Olivia Williams finds much to enjoy in Somerset.
At The Chapel, on Bruton’s dinky high street, combines its role as hotel, restaurant, bakery, event space, wine shop and art gallery with flair. As a former congregational chapel the whole building is lofty and spacious, a fact that is used to great effect in the light-filled restaurant with its two floor-to-ceiling windows.
The same airy sense of calm extends to At The Chapel’s eight characterful bedrooms. Rooms vary from the top floor bedroom with its exposed rafters, down to the garden level with its south facing-patio full of hydrangeas and high walls for total privacy. Every corner is unfussy but beautifully presented, with charmingly offbeat modern British art and unusual vintage furniture. The rooms are quiet too – despite being in the middle of Bruton, the only sound to be heard were church bells and distant trains.
Dinner in the romantic restaurant is an elegant but relaxed affair. The thoughtful cocktail and wine list make it suitable for a special occasion but with wood-fired pizzas on the menu too, it feels informal. The meat from local farms is excellent quality, as is the seafood from Dorset. The mix is generally locals with escapees from the city on the weekends. The atmosphere is buzzy and friendly with larger communal tables in the middle and tables for two along the dais.
Before or after dinner, there is a spacious clubroom downstairs that opens onto a terrace overlooking a quaint backstreet below. This is also where wonderful, high quality events are hosted, including pop-up fashion sales, exhibitions, book talks with local authors and film screenings.
Thanks to the onsite bakery, a breakfast tray of croissants is delivered to each room in the morning. The bakery also makes moreish brownies, tarts, shortbread and flapjacks. Downstairs, there is a selection of newspapers and magazines to accompany the excellent breakfast. There is no skimping and no greasiness, with light dishes such as green eggs with tasty baked ham, buckwheat pancakes, homemade granola, jam and fresh juices. The range of hot drinks should also be enough to keep the most discerning of coffee aficionados happy.
Run by restauranteur Catherine Butler and furniture designed Ahmed Sidki, who made a lot of the furniture – including one of the staircases in the restaurant, it is a great combination of their skills that makes At The Chapel so special.
Make sure that you walk over to local modern art gallery Hauser and Wirth while you’re in Bruton and take a drive over to Stourhead with its acres of manicured gardens. Further afield you will find the picturesque town of Frome and Montacute House, an Elizabethan mansion and gardens.
Double rooms from £100 per night, including freshly homemade croissants in the morning. High Street, Bruton, Somerset BA10 0AE, atthechapel.co.uk
A stay at the Salcombe Harbour makes for a luxurious and relaxing few days, finds Olivia Williams.