Our friends, and frequent dining companions, Paul and Ashleigh had long been extolling the virtues of chef-patron Nicholas Balfe, who had firmly established a successful career in their habitat of south London, prior to relocating to our homeland in Somerset in 2021. The obvious thing to do was select a mutually convenient date and head to his latest venture Holm, in South Petherton, for dinner.
Pippa and I dine out pretty frequently and we are always wary of visiting a restaurant with high expectations. Housed in a spacious former bank in the attractive village of South Petherton, between Langport and Crewkerne, and in convenient proximity to the A303, Holm is a destination worth making a detour for. The dining room and kitchen have high ceilings and are open plan and very tastefully decorated. The front of house team are alert, well-informed and engaging. The à la carte menu is concise, carefully-constructed and themed around locally-sourced, seasonal produce. In short, Holm is a modern, minimalist restaurant that has been fine-tuned to perfection. Nicholas trained at both Saint John and Moro and clearly learned precisely what established them as restaurants to return to.
We started our evening with a prudent, and I think complimentary, pichet of sparkling water and soon segued on to a glass of excellent Pago de Tharys 'Medusa' Cava, that was zesty, citrus-edged and refreshing. The menu featured four different amuse bouches, including olives and salt cod beignets, we ordered all of them and they were all superb. At this juncture Nicholas appeared in person (never trust a chef who doesn't grace their own kitchen) and gave us a warm welcome and his insights into the compilation of the menu.
For starters we had smoked chalk stream trout, asparagus and crab, and lamb croquettes all of which were excellent. We paired them with a glass of Moulin de Gassac 'Chardonnay-Viognier' 2021 which was both palate-cleansing and great value. Fergus, the well-informed and convivial sommelier then guided us towards a delicious white Château Musar 2014 to accompany halibut with mushrooms and asparagus and we ordered a bottle of 'Château Guibeau' Puisseguin Saint-Emilion 2014, that was wonderfully briary and starting to show the benefit of bottle age, to pair with Creedy Carver Chicken and alliums, and pork and Swiss chard. We all shared some pommes anna with truffle mayonnaise and I may have to plan a stealth trip on my own to revisit those.
We rounded proceedings off with desserts - dark chocolate crémaux, and ricotta ice cream with rhubarb, and a shared plate of three à point British cheeses. Our final bill was not modest but, we all agreed, represented good value for what we ate and drank. We are all looking forward to going back to Holm, not least because they are planning to open seven bedrooms, which is a very strategic plan indeed.