The beauty of Frome is in the mix – cider-soaked crusties rubbing shoulders with yummy mummies from the neighbouring prep schools. It’s a little bit grim, it’s a little bit posh – a town which doesn’t seem to be capable of making its mind up and that’s partly why we love it. A medieval hilltop town with a new age feel – hippyville but not as you know it.
Don’t leave without visiting Cheap Street – narrow and cobbled with a stream running down the middle – or Catherine Hill – steep and winding – which are both crammed full of quirky shops and cafes.
New in town and of great excitement to the locals is The Archangel Pub 1 King Street, BA11 1BH Frome www.archangelfrome.com.
There’s plenty to love here – a walled garden which serves tapas in summer, a laid back bar that serves booze-soaking extras like 1/2 pint of prawns and rapeseed mayonnaise, whitebait with garlic alioli, steak sandwiches and a full blown restaurant offering seasonal, Somerset-centric fare. It may offer the kind of trendy, messed-about food that makes AA Gill’s blood boil - ‘Szechuan pork fillet, apricot & vanilla gel, pickled cucumbers, chorizo’ anyone? and that’s exactly what we like about it. A touch of urban cool for Somerset.
Garden Café 16 Stony Street Frome www.gardencafefrome.co.uk
This café with its emphasis on organic, fairtrade, locally sourced fare is the epitome of the West Country food revolution. It grows and sells its own garden produce and serves an inventive vegetarian menu throughout the day. Excellent coffee, knockout brownies and fresh-baked artisan bread to take away. It also has a large, covered garden at the back lit up at night by a bicycle powered generator (yes really) – on certain days you can even make pedal powered smoothies. It has poetry nights too, oh the wholesomeness of it. Vividly green without being eccentrically hippy.
Deadly is the Female Catherine Street Frome www.deadlyisthefemale.com
A mecca for Dita Von Teese types; ‘tits and hips’ are a must for the amazing array of hourglass cocktail dresses, basques, stockings and bedroom shoes. The shops serves up old Hollywood style glamour with its faux vintage dresses and statuesque heels. Those looking for love should try the ‘Billion Dollar Baby’ dress - £165 – a nipped in, waist-enhancing, hip hugging, cleaving thrusting number - add a slash of pillarbox red lipstick and you’ll be good to go.
Frome Wholefoods – 8 Cheap Street Frome
This small dark crowded shop is a direct throwback to those hardcore, no frills health shops of the 1980s. No US-style ‘Whole Foods’ rebranding here, breathe in and inhale the aroma of a million mungbeans. It’s brilliant though – just the place to satisfy those inexplicable cravings for goji berries, you’ll leave feeling better before you’ve even cracked into them.
Hunting Raven Books 9-10 Cheap Street, Frome 01373 47311
Such a rarity to come across a decent bookshop in the country – this is one of them. Includes an interesting mix of hand-picked fiction, bestsellers nestling alongside quirkier unknowns, non-fiction, children’s literature and bookish gifts.
Opal Lingerie 5 The Bridge Frome www.opallingerie.com
A shop that offers professional bra fitting – ie being squeezed, hitched and hauled into various bras until you leave with breasts that are pointier than Kate Middleton’s – we told you Frome was full of surprises. Ok this isn’t Rigby & Peller but for Somerset it’s amazing. Underwear from Falke, Huit, Lejaby, Triumph and Elle Macpherson as well as slightly bonkers labels like Marlies Dekkers.
Cheese and Grain Market Yard Frome
A huge barn of a place that turns into a gig venue come night-time. It’s not particularly salubrious – more grotty village hall – which makes it an authentic spot to see the likes of The Psychedelic Furs and The Wurzels. Frome locals arrive en famille and party on with flagging kids on shoulders. We love.
Café Lastrada Cheap Street www.cafelastrada.co.uk
A brilliant little café that must make ex-urbanites weep with relief – very good Italian coffee, proper buttery croissants, a bank of home-made Italian ice-cream, hand-made chocolates and a lunch menu serving pasta, risotto, toasted sandwiches and fantastic chunky chips. The loos could do with a facelift though.
Absolutely Fabulous Costume Hire 20 Bath Street Frome
Famous in the area and a treasure trove of costumes, oft-visited by locals who are forced to attend one hilariously themed party after another, the idea being presumably that people in the country don’t know how to have fun unless they are dressed as superheroes and cross-eyed on vodka. That said, this place has everything and will bring out your inner Ken or Barbie, no matter how deeply buried.
Westway Cinema Cork Street Frome 01373 467088
It hasn’t got a website to check out listings, so you’ll need to call up and they may not answer, they may not even be showing films at all but when they do they serve them up with a side order of wine and that goes a long way with the people of Somerset. Uncomfortable, old school, not especially clean – how cinemas used to be, it’ll take you right back.
The Little Red Café St Catherine’s Hill
Locals swear that this café offers the best coffee – organic, fairtrade natch – in town. The place to find demon hot chocolates and gluten free cakes that actually taste better than the real thing.
Make and Mend St Catherine’s Hill
This vintage shop is a treasure trove of lace cocktails dresses, clutch bags, kitsch jewellery and retro homeware. There is an inhouse design studio where the owner reconstructs vintage pieces into her own creations. She also offers a dressmaking service so you can find something you love and have it tailored to suit. A genius idea.
Poot St Catherine’s Hill
The place to come for extraordinary one-off finds – with a huge array of beautiful dresses dating back to the 1930s it’s impossible to leave empty handed. Pearl Lowe is a regular, no doubt seeking inspiration for her vintage inspired line of tea dresses for Peacocks. Come here instead for the real thing.
Don’t miss the artisan market held on the first Sunday of every month on St Catherine’s Hill. A brilliant mix of stalls selling vintage clothes and other retro finds, food, plants and top-notch coffee supplied by The Little Red Café.