The Ring O Bells, Hinton Blewitt
My head says local Pub, everything else says so much better than that....
We cover plenty of great "local pubs" in the South West, it's home so thats gonna happen.
Many are so similar that it becomes hard to decide if a place is really worth the effort that we need to put in to review it. So many fit a standard ...nice food, deep fried this ...burger that...microwaved those and sticky toffee whatever for pudding, model. The whole point of SD was to pick out great places to eat and also those that fall well short of the mark especially if they pertain to be "better than that".
So yet another local Pub in another sleepy village in the middle of nowhere and yet again it's called "The Ring O Bells". Stumbled into after a bike ride went wonky, this place looks like a jumble of buildings that a pub was squeezed into. Views out over the Mendips and a large parking bay out front. Neatly written Chalk boards welcome you in ...and your Dog too which is something that is great to see for local ramblers and walkers.We had no intention of reviewing this to be honest.
There's a court yard, standard tables and covered areas, the toilets are outside in a converted stable block, It really just looks like another local pub, simple neat ...inviting enough if you're tired after a long walk or live locally.
..."come in from the cold you are most welcome here.."
You enter through a well worn door into a low ceilinged long bar, it is dimly lit and a large Inglenook fireplace adorns one end of the room, the bar at the other end, the wood burning stove casts a dim flicker of light over the numerous old barrel tables and cosy arm chairs scattered around, it has a cosy pub feel and says "come in from the cold you are most welcome here.."
There are a smattering of locals chatting away near the bar, a tall attentive barman is readily serving people drinks and we decide to take a seat grab our own drinks and maybe give the food a try.
The menus are brought over and as we take a look it is really clear that this place is popular...a steady stream of folk, young and old arrive, our attention is drawn to the fact that the Pub/Bar area has an annexe to it with a really quaint restaurant laid out ready for service, many of those arriving head directly for pre booked tables, whilst the bar becomes ever more busy, in fact at one stage it was probably 7 people deep.
There is a murmur of happy punters, local land owners, farmers, younger people who have come back from work and regulars who clearly know the things we don't.
...someone in this local pub is either about to ruin food by being too clever or is about to show off some serious talent.
The menu isn't complicated and has plenty to choose from, nibbles and light bites at 3 for 10 quid is always a winner, a good selection of starters mains and sides....BUT ... it is what make up the menu that is interesting, yes there a couple of easy classics on it but there are also options that we simply have not seen or would not expect to see in a place like this ... Fowey Mussels on burnt chilli flat bread....Bombas de Arros...Gnocco Fritto & Mortadella, someone in this local pub is either about to ruin food by being too clever or is about to show off some serious talent.
Just because of the intrigue of the menu we decide to order a selection of nibbles, two starters two mains and a desert to share, at this point the Pub is absolutly rammed ...so much so i suggest that at this point the service will go to pot.
Sometimes being wrong is not a bad thing, as we wait it is very clear that the staff are on it
they know their roles , they negotiate the customers, taking orders, payments, serving food and drinks, at no point were we forgotten or neglected and everyone mucked in to make the whole experience just that bit better, its not fine dining but its really effective and credit goes to those young staff because it is not easy to get it right!
Our starters and nibbles all came out together which was a bit odd but we are hungry so what the heck, and just the way the food was served screamed "EAT ME" the food looked like it should have been in some swanky foodie establishment not a local village pub.
I asked the lady that brought it..."did you cook this" her reply was " Yes I did.."...ok "wow...looks impressive" .
...creamy Mozzarella with a sweet punch of hot chilli Jam ...who knew that combo would work!
The nibbles we had where Olives ...easy right? we have them all the time, Burratta with Chilly Jam and Gnocco with Mortadella....BOOM. There is a case to write a whole review on these, simply put the flavours and balance of ingredients were fantastic, creamy Mozzarella with a sweet punch of hot chilli Jam ...who knew that combo would work! The olives soaked in good olive oil rather than dumped out of a brine into a bowl, were buttery. The Gnooco Fritto is a light bread made from Flour water and Lard ..this was spot on, light, the Mortadella thinly cut and fresh, a garnish of cress and hint of sticky Balsamic making it pop in your mouth.
