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Holm: A Restaurant With Rooms, Where “Simplicity Rules”


Holm: A Restaurant With Rooms, Where “Simplicity Rules”

Dave Watts November 29, 2023

“It was early January 2021, and it was still very much a building site,” chef Nicholas Balfe recalls of his first site visit to what is now Holm, his restaurant with just-opened rooms in the village of South Petherton. “We were guided around the empty shell whilst wearing pink hard hats and pink high-vis.”

A former NatWest bank (the back end of the village cash machine remains curtained off in the dining room), this handsome, honey-colored building was originally built in 1830 for a wealthy merchant. “What is now the garden was just a mass of rubble and mud,” Nicholas says. “The old 1960s concrete bank vault sat like an enormous cuboid abscess where our terrace is now.”

Picking their way through the rubble, Nicholas and the team of builders and architects made their way to the site office. “We sat upstairs huddled around a portable heater with a flask of tea and a picnic basket complete with sourdough bread, warm venison sausages, and a round of Baron Bigod,” he says. “As site visits go, it wasn’t too bad!”

The restaurant opened in 2021 and is Nicholas’s fourth creation. (He opened Salon, Levan, and Larry’s in south London before moving to rural Somerset.) The site has become a hub for locals whilst drawing diners from further afield keen to experience the clean flavors and seasonal, ingredient-led dishes Nicholas has become known for.

It made sense, then, for the restaurant to come with rooms. Let’s have a look:

inspired by the original double height arched window on the stairs and the fan  17
Above: Inspired by the original double-height arched window on the stairs and the fan light above the entrance door, the architects, Gundry & Ducker, introduced a semi-circle detail above the fireplace in the restaurant, exposing the hamstone lintel and the brick construction. Photograph by Ed Schofield.

In the 34-cover restaurant, hard-at-work chefs (minus their pink hard hats) are busy in the open kitchen. Punters can pull up a stool here or take their pre-dinner drink to the seating area in front of the wood-burning stove which separates the kitchen from the main dining area. Here, lime plaster walls, English oak joinery, and exposed brickwork combine to create an atmosphere that is raw yet warm and inviting. “We wanted to create a space that felt minimalist and contemporary whilst still being firmly rooted in the history of the building,” Nicholas explains. “That principle was the guiding factor for the aesthetic in the rooms, too. Our aim was to highlight original architectural features where possible and create clean, sharp, design-led details where we added new elements.”

the fireside seating area at the entrance to holm. photograph by ed schofield. 18
Above: The fireside seating area at the entrance to Holm. Photograph by Ed Schofield.
nicholas balfe, the chef director. &#8\2\20;there&#8\2\17;s a kind of d 19
Above: Nicholas Balfe, the chef-director. “There’s a kind of dialogue between the old and the new throughout the building,” he says. “The same could be said of our ethos in the kitchen to a degree: classic cookery meets modern-day techniques; heritage ingredients inspiring contemporary dishes.” Photograph by Ed Schofield.

Nicholas worked with the interior designer Decca Lang on the seven guest rooms, which are named after British trees. “Shape and form were definitely front and center when designing the rooms here,” Decca explains. “Semicircles were a motif that kept appearing throughout the restaurant renovations, and this was continued upstairs, with the original arches accentuated and porthole windows created in the bathrooms. It’s even picked up on with the elm handles on the bespoke minibar cabinet in the largest bedroom, which is aptly named Elm.”

the largest room, elm, overlooks the main thoroughfare in sleepy south petherto 20
Above: The largest room, Elm, overlooks the main thoroughfare in sleepy South Petherton and boasts an in-room egg bath and bespoke minibar.

“Exposing the original lime plaster was again a continuation from the treatment of the restaurant,” Decca explains. “The walls had such a wonderful quality when they were first exposed after peeling away layer upon layer of wallpaper. By leaving them exposed it gives a depth and unusual quality that sits really well next to newly repaired lime plaster and crisp white walls. It’s a building that has been altered throughout its long life, and these touches let the architectural bones show through.”

a simple chest of drawers in juniper: &#8\2\20;it can be really hard to bal 21
Above: A simple chest of drawers in Juniper: “It can be really hard to balance design decisions next to practicality,” says Decca, “but the rooms were designed to be just enough, with everything in the right place.”

