Saturday 17 December 2011

Scissor Arches at Wells Cathedral

When a group of the Best People came to join us at Symondsbury in 2008 for the launch of the Goodhart Samplers Book, I thought it would be a neat thing to visit Wells not just for the wonderful sampler collection in the museum there, but also to see the unique scissor arch in the cathedral and stay for the Christmas Carol Service. I have to say I had a lump in my throat throughout the service as I felt so blessed being surrounded by wonderful people and enjoying the most ethereally beautiful singing imaginable from some incredibly gifted young people. So now we make a point of returning every year to remember that special occasion.

This year the Carol Service is on 23 December and starts at 18.00 - but best be seated a half hour earlier as this is incredibly popular. Click here for more details.
We stay in the Ancient Gatehouse. The rooms overlook the cathedral close and this was the view from our pretty bedroom there. Ask for Room Number 3 if you are booking. Click here for more details.
This is one of my favourite areas of Wells, the Vicars' Close - it is like going back in time!
Just a couple of doors down from the Ancient Gatehouse is The Old Spot - one of my favourite dining places. Jay Rayner, top UK food critic describes it: At lunch, three courses are £15, with four choices at each course, rising in the evenings to £25 with six choices, both menus changing weekly. It was a short list, but challenging. I wanted to eat all of it, but in the end chose for my starter the pressed ham terrine with lentil vinaigrette over the gazpacho or brandade of salt cod, because a terrine is a good test of any kitchen. It was a solid chunk of sweet piggyness, the whole cut through by a tidy pile of the nutty lentils, mixed in with the spiky vinaigrette. Next to it were a couple of cornichons. And that was it. There was no need for anything else. For mains, a choice of tomato risotto, poached salted ox tongue, roast pollock or braised shoulder of lamb. The lamb had been taken off the bone, rolled and then caramelised to give crisp contrast to the softness of the meat within. Alongside was ratatouille, and it wasn't one of those tragic reinventions of the dish that too many kitchens attempt, chopping the vegetables to millimetre dice and straining the sauce until it is less a part of the dish than an echo of its ingredients. This was an in-yer-face ratatouille with chunky pieces of aubergine and a sauce that was the essence of a bucketful of tomatoes. After those two hefty dishes I probably should have had the summer fruit compote, but there was a St Emilion au chocolat on offer, which is a Hopkinson recipe from Roast Chicken, and should be ordered whenever possible: a slab of indecently rich and boozy dark chocolate mousse, over- and underlaid with crushed amaretti biscuits. It is, I think, what the word dessert was invented for. A great meal, then, at a sensible price. Click here for more details.


  1. Those children are adorable with their pleated collars! I very much enjoyed your photos and can see why you like Vicar's Close. It's lovely.

  2. Thanks for bringing back the good memories of 2008. The visit to the cathedral for the concert was very special.

  3. Merry Christmas Marie! How lovely to hear from you.