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The Holcombe, Radstock

Could this be Somerset’s greenest country inn? Kathryn Lewis feasts on almost-zero-waste dishes crafted with homegrown produce at The Holcombe

What’s the draw?

Sustainable cooking that only gains from its eco credentials.

When chefs Alan Lucas and Caroline Gardiner decided to relocate from London to Somerset for a quieter life, being able to grow their own food and help protect the local environment was top of their wish list. In 2019, they bought The Holcombe near Radstock and used the lockdowns to realise their eco ambitions by completely renovating the building, working on the kitchen gardens and constructing a huge polytunnel.

While the kitchen garden is still in its infancy, many of the dishes on the menu are peppered with homegrown fruit, veg, herbs and flowers. What gardener Kirsty can’t yet grow on-site is sourced from local producers, with the same regional-sourcing ethos applied to meat and fish.

Alan and Caroline’s quest to quell their carbon emissions doesn’t stop at sourcing: they also compost all the kitchen food waste, work with suppliers to reduce packaging, recycle used oil into biofuel and have rewilded parts of their two-acre grounds to benefit local wildlife.

Who’s cooking?

While they both have experience at the pass, it’s Alan who takes the lead in the kitchen and Caroline who runs front of house at The Holcombe. In London, the duo ran a series of hugely successful catering companies, so cooking for a smaller crowd at a rural Somerset inn allows Alan to flex his creativity.

Dinner at The Holcombe

What to order?

Alan adapts the menus daily depending on what Kirsty has plucked from the garden and local producers have delivered to his kitchen door.

We sampled a series of dishes, each one as easy on the eye as it was the palate. As it was platinum jubilee week, we started with Castlemead chicken (reared just four miles down the road) in a rich, coconut-forward coronation sauce, punctuated by the heat of sliced chillies and crunch of toasted coconut flakes. The bold flavours of India also influenced our next course: a panfried fillet of wild sea bass served with a fragrant masala sauce, punchy pickled fennel and crowned with a crunchy vegetable bhaji.

The main event was an aged Somerset sirloin. With a generous veil of fat left on the fillet, it was expertly cooked so it melted on contact with the tongue and coated it with the rich, umami flavours of the meat. The fatty mouthfeel was perfectly offset by the addition of vibrant garden herbs and crisp shallots.

Food’s tip

To make the most of Alan’s gin collection (homemade concoctions flavoured with produce from the kitchen garden include strawberry, rhubarb and plum), it’s worth booking one of the eight bedrooms above the inn or one of the three lodges in the grounds. Each has been individually dressed in the same contemporary British country style as the dining room and bar, and is finished with luxury touches such as Noble Isle products and goose-down bedding.

Indy Cafe Cookbook Volume 2
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