Tuesday 9 February 2010

At the Chapel, Bruton, Somerset

Like a rural St John but with less offal, At the Chapel is a blessing in uber-rural Somerset. The space, designed by architects MacKenzie Wheeler, must be considered one of the best gastronomic amphitheatres in the country. The room is naturally well lit by biblically large windows and the high double ceiling gives the whole restaurant a feeling of grace. The ice white walls and ceiling are punctuated by impressive artistic statements. The hanging bubbles of Babylon and plaster cast of what Cowie accidentally called “Ham Solo” allow other pieces such as mosaic shoes by Candace Bahouth to be switched in and out like an art gallery. They also have plans to open their balcony area and a wonderful south facing patio. Co-owners Catherine Butler (ex Café Med owner) and Ahmed Sidki have done a brilliant job and have great plans for making even more out the space they have.



At the Chapel is not just a restaurant. It’s also a bakery, wine merchant, café and top class pizzeria all powered by an open range and a proper wood fired oven. And joy of joys has wifi.

Like a good food blogger, I’ve been to At the Chapel a number of times now in order to sample the various strings to their bow. When we are staying with Cowie’s parents in the neighbouring village we often buy a sourdough loaf and croissants for breakfast which have always been spectacularly good. And if we are feeling peckish in the afternoon we’ve been known to devour their slightly nutty, very naughty chocolate brownies. But Cowie still claims hers are better and who am I to disagree.

Chapel brownies

I’ve also bought a couple of interesting bottles of wine from their range that shuns the stereotypical selection of middle England Claret and Chablis. An Italian red that's made from 5 grape varieties from Calabria was a brilliant foil for a fire seared steak.


And on another occasion when we asked them for advice about making pizzas in Cassius (our clay pizza oven) they were immensely helpful – supplying us with semolina to add texture to the dough but also a pot of their sourdough starter. Many bakeries would have shooed us away but they appreciated our enthusiasm and helped us out. The pizzas that emerged from Cassius were some of the best ever.

White bean and chorizo soup

I’ve dined alone here too at the coffee bar with a copy of the Observer spread before me like Wellington with a map of Belgium and marvelled at the texture, flavour and appearance of a bowl of exquisite white bean and chorizo soup.

Liver and mash

And did my best not to wolf down an immaculate serving of liver, bacon and mashed potato which was almost perfect but for their not being a second helping!
But I haven’t wanted to write a review until I had also tried their pizzas. At £10 a go they aren’t exactly giving them away. And why should they when they are this good. The use of semolina in the sourdough gives the base a crunchy textures and makes you want to demolish the crust after you’ve inhaled the middle.

Chorizo pizza

My chorizo and red pepper pizza was first class. The mozzarella spewed everywhere but wasn’t overloaded. And the chorizo itself added a richness that probably should come with a health warning or two.

Goats cheese


A goats cheese pizza and a top class margherita confirmed they know what they are doing in the pizzeria department.

The only thing that lets them down is the lack of warmth from the service. Hellos, welcomes and goodbyes are hard to come by. Smiles fleeting. And service slow and frustrating. On one visit I waited 30 minutes for my soup. Got moved table twice. And witnessed several calamities such as a lady being burned by a coffee that had just come out of the machine and a walk out because of the slow service. If this had been a one off I wouldn’t have mentioned it. But it has been a recurring theme that detracts from At the Chapel deserving the near perfect score that Matthew Norman gave them. Just because you are in a Congregational chapel doesn’t mean you can’t relax. You are a smile and a hello away from perfection.

At the Chapel, High Street, Bruton, Somerset, BA10 0AE

01749 814 070



David Strange said...

Now those pizzas look truly fantastic. A good pizza tweaks so many pleasure valves, so once you find a reliable source it should be treasured and efforts should be made to bring more customers in. Not only because you want to share the top pizza experience with your friends, but also because if the pizza establishment remains busy they won't go out of business.

My favourite pizza places in London are Franco Manca (good for a fast, cheap and very high-quality lunch) and the top chain of pizzerias La Porchetta (big, well-made pizzas with a great selection of toppings). Cannot go wrong at these places.


Hollow Legs said...

What a shame the staff are so miserable and crap, since the food looks so delicious. Hopefully they'll get a shake up!

Paunchos said...

@David Strange - They were very good pizzas. I am also a big fan of Franco Manca and La Porchetta.

@Lizzie - I am sure the staff are all lovely. But they just don't seem to be very happy and aren't exactly slick.

Manggy said...

I was initially going to make fun of the food on slate, but of course it's something I might eventually do to style my blog pictures, heh heh :)

Too bad about the service - the pizzas look as good as any I've had in my life!

Paunchos said...

@Manggy - Haha. Food on slate seems very in at the moment. Or at least it was a while ago. In the countryside it is seen as very cutting edge. In fairness to them they only display their brownies and baked goods on slate. Luckily all the food in the restaurant arrives on plates!

Anonymous said...

Service is wonderful - as is the food. Waitresses and waiters are very helpful and smile all the time!!!!


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