The furniture for each room was sourced from local auction houses and markets with the help of Origo House, a local furniture sourcing company. “Most of the chest of drawers are from the 1930s and ’40s,” says Decca. “They have clean, simple, utilitarian lines and are honestly and properly made.” Custom pieces sit alongside market finds. The minibar in Elm and the oak and leather headboards were made by local furniture maker Tortie Hoare and the blond oak bedside tables by Pacha Design. “Using natural materials and local craftspeople really roots the rooms to their surroundings,” says Decca.

the sessile bedroom, where nicholas held his first site meeting. &#8\2\20;t 22
Above: The Sessile bedroom, where Nicholas held his first site meeting. “The artwork is by the Polish artist Caziel,” says Decca. “He was a contemporary of Picasso who settled and worked from his studio in a village only a few miles away. His work tends to sit on the exposed lime walls, which works really well with the texture of the pastel.”

“Simplicity ruled” Decca’s design decisions. “It took a lot of careful thought to ensure all the sockets were in the right place and the light switches within reach—and of course that you could reach for a drink when soaking in the bath or relaxing on the sofa. I just always imagined what it would be like to use the rooms myself, and access to the minibar played an important role in that.”

paper lanterns and wool blankets bring texture and softness to each of the room 23
Above: Paper lanterns and wool blankets bring texture and softness to each of the rooms.
the en suites are clad in zellige tiles and include rain showers and natural pr 24
Above: The en-suites are clad in zellige tiles and include rain showers and natural products made by Haeckels.
locally foraged flowers cast shapes on the raw plaster in the rowan room. 25
Above: Locally foraged flowers cast shapes on the raw plaster in the Rowan room.
hornbeam is a loft room featuring an imposing chimney stack, whitewashed beams, 26
Above: Hornbeam is a loft room featuring an imposing chimney stack, whitewashed beams, and a bath in the bedroom.
the chimneystack in hornbeam. (booked together with the rowan room, a family ca 27
Above: The chimneystack in Hornbeam. (Booked together with the Rowan room, a family can enjoy their very own floor at the top of the building.)

“As in the restaurant, I always felt very strongly that the art would be absolutely key to the rooms coming together,” Decca says. “As with all other things in the bedrooms it’s an eclectic mix of old and new.” Colorful, abstract oil paintings by Nicholas’s friend Tom Morris, pastels on paper by Caziel, paper and ceramic collages by Alexandra Robinson, and bright tablescape collages by local artist Amy Rhian enliven the walls here. “The expansive walls of Holm lend themselves to being treated as a gallery-like space,” Decca says. Hence, all pieces seen here are available for sale.

the mid century architectural prints above the four poster in elm are from moun 28
Above: The mid-century architectural prints above the four-poster in Elm are from Mount Collective.
the juniper room, featuring artwork by tom morris (above the bed), alexandra ro 29
Above: The Juniper room, featuring artwork by Tom Morris (above the bed), Alexandra Robinson, and Caziel. Note the wooden bud vases that hold a single stem of dried grass.

Outside his shifts in the kitchen, Nicholas is focused on increasing productivity in the vegetable garden and holding more events on the terrace, which is now clear of the concrete bank vault. Guest chefs are now a regular occurrence here. “It feels like this is just the beginning for Holm,” he says. 

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Frequently asked questions

What is Holm in Somerset?

Holm in Somerset is a restaurant and guesthouse located in the English countryside.

Where is Holm in Somerset situated?

Holm in Somerset is situated in the heart of the Somerset countryside in England.

Is Holm in Somerset a restaurant or a guesthouse?

Holm in Somerset is both a restaurant and a guesthouse. Guests can enjoy the culinary delights of the restaurant and also stay in one of their stylish guest rooms.

What can I expect from the restaurant at Holm in Somerset?

The restaurant at Holm in Somerset offers a delightful dining experience with a focus on locally sourced and seasonal ingredients. They serve a variety of dishes, from traditional British cuisine to more contemporary flavors.

What are the guest rooms like at Holm in Somerset?

The guest rooms at Holm in Somerset are stylishly decorated with a blend of modern and traditional elements. They provide a comfortable and cozy ambiance, perfect for a relaxing stay in the countryside.

Are the guest rooms at Holm in Somerset pet-friendly?

Yes, Holm in Somerset welcomes well-behaved pets in their guest rooms. They understand that pets are part of the family and provide a pet-friendly environment for their guests.

Do the guest rooms at Holm in Somerset have private bathrooms?

Yes, each guest room at Holm in Somerset has its own private bathroom, ensuring privacy and convenience for guests.

Is there parking available at Holm in Somerset?

Yes, Holm in Somerset provides free parking facilities for their guests, making it convenient for those traveling by car.

Can I make a reservation at Holm in Somerset?

Yes, you can make a reservation at Holm in Somerset either for a meal at their restaurant or for a stay in one of their guest rooms. Reservations can be made through their website or by contacting them directly.

Is there any specific dress code at the Holm in Somerset restaurant?

There is no specific dress code at the restaurant. However, smart-casual attire is encouraged to maintain the elegant ambiance of the place.

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