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6 February 2024

Mount Somerset Hotel and Spa Review

Commanding a magnificent position between the Blackdown and Quantock hills in the countryside a couple of miles from Taunton is the Mount Somerset Hotel and Spa. The Regency building has a sophisticated elegance and the surroundings afford superb views from virtually all the public rooms and bedrooms. It is set off beautifully by four acres of well-tended gardens, that privacy is not respected by one sheep which regularly jumps the fence from the neighbouring field to join the rabbits gambling outside our bedroom window.
Whether it is a one night stay to break a longer journey or stopping over for longer, there are plenty of attractions to dally here. One reason not to travel too far away is the outstanding dining experience which is well worth travelling far to sample but more later on that.
A member of the Eden Hotel Collection the house was originally built in 1805 for Robert Proctor Anderson and his nephew. John Proctor Anderson served with the Duke of Wellington at Waterloo and during the second World War it was known as Henlade House. Subsequently, the house was used by a girls’ school evacuated from Eastbourne. Eventually the house was sold in 1985 and in the 1990s converted into an hotel and is now one of the nine hotels owned by the excellent Eden Hotel Collection; winner of the ‘Small Hotels of the Year’ award.
The hotel retains the atmosphere of a typical English country house with the obligatory roaring log fires in the winter, antiques, high ceilings and large windows overlooking the immaculate gardens. A little piece of English heaven.
Just a short drive away is the wonderful open spaces of Exmoor and the coastal walks where the fossil rich beaches of Lyme Regis may be explored. Glastonbury and Wells Cathedral are not far and for those interested in gardens there is Hestercombe gardens, Barrington Court and best of all what is justly considered to be one of the most romantic gardens in the country – Cothay Manor. For families there are the delights of The West Somerset Steam Railway and Dunster Castle.
There is, what has become increasingly obligatory, a small spa in the converted former coach house adjacent to the main building. What is available will keep most people more than contented with a sauna, steam room, small gym together with hydrotherapy. You can also take your pick from a menu of treatments ranging from a pedicure to an invigorating or relaxing massage.
But the piece de resistance is the food which we have to say is very high on our radar. We were treated to one of the most delicious meals we have had this year. It was witty, inventive and absolutely delicious. Matt Potts the new chef has hit the ground running and intends to obtain a third AA rosette this year in the annual awards for the hotel. If he doesn’t get the accolade he deserves, I will eat my hat – or rather make Tim, my other half, eat his.
We always rather enjoy the little bits and pieces which chefs often treat their diners to; little morsels to tease and give you an idea of the delights to come. This dinner was no exception and our canapés were very, very good – tiny fish fingers with tartar sauce, poppy seeded sables topped with goats’ cheese and miniature muffins made of corn purée and polenta with chopped pieces of chorizo. The muffins were as light as a feather. Obviously, the chef making the breads has an amazing lightness of touch as our brioche with bacon, and the parmesan crisp that accompanied our amuse bouche of cauliflower velouté would wipe floor clean if they competed in a professional equivalent of ‘The Great British Bake Off’. No-one would be able to touch him. Not being sexist but we checked with the restaurant manager, Kris, and were given his name. Unfortunately, his name has been mislaid but it may have been Greg?
I am not going to bore you with every mouthful that we ate but Tim’s roasted quail with full English breakfast garnish was such fun. My chocolate and olive oil delice with salt baked pineapple, together with slivers of roasted coconut just downright sumptuous. But it did not stop there. The petits fours and chocolates were sublime – yusu (Japanese citrus fruit) in a macaron was zingy and refreshing and a new, but somehow familiar, taste.
If only, we could have stayed another night and started all over again with different choices from the menu. However, we very much hope we will be able to visit again soon in order to celebrate with Matt, his ‘kitchen’ team and Kris the restaurant manager, gaining a well deserved additional rosette to join an elite three AA rosettes restaurant.