The Talbot

Mells, Bristol, Bath & Somerset, United Kingdom Book from

Reviewed by Liz Simpson
A gorgeous old country pub with 8 modern rooms and fantastic prices
Beautiful style, excellent service, great food... all things that never go out of fashion. Matt, Charlie and Dan, owners of The Talbot, once ran Babington House so learnt these mantras at the top before opening their own boutique property, The Beckford Arms. They wrapped the spoiling qualities of a top hotel in the relaxed comfort of a country pub, and added fantastic pricing to the mix. It was such a runaway success that they're now expanding their stable.

In the beautiful Somerset town of Mells, with its 15th-century stone houses and Grade I-listed church, this ancient coaching inn was given a brilliant makeover in just 3 months, reopening its doors on Valentines Day. Fitting, that, because we visited a week later and fell in love with its quaint cobbled courtyard, its winding warren of beamed rooms and its modern Farrow & Ball reincarnation. We drank ale by a roaring fire, dined on crayfish and Cornish pollock by candlelight, then wandered upstairs to our stylish bedroom where we slept in absolute peace. It was no surprise the place was already abuzz with well-to-do locals and London weekenders - Mells is now on the map.

Highs

  • Stunning country-house style rooms with tweed button-back armchairs, contemporary art, gorgeous bathrooms and insanely comfortable beds; great value for money
  • The little things: hot-water bottles, Bramley toiletries and film libraries in the rooms; framed old maps and antique prints from Vanity Fair through the common areas
  • Staff are genuinely friendly and service is excellent
  • Great food in the restaurant, plus The Grill House at weekends - a traditional-style banquet hall with local meat and fish roasted on a massive fire; brilliant for a group
  • A charming walled garden opposite, and you can borrow wellies for a countryside stroll

Lows

  • Not having a plug near a mirror in our room; a shame when you find straighteners in your bedside table
  • You have to go downstairs to get fresh milk for your tea
  • No bathrobes or wardrobes, just hangers on pegs
  • As the only pub around, it's likely to be busy and some rooms may experience noise (although we didn't hear a thing)
  • No disabled access

Best time to go

The Talbot is open all year and makes a lovely getaway whatever the season. Summer is gorgeous for lazy days in the countryside, spring and autumn provide glorious natural colours, and the pub is a cosy bolthole in winter thanks to its open fires (and hot-water bottles!).

Our top tips

At certain times of year, the town of Shepton Mallet hosts one of the largest antiques and flea markets in the country. The Mulberry outlet store is here, too (20 minutes' drive)

Great for...

Cheap & Chic
Foodie
Honeymoon
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Pub with rooms
  • 8
  • Pub open daily; The Grill House open Fri-Sun
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Weekly films
Room:

Rooms

The Talbot's 8 rooms are beautiful. Superb beds wrapped in white linens, thick duvets and a trademark tartan blanket; thick tweed curtains and button-back armchairs; deep sofas and contemporary art on the walls - ours had a melange of leaf sketches.

As should be the case, all rooms have the same basic comforts. Fragrant Bramley toiletries (you get a full-sized product of your choice to take home, as a thanks for booking through i-escape), good showers, tea trays with Twinings sachets, proper coffee and a bar of Dairy Milk for good measure. Hot-water bottles hang from wall pegs; glossy magazines sit on your coffee table or window seat; vast plasma TVs have a bank of free films to watch.

There are 5 categories to choose from. The Small and Medium rooms are stylish and great value for money, with showers over tubs (or just a shower), and big windows letting in lots of light. Large has extra beautiful décor (we loved the window seat) and more space. Family has 2 bedrooms (a double and a twin room), with 2 bathrooms and space for a baby cot. And top of the pile, Very Large, are magnificent, in size and style. We stayed in Room 6 and were blown away by its loveliness. An emperor-size four-poster bed, a double-ended bath in the bedroom plus a drench shower in the bathroom; a separate sitting area with sofas and a second TV, and logs filling an ancient fireplace. We lounged and slept brilliantly, and would return like a shot. We also loved Room 8 (once the store room), with its stunning bathroom - beamed ceilings and a furry rug.

