It was an early start for our weekend escape at the Rock Inn, but we knew it would be worthwhile when we arrived at our destination. The lovely team at Great Western Railway treated me and my husband to complimentary First Class train tickets for our journey from London to Taunton, which was a fabulous way to start our weekend jaunt!
While we were waiting for our train to arrive at Paddington Train station, we checked into the Great Western Railway First Class Lounge. We were impressed by the large lounge area with its comfy leather chairs and complimentary drinks station, where we could select from herbal teas, coffee and juices. We also enjoyed the complimentary fruit, croissants and pastries, a small touch, but appreciated nonetheless. Two televisions and free magazines helped us to pass the time while we waited, and before we knew it, it was time to board the train.
Once we arrived in Taunton (the nearest railway station to the Rock Inn, Waterrow), we were greeted by Ruth Barclay, one of the co-owners of the Rock Inn, who oversees the front of house operations at the property. During our drive to the property, Ruth shared a bit of history about the building, which is more than 400 years old. The building was a forge in its former life and became a pub in 1851 when the forge applied for a liquour license to serve its customers a pint of cider while they waited.
Our arrival at the Rock Inn, Waterrow
A striking Tudor restaurant and pub with rooms in the heart of the West Country…
Once inside, we were greeted by Ruth’s husband, Daren Barclay, a revered chef who cooked for The Goodwood Estate for 11 years and in some of the West Country's top hotels including, the Royal Crescent in Bath, The Castle Hotel in Taunton and Calcot Manor near Tetbury.
Daren’s passion is for making generously portioned gourmet dishes that are big on flavour - without being pretentious. He said, 'With our food, you never have to search for the flavours, they're robust and they really come through in each and every dish.'
At the Rock Inn, the menu changes regularly, according to what is available during the seasons. Daren believes in using local suppliers and farmers and sources the meat from Stillmans butchers in Taunton and Beech Ridge Farm in Hockworthy.
Once we’d settled in, we grabbed a seat in the warm and inviting bar area with its open fire, which was a pleasant respite from the dreary rain outside. As we were peckish after our journey, we we were looking forward to a tasty lunch!
Lunch options included beer battered monk fish, a falafel burger, rump steak, sausages with bubble and squeak, ham and pea soup, Welsh rarebit (gourmet cheese on toast with a poached egg), and a fish fingers sandwich on a toasted brioche bun with capers and mayo (very fresh and flavorful).
After lunch we lounged in The Snug, a lodge style room near the bar where guests can retreat for a bit of reading. Apparently, this room was a stable in its yester years, another nod to the interesting history of the property.
After lunch we took a walk in the countryside. The Rock Inn is on the edge of the River Tone. During our walk we saw a lot of pheasants strolling around. Although it is currently shooting season in the area, we didn’t see any hunting parties.
Have a tipple in the bar
Rock Inn has well-stocked bar and cellar with finely kept real ales from two local breweries Cotleigh and Quantock on tap as well as Cornish and Continental lagers and a range of single Malt whiskies and gins.
The dining room at Rock Inn is simple, country chic style. Think Farrow and Ball Pavilion Grey painted panelling, scrubbed pine tables and decorative stags and horns a plenty and you get the idea.
Although our lunch was fab, the dinner options at Rock Inn are what really steal the show. As we’d heard so many wonderful accolades about the dinner options on offer, we saved room for three sensational courses.
There were a wide variety of starters on offer including Somerset baked Brie fondant with a warm melting centre and pickled beetroot; salad of pan fried pigeon with black pudding; Cornish fish soup with crouton gruyere and aioli; Devon white crab layered with avocado and smoked salmon (stylishly presented and incredibly fresh) and the Oriental style tuna loin seared in sesame seeds and marinated in soy and brown sugar with red pepper syrup and coriander (perfectly cooked with a nice balance of flavours).
Mains are all hearty options. Dishes include Guinea fowl breasts wrapped in Pancetta with wild mushrooms asparagus and rosti potato; venison steak cut from haunch with a peppery red wine sauce served with creamy horseradish mash potatoes and Cavelo Nero; or free range Beechridge Farm duck breast.
We had the 14 hr slow roasted feather blade of beef with black garlic and black treacle sauce (exceptionally tender beef and the sauce was divine). and the venison (also tender and the sauce was amazing).
As one would expect from a quality pub, the wine list has lots of options and the Riesling and Whistling Pig Shiraz with its ripe berry flavours and eucalyptus finish, was perfect paired with venison and feather blade of beef.
Choose from homemade ice cream (we had the mint chocolate, which was lush); sticky toffee pudding or apple and blackberry crumble (comforting and perfect for a cold day).
The Rock Inn has eight rooms to choose from, all which are unique and tastefully decorated (the influence of Daren’s mum who is an interior designer, we were informed) and have their own private bath or shower facilities. Given the building’s age, the rooms are a bit higgledy piggledy (lots of low ceilings and slightly off kilter angles), but that's half the charm.
We stayed in Room 8, which had exposed stone features, a fire, oak furnishings, a Barcelona chair, and a large bed that was seriously comfortable (If I could have smuggled it out of the property, I would have).
Breakfast is complimentary with your stay and includes a choice of a hearty Full English or a cheese omelette. Also included is homemade yoghurt and toast with homemade jams. Those wishing for a more indulgent breakfast can order from the Gourmet Breakfast menu (at an additional cost), which includes salmon and eggs amongst other dishes.
The service at Rock Inn deserves a special mention as both Ruth and Daren were so friendly and really went out of their way to ensure we felt welcome during our stay. If you’re looking for a great night’s sleep and fabulous food in laidback rural surroundings, then this is your place.
Room rates start from £65 per night for a double room for two people on a B&B basis.
*During this trip I was hosted by the lovely team at The Rock Inn at Watterow. All words and opinions are my own.
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