Tag Archives: real ale

The Swan at Wedmore, Somerset

IMG_2070[1]Nothing quite screams ‘bank holiday weekend’ than a leisurely Sunday roast, followed by a nap on a giant double bed in one of Somerset’s multitude pub with rooms. The Swan does all of these things will aplomb: the young staff deliver great plates of roast beef, fresh gnocchi and delicate crab washed down with local lagers or a multitude of wines by the glass, while upstairs the rooms are cool and inviting, with woolen throws and tartan armchairs adding a touch of texture to otherwise neutral Farrow & Ball tones. Ours had a small balcony overlooking the main strip of yellow stone buildings, the nearby church chiming on the hour to complete the Archer’s feel; better still, a claw-foot bath and a host of Bramley products meant an afternoon bubble bath in the sunshine (pint included for good effect).

And of course, one of the best bits about an overnight stay is the fact that breakfast comes with it. Like their dinner menu, the focus is on local fare – the bread comes from a bakery a short stroll from the door, and bacon is home-smoked; elsewhere suppliers are listed on the chalkboards around the bar. The menu is simple and traditional, and offers plenty for those less egg-averse than me (my bacon and mushrooms on toast looked somewhat lacking without the mound of scrambled egg). Nonetheless, with ingredients this good the flavours win the day, and, importantly, the coffee is just as well-sourced and made with equal care.

There’s plenty to love here, and lucky locals flock (expect a troupe of chinos and well-polished sprogs mussing their Sunday Best in the garden out the back). For those less close, it’s worth the journey – come armed with the papers and your PJs and you’ll be in for a weekend treat.

Price: from £3 (toast & jam) to £11 (The Swan Full English) B&B from £85.

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The Urban Standard, Gloucester Road, Bristol

IMG_0912[1]I’m starting to wonder whether a trend for quaint tea rooms with gingham table cloths is about to spring up in cosmopolitan capitals the world over, an elemental reaction against the stripped back and industrial style once seen in New York lofts and now ubiquitous to coffee shops throughout the UK. Indeed, it’s rare to see any new café, restaurant or bar in Bristol without exposed light bulbs, graffiti’d art and unpainted concrete walls, and though The Urban Standard fits this mould very neatly it manages to maintain a warmth that’s sometimes lacking with so much sheet metal on show.

The newest venture from those behind The Urban Wood on Colston Street, The Standard opened its doors a couple of weeks ago and is already proving a popular spot on a Saturday night with real ales and guest beers, a healthy selection of whiskies and local delicacies to nibble throughout the evening. It also boasts a sturdy brunch menu with a good selection for all appetites, from simple toast and spreads to the full works, all with a focus on well-sourced ingredients.

It being a Monday morning we were the only ones there to sample what the kitchen had to offer. The dark interiors and electro tunes do leave you feeling that you’re eating your eggs and bacon in the middle of the night, but the food is good and the new staff cheery and helpful; our order took just long enough to arrive to let you know it was cooked with care. The full English is a meat eater’s dream and they politely acquiesced to my fiddly requests, replacing inferior eggs with the queen of all breakfast ingredients, grilled halloumi. When I go back I’ll break up the saltiness with some spinach and might forgo the black pudding, the only let down element (though this was much better served in the Egg Poacher’s black pudding hash with – you guessed it – poached eggs and tomato relish). Their coffee is good, though I might opt for an Americano rather than a slightly over milked latte next time; a selection of herbal infusions is there for those without such need for speed.

Though Gloucester Road is already a mecca for coffee shops and cafés, there’s no doubt The Urban Standard will do well here. A heady mix of hip interiors, good booze and good food will bring the hoardes in at the weekends – head there for brunch and you might find yourself there ‘til closing time.

Price: from £2.95 (toast & spreads) to £7.95 (full breakfast).

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Horse & Groom, Bourton-on-the Hill, Wiltshire

The Greenstocks have pulled off the nigh-on impossible, running a pub with rooms that keeps locals and tourists happy in equal measure. The Horse & Groom sits atop Bourton’s eponymous hill, overlooking some fine Cotswold golden stone buildings and the verdant fields beyond. In such rural surroundings, you can expect the country set – chaps come in a rainbows’ array of chinos and ladies are immaculately presented, but we scruffy Bristolians were made to feel equally welcome by brothers Tom and Will. After a fabulous dinner we retired to our room with a giant bed and a bath deep enough to disappear in, somehow still salivating at the thought of more food to come. The breakfast menu is left in your room the night before, and it’s a well-chosen list of traditional fare: muselis and cereals, followed by organic bacon and eggs or fresh fish, cafetieres of coffee or lashings of tea. We were up early (goodness knows why) and ate to the sultry sounds of the hoover, but the food was well seasoned, freshly made and generously portioned. Much of what they cook comes from their own veg patch and kitchen garden, and the chefs look mighty pleased to be here.

Price: double rooms from £120 per night (including breakfast).

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