Little Barwick House, Barwick
Michelin-listed country house fine dining restaurant – with gorgeous rooms and gardens – in south Somerset
Emma and Tim Ford worked at some of the world’s best hotels and restaurants before taking on the run-down Little Barwick House back in 2000, and turning it into one of Somerset’s finest fine dining restaurants – and it has seven luxurious bedrooms.
Looking at this picture of the road leading to Little Barwick House, you might think deep inside Middle Earth.
Actually, it’s at the end of this sandstone cutting in the village of Barwick, a couple of miles south of Yeovil. So about 15 minutes from the A303 and only a few minutes’ mini cab (no Ubers here) ride from Yeovil Junction station. Not to be confused with the much bigger Barwick House, which is in the same village.
Elegant and relaxed English Georgian country house, set in around three and a half acres of luscious landscaped gardens. It’s a ‘dower house’, a house on a country estate which given to the widow of the previous owner of the estate (in this case, Barwick House).
The dining room is pure English country house, with floor to high ceiling windows, marble fireplace – a hidden door – and a conservatory area at the back, ideal for more private dining for up to 16. No muzak here, just the gentle buzz of conversation.
Consistently recommended by the Michelin Guide, their stairwell is lined with dozens of other awards including a César Award, three AA Rosettes, Five Star Inspectors Choice Restaurant with Rooms, and many more.
SCOFF & QUAFF
After a warm welcome from Emma, who’s front of house, we made our lunch choices from the comfort of a squashy sofa by an open fire in a sitting room, whilst scoffing nuts and olives. As well as cooking his around the world, chef Tim worked for 10 years at the acclaimed Sharrow Bay in Cumbria and at the 5* Summer Lodge in Dorset, so this is country house fine dining: classic dishes with a twist, all cooked to order using fresh, local and seasonal produce. So chicken cannelloni with bok choi sits alongside the Cornish brill, saddle of wild roe deer and Devon beef.
Starters: sweet and succulent pan fried Cornish scallops with butternut squash puree and oh so crispy, smoked pancetta.
Grilled fillet of Cornish mackerel with carrot, fennel and orange escabeche.
One of us was vegetarian and this clever and delicious main course was cooked especially: a wild mushroom stuffed avocado baked in sesame seed filo pastry.
Perfectly cooked pink roasted breast of free range Gressingham duck, confit of leg, baby spinach, a little square of Dauphinoise and some crispy cauliflower beignets.
Beautiful banana tarte tatin with star anise ice cream and a caramel sauce.
Rhubarb creme brûlée came with with sable biscuit, poached rhubarb, stem ginger and rhubarb ripple ice cream. Scrumptious.
Why didn’t we have the West Country Farmhouse cheeses?
We were both driving so couldn’t do justice to a 16-page wine list which has been an AA Wine Award Finalist every year since 2002. From Vin de Pays and New World wines to Grand Cru Classé Clarets and Burgundies, the wine is available in full and half bottles and often even, using their Le Verre de Vin preservation system, by the glass – including Krug Champagne (yes please).
But we could just about squeeze in some petit fours – loved the Turkish delight – and coffee.
Service from the all-in-black waiting staff is unobtrusive and professional but not at all stiff or pretentious.
We didn’t stay over this time but if we had, we would have been in a lovely room like this. There are seven double bedrooms (one converts to twin), each with a private bathroom, mostly overlooking the lush gardens and one on the ground floor with doors out to a patio and the garden. Lots of luxury touches like Bose iPod docks, homemade shortbread, Roberts radio, flatscreen TV, etc. Choose luxury white cotton sheets and White Company wool blankets or a goose and duck down duvet.
Stay the night, a weekend or more. What the heck, why not take over the whole house (it sleeps up to 14) – you can.
OUT & ABOUT
With gardens like this, why would you want to go anywhere else?
But if you must, the Jurassic coast is 30 minutes south down the A37. Sherborne, Dorchester, Wells and Glastonbury and many historic houses and gardens are all nearby.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: A civilised, relaxing time with classic cooking and surroundings to match. There’s always fish on the menu but strict vegetarians or vegans will need to call ahead so they can cook you up something special. A weekend away with your partner, best friend or mother. Take the whole house for a special birthday or occasion. Children over 5 years and well-behaved pooches welcome.
Not for: a riotous, lairy blow out, this is relaxed country house not a party palace. Don’t expect snail porridge, dry ice or other culinary gimmicks.
The damage: Good value for the high quality of the cooking. Lunch: two courses £28.95; three courses £31.95; coffee and petit fours £4.75. Dinner: two courses £49.95 (Tues to Thurs only); three courses £54.95. One night stay with afternoon tea, dinner and breakfast from £125 per person.
Dinner: Tues – Sat 7pm – 9pm. Lunch: Wed–Sat 12pm – 2.00pm. Accommodation Tues – Sat.
Little Barwick House, Barwick, near Yeovil, Somerset BA22 9TD. Tel 01935 423902. littlebarwick.co.uk