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Somerset pubs: Ten top picks for fabulous food and drink

By This is Somerset  |  Posted: November 21, 2011

  • The Griffin is the heart and the hub of nightlife in Frome

  • The Montague Inn at Shepton Montague is a hidden gem in the heart of the countryside

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From the bright lights of Bath to the wilds of Exmoor, Somerset is a vibrant and diverse county.

And its varying landscapes and lifestyles are reflected in the wide range of pubs and bars on offer.

Whether you are looking for a pint of world-renowned Somerset cider, a taste of classic British pub grub or a classy cocktail evening, you will find it here.

The county is also a growing hot-bed for real ales.

Katie Redgrave, vice-chairman and secretary of CAMRA’s Somerset Branch, said: “In Somerset you will find a whole variety from rural, largely food-based pubs to city bars and pubs specializing in real ales and ciders.

“We’ve got a lot of superb breweries from traditional ones that have been going a long time like the Moor Brewery to new micro-breweries that have started up more recently.

“The newest of these is the Stowey Brewery at Nether Stowey which is based at the Old Cider House guesthouse. It brews beers for people staying at the guesthouse and also supplies the local pub.  

“A lot of the pubs take pride in stocking local beers and a number brew their own.”

As well as serving great beers and ciders Somerset also boasts a wealth of fantastic food pubs including the Michelin-starred Pony and Trap at Chew Magna and the award-winning The Montague at Shepton Montague.

Katie says that, although Somerset is not that dissimilar from other counties, its strength seems to lie in its top-class traditional country inns.

She said: “I think it is similar to most counties but Somerset is more rural than most with big areas like Exmoor and the Quantocks and maybe that leads to more country inns than some other places. And there are some very good ones.”

So whether you are looking for a cosy place to relax and refuel after a walk in the countryside or a bustling boozer in the centre of Bath, here is our guide to 10 of the best pubs and bars in Somerset.

1) The Griffin, 25 Milk Street, Frome BA11 3DB, 01373 467 766.

Type: Real ale and music pub.

Food and drink: Home to the pub’s own Milk Street Brewery and its famous real ales.

Entertainment: Live music, quizzes, pool, pub games and film nights.

Great for: Losing all track of time with a heady concoction of real ales, pub games and live music.

Open: Monday to Thursday 5pm-11pm,  Friday 4pm-1am, Saturday 12pm-1am and Sunday 1pm-10.30pm.

Crowned ‘Local Pub of the Year’ at the Taste of Somerset Awards, The Griffin has become a Frome institution.

Complete with an eight barrel brewery out the back, the pub offers a chance to sample its range of fantastic ales in a warm, friendly atmosphere buzzing with banter and pub games.

From pool tables to quiz nights, a film club and live music of all persuasions, The Griffin is the heart and the hub of nightlife in the town.

2) Royal Oak, Luxborough, near Dunstan, TA23 0SH, 01984 640319.

Type: Country inn.

Food and drink: From light bites to inventive restaurant-quality fare. A range of real ales, ciders and 14 wines by the glass.

Great for: A great meal and a pint of local ale or cider in front of a roaring fire after a day spent exploring Exmoor.

Open: Daily.

Brimming with genuine charm and character this traditional pub is the perfect place from which to explore the wilds of Exmoor.

Renowned for its warm hospitality and relaxed atmosphere, the cosy flag-stoned bar and rustic restaurant at the Royal Oak Inn offer a welcome respite from the great outdoors.

And visitors who have worked up an appetite or thirst won’t be disappointed with the food and drink on offer.

Innovative re-workings of classic British cooking are matched by a wide range of local ciders and ales.

Situated in one of Somerset’s most secluded and unspoilt areas the pub feels timeless in all the best ways.

Winner of the The Good Pub Guide’s coveted ‘Inn of the Year’ for 2012.

3) Central Bar, 10 Upper Borough Walls, Bath, BA1 1RG, 01225 333 939.