Features include:

  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Film library
  • Hair straighteners
  • Hairdryer
  • Ipod dock
  • Radio
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

Dinner at The Talbot was refreshingly unpretentious and very well priced. Clusters of tables are spread between the 4 small, low-ceilinged rooms of the ancient inn, with a couple of open fires to warm things in winter, and spindly alfresco tables in the cobbled courtyard for summer.

The menu changes daily, and is based around local produce. We kicked off with an excellent crayfish and smoked haddock terrine with warm sourdough, and a Hogs pudding with Bath chaps, which my husband galloped through in seconds then pronounced delicious. Mains were a Cornish pollock 'in a bag' with leeks and fragrant tarragon, and salmon with roasted beetroot and cauliflower purée, both very good. In contrast, desserts were simple and a little disappointing: rice pudding with blackberry jam and nutmeg; pear and frangipane tart with vanilla creme fraiche. In hindsight, we should have had the local cheeses. Traditional bar food - enormous burgers, beer-battered fish and chips - is also available all day, as are kid-sized portions.

If you're here on a weekend, don't miss The Grill House, a fabulous conversion of the old function room. Enormous iron candelabras dangle over long tables; the bar (with its specialist gin concoctions) is flanked by boars' heads, and dark panelling, high beamed ceilings and brass candlesticks provide heaps of atmosphere. Local venison and glazed pork ribs are roasted on open wood-fires, along with fennel-stuffed sea bream and whole chickens. 'A plate of meat' looks just the thing; order a local ale to accompany it.

Breakfast is a cut above the norm, not least for its orange juicer. Tuck into local breads with seasonal jams, poached apricots, then thyme-roasted mushrooms or hash browns with a duck egg. Hot chocolate with whipped cream on the side? Oh, go on then.

There's nowhere else to eat in Mells, but Frome has some lovely lunch spots (a 10-minute drive away) and staff can recommend other Somerset pubs.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Coffee tea making
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Stroll around 15th-century Mells. Justin can tell you some local history, take you up the tower of the old church (he winds the clock daily), and there's a lovely walled garden over the road plus local fields for a ramble
  • Pretty Frome is close, with its independent boutiques and Sunday artisan market. We also like Bruton's delis, antique stores and beautiful architecture. Have lunch At The Chapel - the wood-fired pizzas are excellent
  • Further afield, Bath has boutique shops, gorgeous Georgian architecture and the famous Roman Baths. There's an excellent spa with natural waters and a rooftop pool
  • Spend a day at Longleat Safari Park - there are animals enclosures to drive through (lions, tigers, rhinos), a famous maze, an enormous house (1,996 windows, 99 chimneys and 283 doors!) to explore and a pleasure walk landscaped by Capability Brown
  • If the weather's good, head to Stourhead. A National Trust property, it has a magnificent lake, mystical grottoes and rare and exotic trees. Best seen in autumn, when the colours are glorious
  • Hunker down in your room to watch a movie from the film bank. On Sunday evenings there are film screenings in the sitting room

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Films
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Shopping / markets
  • Wildlife

Kids

Families are welcome. There's a lawned area out back for kids to run around, and child-friendly meals in the bar and restaurant (burgers, fish and chips etc). All rooms except the Small have a bath. 0-3 year olds stay for free; there is a surcharge for 3+ year olds.

Best for:

All ages

Family friendly accommodation:

A travel baby cot or extra bed for a child can be added to all rooms except 2 and 5.

The Family room (which has its own separate entrance) is ideal with 1 double bedroom plus a twin bedded annexe room (discounts are are available for less than 4 guests) - enquire for details). Very Large room 6 is also a good option with a double sofabed in its separate sitting room.

Baby listening:

Baby monitors reach the rooms from the restaurant.

Children's meals:

The traditional pub meals will please most kids, and are available in child-size portions.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
9/
Food
9/
Service
10/
Value
9/
Overall

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