Have you been to Clavelshay Barn yet? It’s no secret that it’s one of our favourite places to eat out in Somerset. Magically tucked away on a farm in the stunning Quantock Hills, it’s relaxed yet special, dog friendly so you can take your hounds with you and it’s had all the love and attention poured in to it that owner Sue Milverton has to give. This shows in the very heartbeat of the barn.
Since discovering this Somerset gem last year, we’ve spent some brilliant times there, so when we heard that ace Head Chef Olivier Certain was leaving for pastures new, we were open-mouthed and a bit teary-eyed! But with change comes huge opportunity and wow… does change taste great at Clavelshay!
There’s a brand spanking new menu and in the kitchen, there’s a new kid on the block too - the brilliant John Godfrey.
Having worked for several years at The Castle in Taunton, you could say John knows his stuff and what we love most about his cooking (we popped over for a sneak preview), are the simple flavours and the best seasonal ingredients, beautifully presented. This approach makes us feel like we’ve come home.
In fact, it's a deliberate step by Sue and the team to focus on a simpler style - a style that John himself calls "rustic and fresh, focusing mainly on flavour and provenance" using what's available locally throughout the seasons, with as few food miles as possible. That way, you know exactly what's on your plate and where it comes from.
We love this concept and as I don’t eat meat, a starter of Wiltshire Mozzarella with Broad Beans from the garden, Watercress and Raddish followed by Warm Montgomery Cheddar and Asparagus Tart with Watercress and Jersey Royals absolutely hits the Vegetarian spot :).
That said, there really is something for everyone on John’s watch. The River Exe Mussels, Somerset Cider and Parsley make our mouths water. The Smoked Haddock Kedgeree with Crispy Poached Egg is the stuff of comfort food daydreams and if you eat do meat, I have it on good authority that these Chicken and Wild Garlic Pies are the business!
There’s also a classic Burger with Chunky Chips if you fancy it... and Chunky Chips can go with Heal Farm Ham and Fried Egg too, if the mood takes you!
Quite apart from all the stunning savoury dishes to choose from, there’s also the fact that John’s a bit of a genius when it comes to desserts…
… so if you’ve got a sweet tooth like us, prepare to be catapulted straight to pudding heaven! ;)
I’d fight my best mate for a taste of John’s Crème Brûlée (there’s a compliment if ever you heard one ;)) but thankfully I didn’t have to (I’m a lover not a fighter) and instead, I savoured every smooth spoonful of this crunchy, custardy delight, served with homemade shortbread and lavender ice cream. It’s an absolute classic that would make Gregg Wallace say “Awww mate” in that inimitable way he does on Masterchef!
Since John’s joined, lunch has become a real focus for Sue and the team on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays (as well as dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings too) and to be honest, we couldn’t think of many lovelier places to head to... either to sit inside the renovated belly of the barn, with it’s beautiful beams and wonderful light, or to perch outside in the sunshine, surrounded by the green of Clavelshay’s Somerset gardens, with a glass of fizz and the birds singing in the trees as you work your way through the courses!
Our feeling is that whether you’re looking for a laid back lunch or a dinner to die for, John’s menu absolutely delivers - and on our visit, as well as enjoying every last mouthful of the dishes we tried, we also wanted to find out a little bit more about what makes Chef tick. How does he feel about being in charge of the Clavelshay kitchen? What’s his favourite dish on the new menu and which pudding would he choose if he was tucking in one lunchtime? :)
Well, as John tells us:
“I’m really excited to be taking over the kitchen here and the restaurant and location is a perfect fit for my style of food. When people come for lunch or dinner at Clavelshay, they can definitely expect to find classic flavour combinations - each meal should be light, tasty and an absolute pleasure to eat. My favourite dish on the new menu has to be the Asparagus and Montgomery Cheddar Tart. It’s simple, fresh and packed full of filling and flavour. As far as dessert goes, my favourite's the strawberry mousse. It’s simple, but lighter than air and fresh to the palate… a cloud of strawberry flavour perfect for Summer. My lemon tart is a classic too, but a lighter version than most I think".
If you read the blog regularly, you'll know that when we do our 'Four Thoughts' interviews (asking people we like the four questions we think you'd be interested in hearing the answers to) the final question we always ask is "Tell us a secret no-one else knows". We tried it on John too...
"As for secrets, there aren’t any about the menu. It’s all there for everyone to see and enjoy - and I’m an open book too, although I love music and I do have a guilty pleasure… listening to McFly and Whitney Houston!"
Well, all we can say is that if it helps to produce this standard of cooking at Clavelshay, turn up the Whitney and make sure McFly’s on the playlist! ;) We’re definitely heading back for a lunch in the garden with our dogs... and to experience that delicious strawberry mousse
(hands off my crème brulee though! ;)).
If you fancy trying out the new menu for yourselves and visiting Clavelshay Barn for lunch or dinner, it’s definitely a good idea to book. Here’s the number you need - 01278 662629.
Lunch happens on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 12-2.30pm, with dinner on Friday and Saturday from 6.30pm - 9pm. Have a very, very tasty time! ;)