The world and his wife know that it’s all happening in Bruton which is bizarre when you think about it because this is still basically a teeny tiny town with Brownies, Am Dram and a flower arranging rota at the local church. Oh and did we mention the bellringers soc?
If you believed everything in the press (only a fool, I say) you’d expect the narrow, Dickensian high street to be awash with media luvvies - Mariellas and Annas and Daisys and Bills tripping up over each other on their way to the first kickass cappuccino of the day. But it’s not like that at all. It is picturesque, though, a sloping high street crammed with thin houses and chocolate box cottages Old fashioned bistros exist here, the kind that proudly put out vases of carnations and a pub that remains resolutely ‘ungastroed.’
Towards the top of the high street, a beacon of exemplary architecture and cool, modern living is At the Chapel. Much fuss was made of this converted Wesleyan chapel when it first opened six years ago as a restaurant, bakery and wine store and deservedly so. It’s the central hub of town, a hangout that can easily accommodate dyed in the wool locals and weekending Notting Hillites and where the pizzas, coffees, Bloody Marys, bedrooms, you name it are all spot on.
Just across the way you’ll find Matt’s Kitchen, a small restaurant in the eponymous Matt’s sitting room, with a 3 choice menu that is consistently good and the kind of food you want to eat (confit of chicken with smoked pancetta and lemon thyme on a bed of colcannon. It’s BYO (love that), open Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights and it’s always rammed. The very brilliant vintage shop Phillips and Skinner is here owned by Amelia Skinner who has antiques in her blood (her father ran a famous shop in Portobello). The shop, decked out with armchairs and bookshelves of beautiful old books, feels more like an exquisitely dressed house than anything else. Amelia specialises in mid 20th century furniture – Eames, Ercol, Sigurd Ressell - but there are wonderful clothes here too, fur stoles, immaculate lace dresses. The last time I popped in I picked up a set of miniature snooker balls, just because. It’s that kind of place. Amelia and her partner also run a stunning B&B in their back garden, The Wing , a suitably fabulous bedroom and bathroom which comes with a voucher for breakfast At the Chapel next morning. Perfect.
Contemporary gallerists Hauser & Wirth opened up their Somerset outpost in the summer to much fanfare. Housed in a restored 18th century farm, it’s a pretty incredible space, with galleries, an education centre, a garden designed by Piet Oudolf and the Roth Bar & Grill. Some of the world's leading contemporary artists will exhibit here - Phyllida Barlow opened with a sculpture exhibition, Louise Bourgeois's famous spider lurks in a courtyard, Subodh Gupta's amazing milk pail (pictured below) was recently bought for £1 million. You really couldn't come to Bruton and not visit. On Friday nights the Roth Bar & Grill, metamorphoses into a cool Somerset nightspot, live music, strong cocktails and the Bruton massive letting their hair down. It's fun.
Cole Manor Tearoom has been open less than a year, a gorgeous spot in an old mill house with the River Brue running through its garden. Hot scones and lemon drizzle to blow your mind. Brand new in town is a juice bar at Green Monkey. Apparently demand was so great for the green smoothies, wheatgrass shots, veggie burgers and raw salads that the health food cafe had to close down for a few days and rapidly expand its premises. Another newbie is Alchemy, a decorative antiques showroom which opened in a converted garage this June. Run by Clare Norton, ex-Talisman, this is the place to shop for serious interiors. And if taxidermy is your thing then check out old school Quillon House Antiques. Godminster of cheese and vodka fame recently opened a shop here so you can pick up some of their good-looking gift boxes of elderflower vodka or our favourite the Bloody Good Mary box with horseradish vodka and spicy tomato juice. New in town, and just behind the Godminster farm shop, is Bean Shot Coffee, an artisan roaster which serves such spectacularly good coffee it will spoil you for anywhere else. Run by Australian Nick Law, this is serious, take no hostages ccoffee. Prolong the fix with a bag of their freshly roasted and ground coffee beans.
There's a big artisan scene here. Our favourite florist Kitten Grayson of Kitten & Co is based here and every year Camilla Drinkall of Moorwood Art opens up her beautiful house and throws a party/art exhibition showcasing some of the country's most talented artists. So yes, there are flashes of bling (and an indecent number of well known artsy types) and it's not your run of the mill country town. But sorry folks it's not 'the new Notting Hill" either. And we'd like it to stay that way.