On location: where to eat in Bruton

The sleepy Somerset town is home to a world-class art gallery, a hot-ticket hotel and plenty of great-tasting local cheese.Thursday, 9 January 2020

Tucked into Somerset fields, beneath an ancient hilltop dovecote, Bruton is a tiny town with a narrow high street full of stone houses and traditional shopfronts. Pass through it and you wouldn’t necessarily identify it as a place with a burgeoning reputation.

Hang around for any length of time, however, and you’ll soon start to understand why Bruton is today one of  the West Country’s surprise must-visit destinations. The key moment in its  transformation occurred in 2014 when Swiss art gallery Hauser & Wirth — which has outposts in London, New York and Zurich — began transforming a group of stone barns on the edge of town into a tranquil gallery space. With art and sculpture from the likes of French-American artist Louise Bourgeois and a garden alive with wildflowers, it wasn’t long before this most unlikely of galleries began attracting visitors.

Hauser & Wirth’s barns also house Bruton’s most accomplished dining option, Roth Bar & Grill. This buzzing restaurant, which has a bar styled from scavenged junk, offers simple, flavoursome dishes, the highlight being the excellent, 42-day-aged steak. It also stages events too, from supper clubs in artfully ageing country houses to butchery courses.

Hauser & Wirth isn’t the only international brand with an outpost in Bruton. Earlier this year, Koos Bekker and Karen Roos, the billionaire couple behind the stylish Cape Winelands estate Babylonstoren, opened a country house hotel a 10-minute drive from town. The Newt in Somerset quickly became the most talked-about hotel in the area, thanks to both its 300-acre landscaped garden and its excellent restaurant, The Botanical Rooms.

Other highlights within 10 minutes of town include Westcombe Dairy, which sells locally made cheese and has an on-site brewery, and the Gilcombe Farm Shop, which is known for its whole roast pigs and sells raw milk, fruit and vegetables.

Back in town is Godminster Cheese, a farm shop whose range is centred on its buttery, multi-award-winning Vintage Organic Cheddar. It also sells rye vodka and Somerset gelato and hosts cheese tasting. On the High Street, Bruton Wholefoods is an organic food shop stocking everything from vegan cheese and raw cake bars to Somerset sourdough and locally produced dairy products. Regular customers bring refillable jars to save on packaging waste. 

Three doors away, Matt’s Kitchen is a cosy, characterful restaurant, serving a single ‘dish of the day’ alongside a choice of starters and desserts. On the same street is At the Chapel, a converted church that’s now a restaurant with rooms, wine shop and gallery. Wood-fired sourdough pizzas, with toppings such as taleggio, field mushrooms and thyme, are made in a bakery out front — you can take them away or eat them in the restaurant, along with a range of light dishes such as watercress risotto. Tucked away on the lower ground floor is a guests’ bar that can be booked for evening drinks or cocktail receptions — likely to tempt anyone who isn’t so involved in cheese production that they have to get up and milk cows in the morning.

How to do it Rooms at The Newt in Somerset start from £255 a night on a B&B basis, while rooms at At the Chapel begin at £125 a night, also on a B&B basis. Bruton is two hours from London Paddington by train, via Castle Cary
or Westbury.

Published in the January 2020 issue of National Geographic Traveller Food

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