The Telegraph: Inside Coombeshead Farm: is this England's friendliest country b&b?
By Fiona Duncan
I was rubbish at the school run when my boys were small and boisterous: often late, always in a rush or having to go back for something – or someone – we’d forgotten. One tot on my rota I remember well: a tiny thing called Lottie, always calm amid the unruly mayhem in my car. That tot, it transpires, is thriving and well and living at Coombeshead Farm, and as sweet, smiling and unflappable now as then. How I love life’s spider’s web of connections.
Lottie is the partner of chef Tom Adams and Coombeshead is their new venture, in lovely countryside, along with co-owner April Bloomfield. April is the English chef who has cooked up a storm in New York with her Spotted Pig and other restaurants. She came to eat at Tom’s hit London restaurant, Pitt Cue, also with a porcine theme.
They became firm friends and discovered a shared yearning to get back to the roots of food and hospitality: local produce, home cooking, communal eating, minimal fuss. Together, they have bought this handsome Georgian farmhouse, with 'five and a half' guest bedrooms, two cosy sitting rooms, communal dining room, country kitchen with Aga, and wine cellar.
It’s in a part of the world that Tom has come to know and love because it’s where he keeps his prized Mangalitsa pigs. They now reside at Coombeshead, surrounded by 66 acres of meadows and woodland. A kitchen garden is springing up, a great deal of bottling, pickling and preserving has already taken place, there’s a firepit for slow cooking, a wood oven, hens and beehives. It’s The Good Life, lived with skill and integrity.
Eventually Tom would like to rear and grow all his own produce, but for now he relies on trusted local suppliers. It’s an awful lot to take on and, helped by just two others, Blair and Zelie, Tom and Lottie work harder than you can imagine: a feast for dinner, truly organic breakfast, bed-making, cleaning, gardening, prepping, cooking, admin, hosting, chatting, more chatting, the lot.
Talk about hosting and chatting. They don’t just wine and dine up to 10 people with a surprise three-course dinner, preceded by delicious, inventive nibbles from 6.30pm onwards; they have to make sure the guests gel and then cook with everyone chatting to them in the central farmhouse kitchen. They stay relaxed and delightful and I don’t know how they do it.
Life is cyclical. Back in the Eighties, communal dining in small hotels and guesthouses was very popular. Then it died away and now it’s back, spearheaded, notably, by The Talbot at Mells, The Mash Inn at Radnage and now here.
As for my communal dinner, faced with strangers, as ever I began by wanting to run, but my fellow guests were lovely, the food earthy and delicious, the wines terrific (Tom loves affordable bin ends and oddities) and the atmosphere lively and fun. As for the bedrooms, they are attractive and admirably simple, though too highly priced, in my view, for their simplicity, especially compared with many others I know.
But what a terrific enterprise and what great people. They’ll succeed, though Tom and Lottie are the first to admit they are on a big learning curve and a bit of a rough ride. Lottie, at least, is used to that.
Lewannick, Cornwall PL15 7QQ (01566 782 009; coombesheadfarm.co.uk). Doubles £175, including breakfast; dinner £50 per person. Not suitable for guests using wheelchairs.