The starters we ordered were the Squid ...always a good test of a Chef, and the Fowey Mussels. Now the squid was not deep fried, it was served with Blood Orange and Rosemary butter, bitter leaves and apple. Sorry - fish and fruit!!! How many times does this not work...it never works unless its a lemon! please don't give me fish and fruit ...ever...UNLESS you are the chef at the Ring O Bells, Hinton Blewitt. Perfectly grilled squid and a balance of orange and fennel that was so perfect it worked ...every now and then a piece of that apple would add the sweetness to the dish, my mouth was tingling for about 5 minutes after we had eaten it, a truly inspired dish from someone who totally understands flavour balance and seasoning.
The Fowey Mussels ...no pot or mess..these had been removed from the shell and served almost pizza like atop a sourdough flatbread, the bread soaked in the white wine liquor that had cooked the Mussels, the heat of Chilli and Chives ...Oh my! Oh my! bring another one, we would have walked away happy right now!
For mains we decided to follow the Chalk Board board..Tacos...I mean weird it's thing to have in a local pub, so ok lets do it. You get two Tacos with a choice of filling, we went for the 45 day aged Steak , but you can have fish or a veggie option should you want. Not surprisingly the Tacos are home made here and each come with a Jalapeño and Mango Salsa , Chimichurri and Avocado. We ordered a side of Chips and Chilli Broccoli stems too.
...eat with your hands and make a mess because you just have to dig into this food...
These mains did not disappoint, yet another wallop of flavour with tender steak strips cooked to perfection, the mango bullets setting off the heat of the peppers, the portion size perfect, presentation neat, sharp. The Tacos fresh but strong enough to make each mini kebab hold together ....eat with your hands and make a mess because you just have to dig into this food and enjoy it for what it is...different and brilliant.
This review really is all about the food, because frankly that is the star of the show, we even ordered that Sticky Toffee Pudding and ice cream to share.
Sticky Molasses toffee, yum, goo in a light cake with creamy ice cream, we could only fault that it was a little cold when served ...but that didn't stop us from picking up the plates and licking them clean afterwards.
There is nothing like being surprised, what a meal! We would go so far as to say that its probably one of the best Pub meals we've had since starting up SD ...the environment, the people, the staff and the food...ok the toilets are still a little bit old local pub but frankly who cares. We learnt that it's a Husband and wife team running the show, they clearly take huge pride in their pub and restaurant and the staff they employ to help them. Both of them could be seen talking to the regulars, serving customers and checking all was well.
...you can tell they are getting the majority of the ingredients from local suppliers...
Other things of note...Takeaways...oh yes we sat and watched the hoards of locals grabbing food in neat paper bags to take away. Rooms, they have rooms so you can stay if you wanted and enjoy the B&B service. If that is anything like as good as the meal we had it would be an enjoyable stay.
Local Produce, you can tell they are getting the majority of the ingredients from local suppliers, its fresh full of flavour and they've even popped a board up near the bar telling you where your food has come from...detail, love it!
Access is good, in fact whilst we ate we saw several people come to enjoy the food who had mobility problems, there is plenty of space, I suppose the remote toilets could be an issue, but its worth it.
Price, well given the state of the world right now we felt the prices for the quality were very reasonable, we had a pile of food and drink and it cost £45 quid each and that was a bargain if we are honest.
This is a little nugget of culinary wonder hidden away in the mendip hills and we were totally blown away with it ...going back! dam right we are going back...theres a 45day old aged steak to share with our names on it!!! Take our money now...
SCORE, EXCELLENT - 8.37
Food score 9/10
Service Score 9/10
Comms Score 9/10
Disability Access 7/10 - outside loo.
Sticky Table 9/10
Value for Money 9/10
What is cost £90 inc drinks for 2
What it’s worth -Yes
Would we go back ? Yes