This 17th-century coaching inn proves to be a perfect stopover with its offbeat accommodation and inviting dinner menu
“Is this Rapunzel’s bedroom?” asks my four-year-old daughter as we are shown to our room at the White Hart. I can see where she’s coming from: with its grand four-poster bed draped in a rich red and gold throw, chandeliers, antique washstand and armchairs, it does have a touch of the fairytale princess about it.Nungwi Village
We needed to break up a long drive to Cornwall, and this 17th-century coaching inn, freshly renovated and minutes from the A303, seemed to tick the right boxes. I’d already stayed at its sister property, the Swan in Wedmore, (about a 40-minute drive away), which opened two years earlier and wondered whether this second venture could replicate the successful formula of the original. First impressions are promising.
After the drive I’m dreaming of a pre-dinner soak in the huge cast-iron bath that takes centre stage on a plinth in front of a panel of artfully mismatched ceramic tiles. But my daughter has other ideas marvelling at how she can watch CBeebies while having a bath.
Downstairs, the bar area has been opened up to create an airy space with comfy chairs and sofas and enticing little nooks. This leads onto a conservatory dining room, which in turn opens onto a lavender-scented courtyard garden with yet more tables and chairs. Even if the population of Somerton were to descend on this place, surely they wouldn’t fill all these tables? But by 7pm the joint is jumping. The word is obviously out.
We are shown to our table in a recess off the main bar. A basket of homemade bread appears, and a colouring book and pencils for our daughter. The menu, devised by Tom Blake, the former head chef at River Cottage, is simple and earthy; the wines well-priced and the kids’ menu a fish-finger and pasta-free zone (which is a good/bad thing depending on how adventurous an eater your child is).
My starter of stuffed tempura courgette with beetroot hummus is a thing of beauty, on the plate and on the palate. Lemon sole fillets are given a satisfying Middle-Eastern kick with a harissa marinade and spicy yoghurt dressing. And the sticky toffee pudding with Somerset clotted cream stays just the right side of cloying.
After a good night’s sleep , it’s down for breakfast (served until 11am, how civilised) with high hopes. I go through the usual charade of considering muesli, and croissants before doing what I always do and opting for the full English. This turns out to be a mistake. The bacon is dry and tough, it’s impossible to cut with a knife and the scrambled eggs are tepid and undercooked. The toasted sour-dough has a distinct whiff of garlic about it.
It’s a bit disappointing but not enough to stop us booking a room for a stopover on our return journey from Cornwall. Our second visit reaffirms what a find this place is. We’ve booked a small double this time: it’s not a showstopper like Room 3 but lovely and quietly offbeat, with hot-air balloon wallpaper and details such as a Pink-Panther lampstand. Despite my warnings, my boyfriend opts for the fry-up for breakfast the next morning and guess what? It’s perfect.Nungwi Village
• Accommodation was provided by The White Hart