A trio of tiny villages in South Somerset are battling it out with the big boys when it comes to thrillingly modern food served in elegantly appointed restaurants
Osip and The Old Pharmacy, Bruton
Merlin Labron-Johnson was 24 when he won his first Michelin star for his restaurant, The Portland, in London, back in 2015. Since then, he’s upped sticks for the country and opened first Osip – an intimate little 22-cover restaurant that does tasting menus of different lengths at lunch and dinner – before expanding into the property next door with The Old Pharmacy, a more informal restaurant-cum-wine bar. Both rely on hyper-local produce, some of it grown in Labron-Johnson’s own allotment. Pull up a stool at the window in The Old Pharmacy, order a glass of wine and watch the world go by.
This handsome restaurant in lovely South Petherton is housed in an old bank and such is the good value of its three-course £30 set lunch you do walk out feeling ever so slightly that you’ve robbed the place. It’s owned by the team behind a trio of London restaurants – Larry’s, Salon and Levan – and there’s a big city polish to the food, even though the ingredients lean heavily to the west country: Somerset tomatoes and cheeses feature prominently, and the meat is all super-local. The vault that was once full of the villager’s savings has been converted into a bespoke wine cellar full of bottles from low-intervention artisanal producers as well a few top bottles of perry.
With a former Soho House director in charge, it’s unsurprising that there’s a lightly worn luxury – wild wicker lampshades and plants hanging from the ceiling, green and white checked floor – to the interiors at this smart newish restaurant/bakery/wine shop which has made sleepy Somerton a destination for food-lovers. Chef, Dan Fletcher of Great British Menu fame, takes his lead from the local suppliers to create imaginative dishes – think pork, prune and pistachio terrine, and 50-day aged rump of beef – and the bakery is worth a visit alone. Be sure to pick up one of its signature cruffins.
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