Mount Somerset Hotel & Spa – Lower Henlade – Somerset
I had spent an informative and entertaining fun day exploring Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s 19th century passenger steamship the SS Great Britain, moored in the Harbourside of Bristol.
I also saw my first genuine Banksy graffiti art, The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum, based on the famous Johannes Vermeer’s famous Girl with a Pearl Earring, replacing the girl’s earring with an outdoor security alarm.
But I was not staying in the largest city in the South West of England, I had booked into The Mount Somerset Hotel and Spa, a luxury nineteen-bedroom Regency country mansion hotel near Taunton, in the county of Somerset. Set in four acres of its own beautiful grounds, manicured lawns and gardens, surrounded by open fields, the hotel offers some of the most breath-taking views in the county.
The hotel is a short drive from Junction 25 of the M5, so is a convenient stopover, if you’re heading down to Devon or Cornwall or visiting local sights such as the stunning Cheddar Gorge or the Mendip Hills, which is an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’.
The Mount is a good value, beautiful Georgian country house hotel situated in the most peaceful rural setting. Having recently undergone a complete internal refurbishment, the hotel offers spacious luxury bedrooms, the excellent `Somerset Dining Room` restaurant and a small but well-equipped spa. From the wonderful warm welcome at the reception desk, the staff service was always very professional and friendly.
The Mount was formerly called Henlade House, having been built between 1805-1815 by an unidentified Italian Architect, who designed it with large windows, high ceilings and a sweeping spiral staircase. The Hotel is a quintessential English Regency mansion complete with opulent décor, elegance and luxury. It was renamed The Mount Somerset, when it became part of the Eden Hotel Collection in 2011.
The imposing, cream-coloured mansion hotel has lots of period character. The hotel is a grade II listed building which includes many notable features including an unusual octagonal reception hall, complete with shoe polish stand and wellington boot/umbrella rack. The sweeping stone staircase, with mahogany handrails, rises high above the reception desk and is watched over by two large classical statues, set in individual alcoves.
The Victorian Gate Lodges and Stable Block with Clock Tower were added in the 1870`s, the West Wing was extended around 1900. During the Second World War the house was occupied by Brampton Down School for Girls, who had been evacuated for their safety, from Folkestone, Kent.
Our pre-dinner drinks were served in an elegant and comfortable drawing room, with long sash windows, pillared fireplaces and even a grand piano. I enjoyed a glass of a local Somerset brew from the nearby Cotleigh Brewery of Wiveliscombe village. The Old Buzzard Dark Ale is a traditional dark ale brewed with chocolate roasted malts and Herefordshire hops. A two-time finalist in the Champion Beer of Britain Competition and twice voted Good Beer Guide “Beer of the Year”, it really was a great tasting beer to start the evening.
The young Bar Steward Jake, who looked after our every need superbly, had designed and drawn a brand new, Classic Cocktails Menu, in which he had incorporated all eight of the hotels in the Eden Collection, other than Arden House! The Buckland Bellini, The King’s Delight, Mallory Martin, The Greenway, Arden Old Fashioned, Brockencote Beatnik, Bloody Bovey and finally the Mount Somerset Samba. A nice touch!
I could see how perfect The Mount would be for weddings because the dining rooms and lounges are very light and on warm days guests could sit out on the open terrace patio which offers charming views out over the gardens and countryside beyond.
The Somerset Dining Room must be one of the best restaurants for miles around. It is certainly an elegant space for sophisticated dining. Muted tone colours and classic finishes helps deliver a relaxed and restful ambience. The food fare was very impressive too, an original, exciting, tasteful and adventurous menu which made for an exceptional meal in an elegant and stylish dining room. It really was some of the best food, beautifully presented that I have eaten anywhere, in a long time!
The two menus merge the classic favourites with imaginative new dishes using authentic ingredients from local producers. The lamb and beef are sourced from Exmoor, the salmon is smoked inhouse, only the finest quality Somerset ham hock, the best Somerset cheese and daily fresh lobsters and crab deliveries from coastal Brixham. There is a well-stocked wine cellar with wines to suit every dish and palate. The bar & table service was always very professional, polite and friendly.
We were led into the formal dining room, complete with a crystal chandelier, gilt-framed mirrors and white-clothed tables by the serving staff from the lounge after ordering from the menus. The Market menu was very good value, but there is also an à la carte menu. The restaurant has recently been awarded a coveted three AA Rosette rating for its culinary creations. The procession of pre-meal canapes had been an excellent introduction to the outstanding food to come. There were so many enjoyable treats, I apologise should I have forgotten any of them!
