Ring O Bells, Compton Martin, Somerset: hotel review

December 3, 2013

With fab food and celebrity connections the Ring O Bells has a distinctly modern edge, but crucially, still feels like a proper pub

My thanks to a fellow Twitter chatterer for recommending a pub whose website shows Kylie Minogue singing on the bar. Clearly it has a story to tell.

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A pin-sharp crescent moon has risen in a clear sky as I click the car locked. Early evening drinkers sit in the glow of standard lamps and log fires. Chalked over the bar are Wi-Fi password and single malts; on it, a batch of fresh sausage rolls. Beers are Butcombe and Sharp’s. Nothing’s trying too hard. This is how to do an unselfconscious update in a trad boozer.

Past the loos, manager Adam leads me along what must be described as a hall of fame. Gold discs and signed photos – Elton, Kylie, Tinie Tempah and Michael Bublé – line the walls. These are not the yellowing tributes of late-night theatre district takeaways. “Mine’s a pint, Miles,” writes Bublé, “Dear Miles, Good luck” says Sir Elton.

Miles is Miles Leonard. He runs Parlophone but spends family weekends here in the Mendip Hills.

Kylie really did sing in his local, in 2010, on a company jolly to Somerset, but the pub was ailing and, last year, Leonard and friend Matt Fisher (who owns music consultancy Squarepeg) bought it.

My room is set lower than the car park and wrapped in thick walls, which an electric heater struggles to warm. It’s simple, aimed at walkers and trout fishermen here for Chew Valley and Blagdon lakes. Mattress just OK, pillows bit thin. Brrr, cold tiles on the shower room floor. I draw thick velvet curtains and settle into my cave.

A Latin jazz duo strikes up in the bar. The Novelist arrives for dinner, with A. “Not a single thing I wouldn’t order on that menu,” he says. Starters – fried aubergine with honey, and herby goat’s cheese with burnt pear – are big hits. Ditto classic mains – fresh haddock in feather-light batter, generous and full-bodied braised ham hock – and A declares Cornish brill with camomile-smoked mash and capers her “dream dish”.

“What a fantastic local,” she says.

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Daylight reveals steeply wooded hills. Wish my bed faced that view, and not the wall. Clearly fishermen don’t linger over breakfast. Fires not yet lit, tea a Pukka bag in a cup.

“Got a pot?” One arrives filled with strong builders’. That’ll put hair on my chest. No grim buffet, that’s a plus. Bread is from the bakery down the road, but only arrives toasted beneath my scrambled eggs. Wouldn’t mind some in a toast rack, with butter and marmalade.

Breakfast needs a bit of finesse, the bedroom a little more heat, but this is still a proper pub, and a very cool one at that. Whether Kylie returns for an encore or not.

• Accommodation was provided by the Ring O Bells

Sally Shalam

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