Type: Cocktail bar.

Food and drink: Homemade burgers and other light bites. An extensive cocktail menu and a number of real ales.

Entertainment: Live music and DJs.

Great for: Forgetting about work and getting into the mood for the weekend over a few cocktails.

Open: Daily from 10am to 11.30pm or later.

A haven in the heart of Bath’s historic city centre, the Central Bar offers a stylish, contemporary place to kick back with friends over a cocktail or two.

Relaxed during the day, vibrant and buzzing at night the bar is ideally located for pre-theatre drinks or as starting place for a Saturday night on the town.

Renowned for its cocktails, Central Bar also offers real ales, good food and some of the best DJ's and live music in Bath.

4) The Montague Inn, Shepton Montague, Wincanton, BA9 8JW, 01749 813213.

Type: Country pub.

Food and drink: Excellent homemade pub food. A fine range of real ales, wines and Somerset ciders.

Great for: Refuelling with a pint of cider and a delicious meal after a long walk in the countryside. Dogs are given a free biscuit every time they bring their owner!

Open: Lunch: Monday to Saturday 12pm-2pm and Sunday 12-2.30pm. Dinner: Monday to Saturday 7-9pm.

With its cosy bar and spacious garden The Montague Inn offers the perfect place to rest and refuel after a walk in the heart of rural Somerset.

Its inventive use of great local ingredients saw it named ‘Best Dining Pub’ at the Taste of Somerset awards and it has also proved a winner with diners.

Alongside its fine food The Montague has an unrivalled range of local ciders and ales.

It also serves homemade lemonade and its own bar snacks.

A hidden gem in the heart of the countryside.

5) Woods, 4 Bank Square, Dulverton, TA22 9BU, 01398 324 007.

Type: Pub, wine bar and restaurant.

Food and drink: An extraordinary range of 400 listed wines all available by the glass and a further 500 unlisted. Real ale, farm ciders, sherries and a number of unusual spirits. Food ranges from light lunches to modern a la carte cuisine.

Great for: Tasting and talking wine with knowledgeable owner Paddy Groves before sitting down to a fantastic meal – complete with a perfectly matched glass or two of vino of course.

Open: For food from 12pm-2.30pm daily, from 6pm-9.30pm Monday to Saturday and 7pm-9.30pm on Sunday.

The Good Pub Guide’s reigning ‘Wine Pub of the Year’ (it also won in 2007 and 2009), Woods offers a wine list to rival anywhere in the country.

Owner Paddy Groves is happy to discuss every one of his incredible collection and help you pick out something to your taste, whether you are looking for a bottle or just a single glass.

It’s mixture of light lunches and French-inspired a la carte food has also won a number of awards including the 2010 ‘Somerset Dining Pub of the Year’.

With its bare boards, hunting trophies and prints of country pursuits Woods invokes the outdoor spirit of nearby Exmoor while offering a rather more refined experience than your average country pub.

6) The Marlborough Tavern, 35 Marlborough Buildings, Bath, BA1 2LY, 01225 423 731.

Type: Gastropub.

Food and drink: Fantastic unpretentious British food made using the best locally sourced seasonal produce. On the drinks front, you name it they’ve got it from local ales and ciders to cocktails, spirits and an extensive wine list.

Great for: One of The Marlborough’s famous Sunday Lunches, inside in winter and outdoors in arguably Bath’s finest beer garden in the summer.

Open: Monday to Thursday 12pm-11pm, Friday and Saturday 12pm-1am and Sundays 12pm-10.30pm.

The Marlborough Tavern's recipe for success may be simple but very few places do simple as brilliantly as this Bath pub.

Its superb home-cooked food, warm atmosphere and pleasant surroundings have seen it claim numerous awards and an ever-growing army of loyal customers.

