The Guardian: Coombeshead Farm, Lewannick, Cornwall: ‘I shed a tear when I left’
When the spiritual teacher Heather Small from M People sang of One Night in Heaven, she demonstrated, I feel, that “heaven”, if we reach it, is a subjective concept. She indicated that it would be a place of romantic bliss, orbiting like a “love satellite”. For me, though, heaven would look and feel a lot like one neverending overnight stay at Coombeshead Farm in north Cornwall: a self-sufficient, gaspingly tasteful, food-forward, wunderkind-chef-led passion project set in 60 acres of rolling, remote British rural splendour. For me, it’s our answer to Fäviken in northern Sweden or Dan Barber’s Blue Hill Farm in the Pocantico Hills, New York.
This five-bedroom B&B is a place to pull out of the bag when you need to save your marriage, because not only is it exclusive and exquisite, but both of you will have to be so much on your best behaviour in the communal drawing rooms, while eating ornate, wafer-thin Stithians cheese tart amuses bouches with the other eight guests, that you’ll remember why you fell in love in the first place.
My heaven, where I will go for my good deeds in keeping your hearts alive with mirth and joy, will be waking eternally in pristine, quality bed-linen, with no phone signal – ergo no deadlines – to the smell of fresh, plump, Aga-hewn sticky lardy cakes and exemplary sourdough served with homemade rhubarb compote. A place where I can float through the working farmyard like a rested Sleeping Beauty, festooned in birdsong and sunlight.
But this is not agriculture as I know it from my northern childhood, full of shit, death, afterbirth and inbred young men on quad bikes looking for a fox den to dig up. No, in my heaven – as it is at Coombeshead – all the unseemly bits of land management will take place out of my eyeline, and I will instead snack on polytunnel sunflowers dipped in fresh curds, be at one with the piglets, geese and bees, and my soul will feel as if it’s just had a bloody good jetwash, much like Coombeshead’s yard.
I felt all of these emotions, and even weirder ones, for every breathing moment of my 17 hours as an inmate ... sorry, guest. I certainly remember shedding a bizarre and quite unexpected involuntary tear when I left. In fact, the more I think about it, I’m not entirely sure that Tom Adams hasn’t started a cult. You arrive around 4pm, but there is no reception desk. Tom, or someone else lovely, will wander over to your car, lure you into the kitchen, fix you a drink and show you your room, which will make Babington House feel gauche. Tom will waft an arm across the vast honesty bar, then tell you that pre-dinner snacks will begin around 6.30pm.
On the May evening we ate there, dinner, served in an adjoining barn, and no longer communally and B&Bers-only, as it was in the operation’s early days, started with said sourdough with Guernsey butter, a robust, no-holds-barred porky “country” terrine, a skewered lamb kidney with paprika and a plate of faultless green asparagus made devilish with brown butter.
A whopping Looe diver scallop appeared in a seafaring, kelp-laden broth. We ate alongside Californians who had made a 600-mile detour from Europe, bankers and bespoke furniture makers. If the night had been written by Agatha Christie, one of us would have disappeared after every plate of fermented vegetables, puffed breads, cured pork belly or paper-thin fennel, each time leaving one foodie fewer to muse over Noma’s new summer vegetarian menu, until there were none.
The main event was Waterloo Farm lamb with spring onion and wild garlic, or ramsons, as they call it at Coombeshead. Or weeds, as some readers would probably call it while wondering where the potatoes to go with the lamb were, or the carrots, red cabbage or mint sauce for that matter. But Coombeshead is not for that type of person.
Even so, those people would adore the breakfast here. Yes, it is served communally. And yes, you do have to talk to other people about your day’s plans. But while the cooked breakfast of the freshest eggs, griddled home-cured pork belly bacon and sausage is prepared, the table just off the kitchen heaves with homemade bircher muesli, hazelnut granola, warm breads, and an embarrassment of gut-healing kombuchas and fruit smoothies.
After breakfast, you will wander the farm’s many acres in a jocund manner, pointing at pleasant views, snuffling pigs and bumptious cockerels. You will pay your bill, hug people goodbye and go back to the real world. Your hire car will smell a little of sick and old Costa cups. The real world will feel cold, unkempt and distinctly non-heavenly.
• Coombeshead Farm Lewannick, Launceston, Cornwall; 01566 782 009. Open dinner 7pm Thurs-Sun; 1pm Sun lunch. Five-course set meal £65, Sunday lunch £35 for three courses, all plus drinks and service.