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At the Chapel, Somerset
September 29, 2016
Hidden amid the hedgerows and hills of Somerset, Bruton doesn’t come into sight until you’re among the town’s ancient spires. Yet, Bruton has long drawn a discerning crowd of creatives, including literary great John Steinbeck. The 2008 opening of design-forward hotel At the Chapel, and subsequent arrival of arts hub Hauser and Wirth, then gave Bruton its renewed vibrancy, continuing the town’s creative legacy, while proudly championing the local producers who have long been an integral part of the area’s identity.
Situated at the heart of Bruton, this chapel-turned-restaurant, hotel, bakery and winestore emanates the energy Bruton is now defined by. From morning until late, a continual trickle of people crosses the threshold to pick up freshly baked bread, gather in the light-filled restaurant, and imbibe cocktails on the outdoor terrace until long after sundown.
Here, the light-filled wood-and-white interiors have an air of understated luxury, owing to the carefully curated modern furnishings by furniture designer Ahmed Sidki – who along with Catherine Butler co-owns the hotel – and original contemporary artwork dotted throughout the property.
At the Chapel has just eight bedrooms, and each one of those is entirely unique owing to its position, all seamlessly designed with white walls, wooden furnishings and dark-wood floors, complemented by leather seating and cowhide rugs. Top of the range mod cons, wrap-around marble bathrooms, and the delivery of home-baked croissants (some of the biggest I’ve seen) each morning, complete the package.
The hotel’s plum rooms are five and eight; room five sits at the top of the chapel, affording views over the historic town and out towards the hills where cows from Bruton Dairy graze, alongside the centuries-old Dovecote. Room eight, meanwhile, has the advantage of opening out onto a private walled garden terrace.
The aroma of freshly baked bread hits you as soon as you walk in, with At the Chapel’s artisanal bakery, and roaring wood-fired oven, situated right by the entrance. But as you continue through, it’s the high-ceilinged restaurant that becomes the focus, where tall windows flood the modern wood-and-white auditorium with light. A chandelier of glass baubles hangs above olive seating and wooden furnishings, with an elegant spiral staircase leading up to the balcony and down to the Clubroom and outdoor terrace.
Staying true to its setting, the restaurant champions the local produce, incorporating ingredients from land (with both meat and dairy from local farms) and sea (from Portland crab to the local samphire) on the menu of stone-baked pizzas and British dishes with Mediterranean influence. The Clubroom feels more intimate, and while acting as a cosy space for coffee in the day, becomes a buzzy cocktail bar by night.
A weekend can easily be spent solely within Bruton and its immediate surrounds. Trails wind through the town’s historic streets, across bridges arching over the meandering River Brue, and through the surrounding patches of woodland. The Bruton outpost of contemporary art gallery Hauser & Wirth lies on the edge of the town. Here, high-calibre, risk-taking art is displayed within the listed buildings of a historic farm, with gardens designed by Piet Oudolf, and the eatery Roth Bar and Grill.
Along with the town’s West Country setting comes a reverence for local produce, in particular the region’s cider and cheese. To try these at their source, hotel guests can stroll over to the Bruton-based Godminster Farm, or award-winning Westcombe Dairy, which is five miles away.
In a Nutshell
At the Chapel reflects the essence of Bruton succinctly with its historic stone facade, contemporary space within, and focus on artisanal food and wine, all delivered with irrefutable authenticity.
Rooms cost from £125 to £250 per night.
Words by Lauren Hill