Crab with Mango Tartlets served on a bed of seashells
Paprika Crisp and Avocado Dip topped with crumbly cheese
Rabbit Legs cooked slowly with Onion & herbs topped with Carrots pickled in vinegar, tarragon and Bergamot, served in a small wooden box of artificial grass
Wye Valley Asparagus- Soft Poached Egg and Wild Mushrooms foraged locally.
Roasted Brixham Scallops Smoked Eel Apple & Cauliflower
Exmoor Lamb Loin Turnip, Clams and Crispy Belly
Duck Breast and Leg Croquette, Carrot and Sesame Topping.
Strawberry Tartlet with Basil and Custard
Rhubarb Souffle, Stem Ginger & Ice Cream
We opted for a bottle of Casa Bonita Malbec to enjoy with our meal at the recommendation of the knowledgeable serving staff. The wine had rich purple colour and a strong smell of mulberry and plum and a smooth flavour of fruit. It was a delightful Malbec and the perfect accompaniment to our meals. The desserts were delicious, and we both pointed out that the portions were generous for each course, particularly the duck breast!
We completed the meal with a coffee in the drawing room complete with homemade petit fours chocolates, personally chosen from a delightful wooden chocolate box!
Breakfast was also excellent, with a tempting buffet that included homemade smoothies, pastries and lots of tempting fruit, as well as apple and cinnamon scotch pancakes and a traditional full English Breakfast amongst the cooked items.
The nineteen bedrooms can be found in the original building and an extension to the rear. Decorated with striped and floral wallpaper, plus stripe- and check-patterned soft furnishings, the rooms are eye-catching, and most are very spacious, including some of the Classic rooms.
My large Deluxe Room came with fluffy bath robes, furry slippers, hairdryer, several smart towels, luxury toiletries, Tea, coffee & Chocolate drink making facilities, much appreciated cookies & two apples perched precariously on a sheet of slate!
Our room also included a sitting area complete with a sofa, armchairs and a large smart En-suite bathroom with mosaic tiling, a walk-in shower and large beautiful Victorian-style bath. A large flat screen TV’s with digital free view, complimentary wireless internet access completed the room essentials.
I noticed that all of the rooms were named after local villages surrounding the hotel such as Combe Florey, Broadway, Barrington, Thurlbear and the strangely named village of Chedzoy!
I was told that the bridal suites feature a magnificent seven-foot bed with a luxurious roll top bath and wet room, four poster bedrooms or a hot tub on the garden terrace of your suite.
Some of the suites include a carved four-poster bed or a vast bathroom with a shower designed for two to share! The hotel is also dog friendly. I noticed several dogs in the hotel lounges and being walked around the grounds in the morning. Each room also enjoys stunning views across the gardens and grounds to the surrounding rolling Somerset hills.
The Hotel Elan Spa facilities are a short walk across from the hotel to a small separate facility. Guests are asked to visit the spa in their bath robes and bring their room towels with them. It includes a free hydrotherapy pool, sauna, steam room, foot spas and experience showers, as well as three beautifully appointed treatment rooms, which guests can book to be pampered by the Hotel`s superb Spa therapists.
It was very relaxed and peaceful within the Spa facility, when we visited. With its simple polished plaster walls and a sparkling tiled mosaic floor, the Spa is an intimate corner of peace and serenity with remnants of a traditional Hamman bath house. My wife went for a spa treatment, opting for the ESPA Hot Stone Aromatherapy Massage. The massage focussed on key areas of tension around her back, neck and shoulders, using ESPA Body Oil. The warmth of the stones penetrates the muscles to sooth aches and pains, helping my wife to unwind and her body feel fully rejuvenated. My wife commented that Hannah, who gave her the massage could not have been any more helpful and that her treatment was simply glorious.
I lounged peacefully in the hydrotherapy pool and let the soothing bubbles help me unwind slowly. I also spent some time in the very hot steam room, sauna, tropical showers & foot massage. I particularly enjoyed the tropical theme showers but decided against pulling the cord on the ‘kubel dusche’, an elevated bucket of ice-cold water! It was very definitely too cold for me!
I had a fantastic stay at The Mount Somerset Hotel & Spa, my room Combe Florey, was both spacious and comfortable. It was beautifully decorated and had wonderful pastoral views from the windows.
The food was exceptional and the presentation special, some dishes were a work of art and my taste buds were screaming for more. I have always said `we eat with our eyes` and the kitchen staff at the Mount Somerset managed not only their superb culinary skills, but their imagination too.
I would not hesitate to recommend The Mount Somerset Hotel and Spa if you are visiting the locality or simply passing by on your way elsewhere. Why not stop and experience their superb food and hospitality, you will not be disappointed.
I simply loved it!
Disclosure: My visit to The Mount Somerset was courtesy of the Eden Hotel Collection. The views and comments expressed are as usual my own.
The Mount Somerset Hotel and Spa,
Telephone: 01823 442500