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Muddy stays At the Chapel in Bruton

The super chill and long-established dining favourite of locals is also a fab place to hang your hat (at least for a weekend)

LOCATION

In the very heart of Bruton, sometimes known as the Notting Hill of the South West, and a strong contender for Somerset’s most fashionable town. With one of the world’s top art galleries and a clutch of brilliant indies, beautiful buildings, the picturesque river Brue running through and gorgeous countryside all around, you can see why.

THE VIBE

For all the hype about Bruton, At The Chapel, a restaurant with rooms, artisan bakery and wine shop, is super chill and laid back. Converted from an 18th century congregational chapel in an even earlier building, we couldn’t help a slight feeling of reverential anticipation as we stepped through the doors.

On the one side, there’s an artisan bakery with a piles of freshly made bread, cakes and pastries.

The blazing wood-fired oven isn’t just for their pizzas; it’s where baker Tom Hitchmough and team bake the bread.

On the other side, a wine shop houses a diverse collection of wines from Europe, South Africa, South America and Oregon, many organic or biodynamic, and all from small producers.

Straight ahead: the Grade II listed former chapel, now an all-day restaurant on two levels, where we had a warm welcome from delightful, friendly staff. Decor is cool and minimalist with white-washed walls and wooden floors. A huge stunning central light installation with suspended glass baubles reflects the light from the twin arched windows. Between the windows, a mesmerizing sculpture of a female form floats above proceedings as if to remind us of the chapel’s devotional past. .

Further creative lighting, mid-century furniture and modern art add warmth, style and originality while complimenting the grandeur of the interior

The view out across Bruton’s rootops.

Artworks and handcrafted objets around about catch the eye.

Culinary action takes place at the open stainless steel kitchen at one end.

Down on the lower floor, The Club Room is a cosy intimate space, available for private hire (got a birthday coming up?) and where their own programme of cultural events, Meantime at the Chapel, are held.

And for al fresco dining? A large, south facing jasmine-scented terrace at the rear of the hotel (it’s where we had our Muddy Awards drinks).

SCOFF & QUAFF

At the bar we had a glass of champagne and a Derail Ale whilst scanning the menu. The food is modern British with Mediterranean influences, mainly Italian. Good to see local producers Westcombe Cheddar, Sharpham Park pearled spelt and Charles Dowding’s biodynamic salad leaves on the menu.

For starters, we chose dolcelatte, pear and watercress salad – fresh and delicious – and the game terrine, with fig relish and toasted sourdough, was rustic simplicity at its best.

These were followed by a hearty and beautifully cooked, crispy-skinned Cornish hake with borlotti beans and salsa verde.

The Chapel’s wood-fired sourdough pizzas are renowned, so obviously we had to try one. Topped with Fior di Latte mozzarella. Manzano tomato, mushrooms, caramelised onion and roasted butternut squash, it didn’t disappoint.

To accompany: a superb bottle of Gavi La Fornace, Cinzia Bergalgiol, Piedemonte, Italy 2019 (organic).

For dessert, the Valrhona chocolate espresso cake with crème fraiche was perfectly on the right side of sweet.

Lemon verbena posset with vanilla shortbread was a palette-cleansing classic.

PILLOW TALK

There are eight lovely rooms to choose from. We were in No 8 on the ground floor: capacious, almost monk-like in its simplicity, and so very, very peaceful. Those thick, ancient walls (and comfy, king-sized bed) guarantee an excellent night’s sleep.

The room’s decked out with cool retro furniture, a well-stocked mini bar (prosecco, still and sparkling water, homemade strawberry jam, milk), a giant flat screen TV, Dualit kettle, Richard Pomeroy ceramics for morning coffee or tea, soft towelling robes and REN Products. Underfloor heating ensures a perfect room temperature.

The bath tub in the enormous marble bathroom, complete with huge walk-in rain shower, is so deep you can float in it.

Arched windows open on to a leafy private terrace.

Fesh croissants and coffee were delivered to the room the next morning (aah, so that’s why there’s homemade jam in the fridge!).

Full breakfast, up in the main restaurant, started off with homemade smoothies – Root Juice with carrot, ginger and orange and a Green Zinger of apple juice, spinach, lemon, ginger, mint and coconut – a real pick me up and worth it for the colour alone.

Poached eggs on sourdough toast – one with guacamole and harissa, the other with portobello mushrooms – were delish.

OUT AND ABOUT

For a culture fix, walk over to international art gallery Hauser & Wirth, owned by art world power couple Iwan Wirth and Manuela Hauser, on the edge of town (pretty as a picture artisan farm shop, too). For retail therapy, a perambulation around the gorgeous indie stores on Bruton’s High Street – clothing, interiors, bookshop, gifts, homewares, galleries – will set you right. The spectacular grounds and lake at the National Trust’s Stourhead estate are a short drive away.

MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: A fab wine and dine weekend away for design aficionados with a penchant for artistic and architectural style; dinner, brunch or afternoon tea with friends; pizza with the kids; or just a cup or two of their excellent coffee. Takeaway, too. Dogs are allowed on the terrace and in The Club Room, which can also be hired for parties. Keep an eye out for Meantime at the Chapel, their programme of cultural events – book and film releases, talks and discussions – throughout the year, which include a veggie supper.

Not for: Those who want a quiet traditional hotel, this place caters for modern tastes.

The damage: It won’t break the bank. Starters £5-10; mains £8-18; desserts £6-7, farmhouse cheese selection £8. Pizzas are available to take-away from £8.50. Double rooms from £125 per night.

The restaurant is open from Monday to Saturday from 8am – 8pm. The Bakery is open every day from 8am – 5pm.

Free parking on the high street for 2 hours; if you’re staying longer there’s a free car park on the Lower Backway behind. There’s a small private car park behind At the Chapel for resident guests.

Atthechapel.co.uk High Street, Bruton, Somerset BA10 0AE. 01749 814 070

Photos: Rick Foulsham

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