Wheelwright Arms

Wheelwrights arms Church Lane Monkton Combe Bath, BA2 7HB

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West Weekend Newspaper Article

An abandoned 18th-century inn has been given a new lease of life, Melanie Greenwood learns

LOCATION, location, location, goes the old  saying, and quaint Monkton Combe, with  the renovated 18th-century Wheelwrights Arms,  ticks all  the boxes.

Set down a  tiny  lane in this chocolate-boxvillage of honey-coloured stone, the neglectedand virtually abandoned inn, with breathtaking valley views, reopened back in July.David Munn,  who owns  a successfulLondon wine bar, has breathed new life intothe inn’s solid  shell. While maintaining the250-year-old charms, he’s created a  stylishbar, restaurant  and seven-luxury-roomboutique hotel. He  said: “I’ve always wanted a little hoteland fell for the Wheelwright’s Arms when Isaw the location, although it was a run-downwreck on the verge of closure.”It’s easy to find, we were told, so we didn’tdig out the trusty old map, relying on sat navfor the last few miles outside Bath. Maybe it  was  the weather  but  the  signalfled, leaving  struggling me, husband and  thein-laws to find our  way through tiny roadswith patience fraying.After  two stops  for  directions we  reachedthe steep climb up Brassknocker Hill and itwas a relief to see the pub’s glowing windowsin this picture-postcard village.The Wheelwrights  Arms  was  constructedby carpenter William Harold as a home andworkshop in about  1750. By  1871, WilliamHarold III converted the house into a pub and,in 1981, the  workshops became bed and breakfast accommodation.

The Wheelwright’s Arms  is a  smoke andclutter-free zone of cosy simplicity inside,with solid  wood tables and a  soothing sagegreen colour  scheme. There’s  room for  45diners  inside and 120  outside aroundlandscaped garden  terraces, with  stunningvalley views  and heaters  for diehardsmokers, making it  a lovely  place  to  settlenext summer.We sat at a large table in our own windowedinglenook, off the main room, with a real fire.And the service was excellent; on tap but notove rbea ring.The pub has real ales, at  present twoButcombe and two Bath cask brews for £2.60 apint, along  with a 20-strong range of whiteand red wines by the glass (£3.30 regular, £4.30large) and bottles  from a reasonable £12.50.These include Firebird Legend CabernetSauvignon, a rich  red, and white CouveeE toile.For  starters,  the in-laws  shared a  soup ofthe day (£4.50) with organic crusty bread, asthey wanted space for  the main meal. Thesoup was a creamy delight with wildm u sh room s.Tom tucked into a risotto of butternutsquash,  spinach, parmesan and parsley  oil(£6.50). We like our risotto but Tom said  thestock tasted a bit  on the powdery  side andfresh is quintessential  to  this simple buttricky dish. I picked grilled polenta cake withwild mushrooms,  sunblush  tomato and lightcitrus garlic butter  (£5.90) which was trulygorgeous.For  mains, father-in-law Frank, aLancashire man, picked an 8oz rib-eye steak(£16.50), with chunky  chips, tomatoes, fieldmushrooms  and pepper sauce – puremachismo on a plate and he was in heaven.“Lovely,  this, Hilda,” he managed to  say,adding: “Why don’t you  do this at home?”

“Because you think it’s too expensive,” camethe sharpish retort.She had organic  roast chicken breast withcous  cous  (Frank wasn’t  impressed: “Lookslike dried breadcrumbs,” he  said), beetrootand chickpea salsa and tomato coulis (£12.50).“This is  lovely and a lot easier to cook thanchips,” she said.Tom ignored  the parental patter  and  wepicked crispy duck salad with hoi sin, lots ofchilli, ginger, peppers, beansprouts  andsesame seeds  all in a colourful pile on theplate. Although we took ages polishing it off,thankfully  it wasn’t the  sort of food to  sendyou into a carbohydrate coma – unlike Frankwho was now looking rather glazed, althoughthat could have been the wine and the fire.For pudding, Frank said he could justsqueeze in the sorbets and ice-creams (£4.50),if Hilda  shared with home-made chocolatechip cookie.Tom had a selection of local cheeses, asusual, and  the £7  plate  was  just right,  withchutney, fruit and biscuits. I couldn’t resistthe white chocolate and black cherrypanacotta and chocolate mousse (£6). It waschocolate heaven,  with  the  sharpest  taste ofcherry. Perfect. It’s good to know the food is cooked to order with fresh West  Country  ingredients. If  youdon’t want a full meal  there are hot and coldsandwiches (from  £5.50), potato  wedges withsweet chill aioli (£3.50), or  seafood salad (£7.50) along with a  special Sunday  lunchmenu .David’s  even thought  about guests’  needsand is happy  to organise  visits to Bath,recommend local walks  or  sort out  cycling,horse riding and boating, golfing, shootingand fishing, swimming and tennis.For  those  who’d love  to have a bird’s  eyeview of the area, hot-air balloon flights can bear ranged.He  said: “I’m happy with how  things havegone since we opened in July but I am notexpecting it  to be exactly as I  want it  for a year.
”Thankfully, his  great expectations  are already met".