The quaint village of Bruton has been described as the Stoke Newington of Somerset.
It certainly doesn’t disappoint. There’s an old chapel which has been converted into a bar, bakery and wood-fired pizzeria, an organic village co-operative, countless art shops and an uber-lux gallery where Princess Eugenie is a director.
The jewel in the crown though is Osip, a farm-to-table restaurant where the brilliantly named and brilliantly talented Merlin Labron-Johnson runs the show.
Labron-Johnson made his name at London’s Portland where he earned a Michelin-star at the age of 24, just nine months after opening the restaurant. He’s originally from the West Country so Osip is somewhat of a homecoming.
On the night we visited, Osip’s restaurant manager was off work so Labron-Johnson ran the pass as well as front of house simultaneously. It was an impressive feat, especially when everything was so seamless.
Osip’s menu focuses on seasonal, organic locally sourced produce. There’s just one menu available in the evening, a tasting menu costing a very reasonable £49.
A compact wine list has every bin available by the glass. Mrs G and I worked our way through glasses of Rietsch Alsatian orange wine (£9.50), highly neckable Landron Chartier rosé (£5.50) and a light and fruity Yann Bertrand Fleurie ‘Phoneix’ (£11.50).
A big bruiser of a duck broth kicked off dinner. Intensely meaty, it was infused with tea leaf and the smokey hit of tea oil.
A quartet of snacks were all belters.
A warm and light pumpkin financier was topped with sweet and earthy pumpkin puree and the fragrant crunch of deep fried sage leaf.
Quail egg mimosa was the ultimate egg mayo, the yolk puree twanged with warming spice.
A crisp and light choux bun was stuffed with a silky, tangy and thick yet light smoked cheddar custard.
Finally, sweet and salty caramelised pecans were wrapped in a piggy cloak of lardo which melted on impact.
Uber-well-crusted bread contained dark notes of treacle and a malty hit of ale. It was joined by whipped smoked butter and a coarse, gamey potted pheasant.
Pickles included sweet and earthy yellow beetroot, a turnip-y tasting veg and another root which was sweet with hedgerow berries.
A solid pumpkin soup was elevated by wood-fired pieces of tender chestnut with a lovely yielding texture and a compelling nut brown butter.
The first standout dish of the meal saw a warm spelt salad interlaced with the crunch of hazelnut and buckwheat. Sat on a silky mushroom puree, it was topped with soft discs of mushroom and a dusting of funky truffle and tangy Westcombe cheddar.
Next up was the other highlight, a ludicrously comforting combination of caramelised meaty diver scallop pieces bathed in intense chicken roasting juices and topped with an airy jerusalem artichoke foam and crunchy jerusalem artichoke crisps.
Our main was a quality roast chicken. Both breast and thigh were juicy, flavour-packed and crisp of skin. They were accompanied by a silky mace-laced smooth bread sauce, sweet hay-baked apple sauce, fine red cabbage and the richness-balancing tang of redcurrant.
We shared a supplementary cheese course. A camembert like Old Burford with fine shards of thyme cracker and sweet membrillo. A complimentary shot of ice cider was seriously appley and not at all boozy. Dangerous.
Finally, an eclair was a genius piece of pastry-work. The light and crisp choux bun was stuffed with smooth and not too sweet hazelnut custard, and topped with lightly salted caramel and praline hazelnuts. Woof.
Warm madeleines and deliciously citrusy lemon verbena fragranced pâte de fruit brought the meal to a close.
We had a brilliant dinner at Osip. There’s bags of technique and flavour in Merlin’s cooking but he doesn’t throw too many elements at the plate.
We stayed the night (£130) at Osip’s sister bed and breakfast, No.1 Bruton, which is located just upstairs. We had one of the best night’s sleeps we’ve had in long time on a whopping bed.
Complimentary face packs, a mini truckle of somerset cheddar, crackers and a couple of bottles of Somerset cider added even more luxury.
A self-service breakfast buffet overseen by Merlin the following morning was top notch. A giant wedge of tangy Westcombe Dairy cheddar, fresh and super-crisp sourdough, soft boiled eggs, rillettes and a fine pear and quince tart were just some of the first class produce on offer.
But, a super thick and creamy cold rice pudding with homemade milk caramel was the highlight. If I was served this for dessert in any restaurant I’d be a very happy man indeed.
I seriously recommend a visit to Osip. If you're looking for a luxury break just an hour and a half from Cardiff then it's well worth a trip.
Address - Osip, 1 High St, Bruton BA10 0AB
Telephone - 01749 813322