“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:
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.”
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.”
“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.”
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.
“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.”
“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.
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.
For more goings-on in the UK, see:
- Updown Farmhouse: A Colorful Country Retreat in Kent
- Autumnal Ambrosia: The Three Horseshoes, a 17th-Century Pub in Somerset
- Kitchen of the Week: Burgundy Meets Blush in the English Countryside
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.