Traditional coaching inn turned gastro pub with quirky rooms and great food.
Old coaching inn prominently placed in Somerset village (big for a village: pharmacy, three pubs, church, shops, deli, gallery, village hall). White-painted Georgian frontage with seating outside and gardens and parking behind. We checked in at the bar: an old-fashioned no-frills hostelry with flagstones, wood floors, rustic timber furniture, dark-painted panelling and a long woody bar. Dave’s there already. A pint of your finest ale, please.
What’s the story?
The Swan was the first of the five boutique inns that now form the Stay Original family (its siblings are in Somerton, Bradford-on-Avon, Shaftsbury and Dorchester). The company specialises in taking on run-down West Country inns with history, stripping them back to their roots, hiring interior designers to jazz up the rooms and a talented chef to design an enticing farm-to-table menu (Stay Original’s executive chef, Tom Blake, has a River Cottage background).
Wedmore. The Isle of Wedmore no less. The village sits on a hump in the Somerset Levels, only four miles from Cheddar (caves, gorge, cheese). Wells (Cathedral, Bishop’s Palace, market) and Glastonbury (Abbey, Tor, Chalice Well, New Age shops) are both seven miles away. Bristol is a 45-minute drive through hilly Mendip countryside. Nearest stations are Highbridge or Burnham (20 minutes by taxi).
The inn’s seven rooms set the tone for what is now the Stay Original style: a mix of antique, contemporary and quirky with original features, splashes of colour on various shades of grey and the odd panel of floral wallpaper or tongue and groove. There are claw-foot roll-top tubs and separate wet rooms in the Big rooms on the first-floor or the Loft Room above (room 2 is the one to go for, but 1 and 3 are nearly as good). Even the Small room (there are also two Mediums) is light and reasonably spacious (a collection of Beatles album covers on the wall adds a random 60s vibe).
The pillow test
A little too plump for my liking but a good quality pillow nonetheless (you get two each). The Big rooms get big beds (super kings that convert to twins) and even the Small’s is a decent size.
It was raining but it was warm enough to sit outside, under cover, the air heavy with the scent of jasmine; plus sheepskins and heaters to keep us warm (there’s an ourdoor wood-burner for cooler evenings). The indoor restaurant looked cosy, too. The menu is short, seasonal and fed by a larder of local produce: meat from Buxtons butchers, Shipton Mill flour (for the home-made breads), organic vegetables from Edcombe Farm and so on. From the summer menu we ordered a vegetarian Tempura courgette flower with goat curd and a meaty pork cheek and smoked ham hock terrine. I went for the fishy main (curried monkfish with harissa); Dave for the steak (dry aged rump). Excellent chips (triple cooked with smoked rosemary seasalt). Good wines. Brilliant service.
The egg test
Perfectly cooked poached eggs with both breakfasts. I had the Swan Veggie (with grilled marinated Haloumi); Dave went for the Smoked Salmon, eggs and avocado on toast. The Full Swan comes with Old Spot sausage and bacon, black pudding and hash browns. Eggs are free range from Fenton Farm. Thumbs up all round.
Quite a lot of day-time traffic noise from the street-facing rooms. Amazed at quite how much traffic there is in a Somerset village at 8 o’clock on a Wednesday morning.
Traffic noise aside, this is a great all-rounder: lovely rooms, friendly staff and delicious food in a great location.
Rooms from £75 per night including breakfast. www.theswanwedmore.com. Cheddar Rd, Wedmore BS28 4EQ. 01934 710337