Sanjit Chudha's Qype reviews
Holford, Bridgwater, Somerset TA5 1RZ
Sanjit Chudha wrote on 3 January 2010
We've eaten here, twice, but never stayed as guests so this review will major on food and related services.
On both occassions the food we had was excellent. Combe House Hotel is rated (in 2009) by both Sawday's guide, The Michelin Guide and now Qype! Two years ago we went for a birthday lunch. We all had fish which was exquisite; fresh or smoked, crustacean or battered, raw or steamed - the results were flawless and the combinations of flavours and textures superb. Presentation was also a real 'wow'.
More recently (New Year's Eve lunch - 31/12/2009) we were there for lunch again. We noted that the hotel had changed hands since we were last there. Service was polished as ever. We were shown to the bar, coats taken and hung up and a fire lit to make us welcome and warm. I opted for a whisky (Talisker) to start whilst others opted for Abbot Ale, a local bitter (light amber in tone and toasty in flavour). Our food orders were taken after due consideration of the menu (there were 6 starters, 6 mains and 6 desserts to choose from).
I chose the sirloin steak, medium rare (a test for any competent chef). Two chose a salmon ciabatta, whilst two others opted for the meat platter (venison and boar salami, parma ham and a venison pate), the final member of our party opted for the seafood platter sans crustacea. The order was graciously taken. The order for a seafood platter without shellfish was, after due consultation with the person ordering it, bumped up to include more smoked mackerel than it might ordinarily have had by way of compensation. A nice touch. We were left to bask before the fire for a while and mingle with other guests who were staying at the hotel (none of whom had a bad word to say I might add).
The arrival of our food was presaged by our being shown to our table. We had a large dining room with a long table and a 'retreating' area for coffee amply provided for with three plump sofas. The food was ushered in with minimal fuss but maximum effect. I've bever seen lettuce shaped quite like that! The flavours were excellent - my steak was moist and juicy but soft, as it should be! The chips were chunky and freshly cooked hunks of real potato, not refried and ready made chips. Salad was plentiful, fresh and dressed with a light mustard dressing. The salad was a key part of the meal not just a garnish.
The meat platters were equally praised, with many 'mmmms' and 'aaaaahs'. The salmon ciabatta too was highly praised for it's quality. The sefood platter initially drew no comment; total silence whilst being consumed. Upon completion the verdict pronounced was a well satisfied 'excellent'.
The dessserts were lovely, banana parfait and creme brulee. Each done to a tee and served with a delicious home-made vanilla ice cream (if you can't make good ice cream from the plentiful Somerset dairy herds' milk you're in trouble).
It's always said that the mark of a good establishment is knowing what it does well and focusing on that rather than having a menu of 40 dishes done poorly. Combe House Hotel served us very well and proved that adage true.
Access to all the main areas is on one floor with ramped access to the bar. The hotel is a long, trailing amalgam of buildings of many ages from the 16th through to 20th centuries and clings to a descending, wooded valley (or Combe) in the Quantock hills. There is some excellent walking country about these parts, Combe House Hotel would make for an excellent starting or finishing point.
The guests we spoke too lauded the rooms and service (though we didn't stay, hence the focus on food which we did eat). Other services like loos, lounges and gardens were faultless.