If the Hauser and Wirth Gallery doesn’t signal that Bruton in Somerset isn’t your typical country town, then the offer of a farm-to-table meal by Michelin-star chef Merlin Labron-Johnson certainly does. At 24, he was one of the youngest chefs ever to win a Michelin star, transforming Portland, an unassuming restaurant in central London, into an overnight hit.
Now, Labron-Johnson is making his magic at Osip, a tiny but mighty restaurant in Somerset. A mere two-hour drive from London, and well within the 190-mile range of the BMW i3, this is where the boho bourgeois weekend. It’s a scenic drive through Somerset and the landscape unfurls into a patchwork of meadows carpeted with wild garlic and bluebells that lead to dramatic limestone hills and a town of cobbled narrow streets and old stone cottages.
Osip occupies a former ironmonger’s shop on the High Street, part of 12-bedroom hotel, Number One Bruton. Inside, there are no whiffs of country twee. Instead, you’ll find an intimate 32-seat bistro with classic white tablecloths and mint green scalloped banquettes, set against thick stone and exposed brick walls. The décor – like the menu – is minimal with little details like dried flowers hanging upside down on the walls, seasonal gourds and shelves filled with jars of pickles.
We were lucky enough to join Merlin for the lunchtime tasting menu and were blown away by his creativity and his stories of how his move to the country had led to him meeting some truly inspiring characters, such as his Shiitake mushroom producer who grows his product in the back of an old refrigerator van just up the road from the restaurant. The result is superb and some of the best mushrooms Merlin has ever worked with, so you can easily see why the daily-changing menu is heavy on vegetables and light on red meat and is the product of some really inspiring local farmers, growers, hunters and gatherers. Their aim is to be growing their own vegetables, herbs and fruit on an orchard just a few miles from Bruton.
Merlin is a champion of minimal waste, and the menu has wonderfully frugal nose-to-tail and root-to-stem values, like the way the chicken appears over multiple courses: first as soothing bone broth that appears on arrival, then in scallops soaked with its juices followed by the main act of roast chicken. An a la carte menu is available at lunchtime, but for those who want to make a night of it, go for dinner and indulge in the seven-course evening tasting menu.
If, like Chris, you are a huge fan of cider, it’s a no-brainer to spend the night at Number One Bruton. Merlin has championed the Somerset crop and found some brilliant producers doing amazing things with apples. If they have any left, the Ditcheat Hill by Wilding Cider is a must followed by a late morning rise and finally, breakfast by Osip. Reserved for hotel guests only, you can expect homemade yoghurt and jam, granola, slabs of Westcombe cheddar, thinly sliced ham, soft-boiled eggs, and warm bread and brioche.
“Osip is about 85 miles from the HQ so well inside the up to 190 mile range of The BMW i3.”
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Fuel economy and CO2 results for the BMW i3 range: Mpg (l/100km) not applicable. CO2 emissions: 0 g/km. Electric energy consumption (combined) 16.5 -15.3 kWh/100Km / [3.8 - 4.1 miles/kWh]. Electric range 173.4 -190.8 miles. These figures were obtained after the battery had been fully charged. The BMW i3 and i3s 120Ah is a battery electric vehicle requiring mains electricity for charging. There is a new test for fuel consumption, CO2 and electric range figures. The electric range shown was achieved using the new test procedure. Figures shown are for comparability purposes. Only compare fuel consumption, CO2 and electric range figures with other cars tested to the same technical procedures. These figures may not reflect real life driving results, which will depend upon a number of factors including the starting charge of the battery, accessories fitted (post-registration), variations in weather, driving styles and vehicle load.