From gastro-savvy grandparents to student drinkers, the pub has something for everyone. Its Sunday lunches have become particularly popular, but whether you want fish and chips or a classy cocktail you will find it all at the Marlborough Tavern.

7) The Queens Arms, Corton Denham, near Sherborne, DT9 4LR, 01963 220 317.

Type: Country inn.

Food and drink: Wholesome yet elegant classic British fare. An incredible range of bottled beers and ciders sourced from Somerset to Scotland and Australia to North America.

Entertainment: Seasonal celebrations from Burns’ Night to Carol Singing, walking tours and beer festivals.

Great for: A base for a weekend getaway or a venue for a relaxed and affordable family celebration.

Open: 11am-11pm Monday to Saturday and 12pm-10.30pm on Sundays.

From the food it serves to the stylish, characterful interior, the Queens Arms offers the very best of the British pub experience.

With homemade pork pies stacked on the bar, a range of great beers and ciders and a roaring fire, there are few better places to recover after a walk in the Somerset countryside.

Welcoming and friendly, the pub is a great place to meet family for lunch or for a classy but unpretentious dinner for two.

With a couple of beautifully-kept rooms above the pub it is also a fantastic place for a weekend getaway exploring the Somerset/Dorset border.

8) The Castle Green Inn, Castle Lodge, Castle Green, Taunton, TA1 4AE 01823 257 688.

Type: Town centre real ale and cider pub.

Food and drink: Real ales and ciders served in pewter tankards. Light bites and pub grub.

Entertainment: Live music and beer society get-togethers.

Great for: Putting the world to rights over a few ales.

Open: Daily.

One of the up and coming venues on the Somerset pub scene the Castle Green Inn mixes a modern setting with traditional values.

Its cask ales, pewter tankards and choice of six ciders on tap have seen it recognised by CAMRA and The Good Pub Guide.

And the Inn’s affordable food and famous steak nights have also made it popular with diners.

The pub also hosts live music and its own beer society.

9) The Pony and Trap, Knowle Hill, Newtown, Chew Magna, BS40 8TQ, 01275 332627.

Type: Gastropub

Food and drink: Michelin-starred pub grub at affordable prices.

Entertainment: A wide range of food-themed evenings featuring some of the area’s top local chefs.

Great for: A long and lazy lunch sampling some of the best pub food going.

Open: For food: Tuesday-Saturday 12pm-2.30pm and 7pm-9.30pm. Sunday 12pm -3.30pm and 7pm to 9.30pm.

Many places claim to offer good pub grub but very few can serve theirs up with a Michelin star.

Under the leadership of former Gordon Ramsey protégé and head-chef Josh Eggleton, the Pony and Trap does just that.

But for all its accolades the pub has stayed true to everything that made it popular in the first place.

Unashamedly unpretentious, the best selling dish is steak and chips while other favourites include beer battered fish or a homemade burger

But make no mistake these will be among the best examples of classic British pub food you will ever taste.

From sourcing their produce within a stone’s throw of the kitchen, to churning their own butter, it is the attention to detail that makes this place stand out from the crowd.

And while it is Michelin-starred food the pub should be commended for refusing to charge Michelin-starred prices.

10) The Bell Inn, 103 Walcot Street, Bath, BA1 5BW, 01225 460426.

Type: Live music pub.

Food and drink: A choice of seven regular ales and two guest ones. Light bites and pizzas.

Entertainment: Live music, DJs, table football, bar billiards and board games.

Great for: Letting your hair down over a few ales and some of Bath’s best live music.

Open: Monday to Saturday 11.30am-11pm and Sundays 12-10.30pm.

With live music three times a week and a whole host of pub games to keep you entertained, The Bell Inn offers one of the best nights out in Bath.

Recommended by everyone from Lonely Planet to The Guardian, it is a great place to wile away an afternoon or celebrate the start of the weekend.

One of the city’s best-loved boozers, the pub boasts nine real ales on tap and a selection of light bites and pizzas.

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