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Rustic gastropub, neighbourhood restaurant or city cafe/bar – three places to meet and eat in Somerset that you might not know about

Looking for somewhere to grab a bite but fed up with the same old, same old? Check out these three places to meet and eat: a lazy Sunday gastropub lunch in the back of beyond; casual dining in a neighbourhood restaurant in one of Somerset’s coolest towns; and a cafe/bar/kitchen for a quick lunch in the city.


The Bull Inn, Hardway, nr Bruton

Hauser & Wirth, the Roth Bar & Grill, Durslade Farmhouse – you can now add The Bull Inn to Manuela Hauser & Iwan Wirth’s growing Somerset empire. Under the management of Martin and Ann (since decamped to Cornwall), this was a hugely popular pub – off grid, impossible to get a mobile signal but a real gem – where you’d find the likes of local farmers and their dogs alongside theatre producer Cameron Macintosh having a pint and noshing on good, homecooked pub food. Now taken over and renovated by uber stylish H&W, it’s retained all the hallmarks of the archetypal village pub – huge inglenooks,  pewter tankards hanging from the ceiling, gloriously tacky patterned carpet – and last Sunday, it was heaving (though farmers with dogs no longer in evidence).

For Sunday lunch there was a choice of roast pork belly, beef, lamb, chicken or braised lentils and butternut squash. Plumping for lamb and beef, super-sized plates came already piled high with thick slices of meat, cavelo nero, roasties, carrots, pureed parsnips and stonking great Yorkshires, with enamel dishes of spiced red cabbage, homemade horseradish and mint sauces on the side. You won’t go hungry here, though it took a while for the food to come (and even later for the cutlery). We didn’t have room for twists-on-the-classics puds, including a Key lime trifle, apricot and raisin bread and butter pudding, and an orange and cardamom rice pudding.

There’s a big garden out back. Rooms to stay coming soon.  Book online to ensure a table.

The Bull Inn, Hardway, Kingsettle Hill, Bruton, Tel 01749 812200.


Fat Radish, Frome

Fat Radish Frome

My favourite cafe in Frome (and winner of the Best Cafe in this year’s Muddy Stilettos Awards),  The River House, is brilliant for breakfasts and brunch (cashew ricotta toast; house hash) but for dinner you’ll need to head a few minutes up the road to their new sister bar and restaurant, Fat Radish. Co-owned by Ellen Porteous (The River House) and chef Pascale Vickery (ex-Babington House), Fat Radish opened earlier in the year and is now Frome’s go-to place for electic and inventive food with the sort of laid-back, friendly atmosphere that makes you want to linger. With there not being any Twiglets on the menu, the 13 year-old Mudlets plumped for the wood pigeon, beetroots, blackberries, hazelnuts and tarragon as a starter to share, whilst I had this pretty plate of squash, watercress, gorgonzola, walnuts and clove infused honey – sweet, nutty and delicious.

The Mudlets tucked into their thick and juicy chargrilled 8oz rib eye steaks atop a layered celeriac bake with horseradish (nothing was left on the plate) whilst I tackled my mountain of crispy black pepper tofu with soba noodles, super greens, tamari and sesame seeds (ditto).

Puds: the boys shared a dark chocolate and raspberry tart with raspberry coulis and clotted which was declared was the nicest thing they’d ever eaten (!).  I can highly recommend the sweet wine poached pear with frozen blue berry yoghurt and caramalised walnuts. This place is good for veggies, pescetarians, gluten-free: perfect for dinner with mates or in tandem with a flick at the independent Westway cinema.

Fat Radish, 21 Market Place, Frome BA11 1AN. Tel 01373 596102. 


Framptons Cafe, Bar & Kitchen, Bath

Shopping the city? If you’re happy to eat on the hoof and don’t mind juices running down your chin (I don’t but I’m a slob), head to Chaiwalla (42 Monmouth Street) for freshly-cooked-in-front-of-you Indian street food (chaat, samosas, bhaji wraps, etc). But for some sit-down chow, stop off at one of Bath’s new eateries, Framptons Cafe, Bar & Kitchen, opposite the Weir, and owned by three ex-Army blokes.  In the evening, you could come and drink your way through their extensive cocktail menu but in the middle of the day, I just had time for the speedy 2-course set light lunch menu (good value at £12.50). Out of a choice of five starters (including soup, goat’s cheese with artichoke hearts,  a chickpea stuffed avocado), I chose the crispy fried squid with aioli (light tempura batter but a few more squid rings woudn’t have gone amiss)…

Five mains, including a steak, risotto, halloumi, roasted veg and quinoa salad – here’s the house burger, with Monterey Jack cheese, crispy streaky baon and the usual accompaniaments. A choice of three desserts: Somerset Eton mess, chocolate brownie and a boozy affogato (ice cream with coffee liqueur espresso poured over it).

Framptons, The Empire, Grand Parade, Bath BA2 4DF. Tel 01225 313680.


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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Somerset