Stylist's senior sub-editor Jenny Tregoning makes herself at home at Coombeshead Farm in Cornwall...
Perched at the kitchen counter sipping a blackberry and nettle G&T and chatting away to chef Tom Adams as he sets out bowls of crispy pork skin and plum ketchup, you could easily forget you’re at a B&B – not a dinner party (albeit – no offence, friends – the best dinner party you’ve ever attended). Such is the magic of Coombeshead Farm – a new guesthouse-come-restaurant-come-full-blown-foodie-destination in north Cornwall.
For those not familiar with Tom Adams, he’s the chef who brought game-changing American barbecue to the masses with the highly acclaimed Pitt Cue restaurant in Soho. Now, joining forces with fellow pork pioneer April Bloomfield - the Michelin-starred chef behind NYC’s The Spotted Pig - he’s returned to his agricultural roots (Tom grew up on a farm near Winchester) in a new farm-to-fork venture in the wilds of Cornwall.
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Opened in July, Coombeshead Farm is a cosy, contemporary five-bedroom 18th-century farmhouse near Launceston that’s becoming something of a go-to escape among in-the-know foodies. Understandably, the food is the main draw - Tom cooks most nights in the large open-plan kitchen, and April chips in when she’s visiting - but the laid-back atmosphere and idyllic rural setting make it so much more than a restaurant with rooms. We were greeted by Tom’s girlfriend Lottie like long lost friends. No reception desk, no formal check-in - just the offer of a cup of tea and the chance to potter around at our leisure.
As proper West Country rain began to lash the windows, we wasted no time settling in. Downstairs, guests are allowed to float freely between the two communal living rooms and the enormous flagstone-floored kitchen whenever they feel like it. The first living room is a dimly lit snug, an ‘honesty’ bar focusing on local spirits (clotted cream gin, anyone?) and cookbook heaven where we whiled away a happy couple of hours reading. In the evening the room has whisky nightcap written all over it. The second room is brighter, with a wood-burning stove and oh-so-comfy sofas. One of the hardest decisions we faced all weekend was choosing which room to hunker down in. Upstairs, the bedrooms are just as inviting – elegant and relaxed they are decorated in a muted palette of greys and feature a super comfy (and super-sized) bed.
Dinner, served in the communal dining room, is open to both non-residents and guests. Things get going about 6.30pm but really you can wander down any time and plonk yourself wherever’s comfortable while Tom prepares melt-in-the-mouth Mangalitza ham and smoked cod’s roe canapés. The kitchen was the place to be - Tom and Lottie are happy to chat and such an integral part of the experience it was almost a surprise when they didn’t sit down with us for dinner.
First up was the bread course (bread course!) - homemade country sourdough with churned Guernsey butter plated up in glorious ice cream-like scoops, served alongside homemade curd cheese, picked crab and rillette. To follow, the most succulent Tamworth pork jowl with rosemary roasted pink fir potatoes and a brassica salad, then a dessert of cream cheese whipped into a heavenly custard-style cream served with poached quince. I didn’t look up from my bowl once.
The beauty of Coombeshead is that everything is locally sourced or made on site. Here at Stylist we might have tried to handmake our Christmas decorations and presents a few issues ago, but the small team at Coombeshead have decided to handmake everything, from the sourdough and pickles to the soap in all the bathrooms.
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After a peaceful night’s sleep, breakfast is a treat all of its own - homemade yoghurt, rye and spelt granola with honeycomb from the farm’s bees, followed by hog’s pudding, belly bacon and creamy scrambled eggs with yet more (and we’re definitely not complaining) fresh sourdough.
The gorgeous beach at Polzeath and the coastal towns of Rock and Port Isaac are well worth the 40-minute drive from here but we opted to head out into the 66 acres of grounds surrounding the farmhouse. In the yard we caught our first glimpse of resident cats Craig and David (named after, yep, you guessed it) before taking a one-hour round trip past friendly chickens, across oak-lined meadows and along a woodland stream into bucolic bliss. Even the hardest hearted of city dwellers couldn’t fail to be won over by the sheer beauty of the place. And don’t worry if you forget your boots - pairs of Hunters are lined up soldier-like in the hallway ready to be taken for a muddy stomp.
With further renovations this January, Coombeshead is already expanding - outbuildings are being converted into additional accommodation and a cookery school is in the pipeline. It’s clear this is just the start for Tom, Lottie and their dedicated little team. Get in while you still can.
Double rooms at Coombeshead Farm start at £175 per night, dinner is an additional £50 per person; coombesheadfarm.co.uk; Coombeshead Farm is closed between 3 January and 3 February but bookings are being taken for 4 February onwards
Ilustration: Clym Evernden