues the legacy in style.

Creative tweaks like crispy chicken skin with classic pan seared scallops make it clear that he’s all about the flavours. And as a result, three courses coupled with general manager Marc Mac Closkey’s impeccable pick from the cellar makes for an exquisite experience.

DON’T VISIT for a city-style mini break. The creative and contemporary elements come from the kitchen; rooms and suites channel a more classic vibe with porcelain pups by the fireplace.

WE LIKED the bread. Don’t get us wrong, each carefully composed course at Castle Bow was phenomenal: a special shout out for the Brixham crab tortellini, fragrant with lemongrass and lime. Oh, and the roasted russet apple adorned with golden raisins, toasted walnuts and boozy brandy ice cream. However, the assortment of warm-from-the-oven breads gracing the table (we’re talking buttery brioche, crisp flour-dusted baguettes and an incredible ale-infused Irish soda bread) require otherworldly resistance.

INSIDER’S TIP Swing by Brazz before dinner and order The Mystery. If you can guess the main spirit, the next drink is on cocktail guru Yanni.

What we ate (dinner)

Starter Brixham crab tortellini, sea herbs, lemongrass and lime
Main Lyme Bay cod, chicory, quince, bacon, grilled octopus, tartare sauce
Pud Roast russet apple, cider butter, walnut, raisin and brandy ice cream

3 courses from £36.50
Rooms from £135

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