This wasn't the first time we've eaten in the Somerset Arms and probably won't be the last, but over the last couple of visits we have noted a dropping off in standards and a severe cut back on staff.
It would seem that the restaurant is now closed, at least of a weekday lunchtime, and what had been a relaxing area with settees, comfortable chairs and coffee tables alongside the bar is now packed with dining tables and chairs and although the table standards are the same as for the restaurant, with good cutlery, linen napkins etc. I'm not sure I would want to dine there when the bar was busy. Service also was not what it had been with one semi-professional bar/waitress, who couldn't cope with a full restaurant so had to call on the services of the chambermaid, instead of the bar/restaurant manager and serving staff we had known on previous visits. Knowledge of the menu and wine list was poor.
My scallops were perfectly cooked with excellent crispy fried parma ham but the bed of pea purée was more like a dessertspoon of lightly crushed tinned peas and was quite strongly flavoured with mint. Of itself not a problem, chef serves and arranges as he/she sees fit, but I really do not think that scallops are improved by the flavour of mint and there was no hint on the menu that such liberal use of the flavour was included.
The gazpacho was good, fresh flavoured and light although I think the tomatoes used could have done with a little more ripeness, the crab mayonnaise was rather bland in comparison, but it was Ok.
We both decided on the belly pork, we'd had it before and it didn't disappoint, although the crackling was still a solid sheet and took a little handling, but the creamed leeks and cider jus were excellent. Later discussions elicited the fact that chef did score the crackling but there was precious little evidence of scoring on the two portions we had. A side dish of new potatoes was late arriving (it had to be asked for) and arrived with not all of the potatoes properly cooked.
Chilli chocolate pot was as good as ever with a good sting of chilli and the accompanying raspberries (all 6 of them) were sweet and fresh tasting and good for this early in the season.
Peanut butter ice-cream was different but much enjoyed.
Glasses of Henry's IPA, Chablis and an Italian red were good.
Overall it is still good but is now no longer the very good value it once was simply because some of their previously high standards have been allowed to drop, at just under £70 for the two of us it now comes in as reasonable value for money and on a par with many other places in the area.
It appears that the people who took on the place a few months back worked hard to establish a premier, boutiquey gastropub and won awards for their efforts but have now allowed the place to backslide somewhat and are now relinquishing command to managers. Let's hope that, when they arrive, the place returns to the excellent quality it once provided.