Great British boltholes: The restaurant with rooms that’s a mouthwatering base for foodies keen to explore Exmoor
- Locanda On The Weir is located in the charming harbour hamlet of Porlock Weir
- It’s co-owned by Italian chef Pio Catemario Di Quadri and his friend Cindy Siu
- Jane Knight says: ‘You will be plotting a return trip before the end of dinner’
Take the A39 out of Porlock and you’ll find yourself driving up the ridiculously steep Porlock Hill.
With hairpin bends and a 25 per cent gradient, it’s not for the faint-hearted – which is why, once you’ve settled in at the charming harbour hamlet of Porlock Weir and fancy exploring western Exmoor, the £2.50 toll to take an alternative route seems a bargain, particularly as the thatched Worthy Road toll gate is so photogenic.
The sweep of stony coast is home to this superb little restaurant with five rooms and such amazing food that you will probably be plotting a return trip before the end of dinner.
Mixing it up: The cosy lounge at Locanda with its blend of Italian and English antiques
Surprisingly, Italian chef Pio Catemario Di Quadri’s background is in banking, which he ditched to buy Locanda On The Weir with his friend Cindy Siu. Cindy has created an eclectic world that blends Italian and English antiques with contemporary finds and items that she ‘collected along the way’.
It’s ornate yet relaxed – the stairway is adorned with a 16th Century Murano glass chandelier and huge Italian tapestries while there are overflowing bookcases, a card table beckoning in a bay window with sea view, and flowers and candles scenting the air everywhere. Sip pre-dinner drinks from the bar as you sink into sofas around an old chest while the record player provides soft background music.
Then move into the dining room, with ornate gilt candlesticks, rug-strewn wooden floor, monkey motif chairs that Cindy reupholstered during lockdown and classical and contemporary art covering almost every inch of wall. Pio’s food is a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach, an artful blend of foraging finds and fresh produce from the garden, with everything possible made from scratch, from bread to cheese.
Chef Pio Catemario Di Quadri at work. His food is a ‘feast for the eyes as well as the stomach’
Locanda On The Weir, Porlock Weir, Somerset. B&B from £175 a night, with a two-night minimum stay (locandaontheweir.co.uk).
Even the avocado on sourdough at breakfast is embellished with wild garlic and chive blossoms.
Served with fresh juice and yogurt with fruit, it sets you up perfectly for Exmoor’s eight-mile Doone Valley walk, through a vale with bubbling river then some challenging climbs on to a wilderness of moorland.
The USP: English country style and Italian flair blend seamlessly into a stylish base for foodies who are keen to explore Exmoor.
The rooms: Airy and spacious, San George has a Cape Cod feel, while Santa Maria is more old English with a four-poster and its enormous bay window framed by floral curtains.
The food: Every mouthful tantalises your tastebuds. We started with ricotta so light and fluffy it almost melted on the tongue, complemented by the tang of a strawberry and pine nut compote. Then a second course of celeriac with a buttermilk sauce that was somehow both creamy and tart was followed by a generous portion of cod with olives, capers and pea puree. There was scarcely room for the olive oil cake and sorbet.