It would be hard to find a more perfect pub for a quick mini-break than the Swan at Wedmore. This beautiful 18th century inn has been completely modernised so that it skilfully combines the feeling of a sleek, boutique hotel with a down to earth village local.
We arrived on a Wednesday night to find the bar surprisingly busy and the restaurant almost full. Clearly the local neighbourhood are big fans. The bar is all stripped floors and old wooden tables and leather sofas filled with squashy tapestry cushions. Somewhere to sink down with a pint of craft cider or ale and the newspaper.
Food is taken very seriously here and comes courtesy of chef Tom Blake, ex River Cottage Canteen. In the restaurant there's a chalk board drawing of a cow divided up into cuts of beef, rump, sirloin, topside and so on. Food provenance, in true River Cottage style is a point of pride, with daily changing menus, locally sourced meat and sustainable fish. We shared a platter of starters which included crab arancini (deep fried balls of white crab meat, unbelievable), pork liver and walnut terrine, smoked mackerel fish cake and rainbow chard tempura. It came with a side order of hot bread and olive oil and was unfailingly good. For main course we had the spiced rump lamb chop with lamb shoulder moussaka and pearl barley and the Somerset guinea fowl with potato gratin, pan fried ceps and tarragon. sauce. Both were delicious, this is inventive cooking, that's way beyond most gastro pub fare. I'm not surprised the locals are flocking here. After a shared bowl of home-made ice cream with toffee sauce and crushed hazelnut praline we could barely make it up the stairs to our rather lovely bedroom. There are 6 bedrooms at the Swan all with vast comfortable beds, tweed armchairs and bathrooms with roll tops, power showers and the full range of Bramley products. This is where the boutique element comes in and is my favourite thing about the Swan - you get all the trappings of a laidback country pub, the kind where you can happily sit up at the bar and sink pints of cider but there's also an integral element of swishness here.
Next day after a fully artisan breakfast - Denhay bacon with organic scrambled eggs and a gargantuan roast mushroom that swallowed most of the plate - we set off to explore the area. Wedmore is a revelation. A large village with gorgeous architecture including the very beautiful 15th century St Mary's church slap bang in the middle. It's a place of cute looking cafes and the kind of junk shops you could lose a whole day in. Just outside the village are the Somerset Levels, one of the best places in the country to birdspot and if you come between October and March you can see the starling murmuration. Another not to be missed experience is Wilkins Cider Farm, the real deal, a spit and sawdust kind of place where the most delicious cider is made, so pure, in fact, it must be drunk within a week (no hardship there). We sampled a half pint at 11 in the morning and were on a high for the rest of the day. I just wished we'd booked into the Swan for two nights instead of one. There's always next time.