Osip, Bruton, Somerset

May 2022

Don’t you just love it when you discover a great place by pure luck?!… Well, just recently when we visited the Newt (review below), this happened to us. The week before our visit, I was ‘googling’ the area and by chance discovered that in the village of Bruton, five minutes down the road from the Newt, there happened to be ‘Osip’, a Michelin starred restaurant!…

Osip is the type of restaurant where you instantly feel at home. Its small interior is simply but stylishly designed; white tiled walls contrast with open brickwork, whilst a duck-egg-blue banquette adds a shot of subtle colour. The atmosphere is relaxed and whilst the staff are very friendly they are also incredibly professional. It’s the attention to detail that creates the perfect ambience at Osip – even the crockery deserves a mention, yes, that’s right, the plates!… I was enamoured with the rough china on which the food was presented, its textures and shapes completed the dining experience perfectly.

Osip prides itself on being a farm-to-table restaurant, using ingredients that have been grown by themselves or their neighbours, thus ensuring that the food is incredibly fresh and in season. What arrives on its doorstep each morning is what it serves for lunch and dinner that same day. The set menu is served as a surprise, and what a wonderful surprise it was…

Before our first course we were presented with a selection of amuse bouche – ‘Farm Radishes with Whipped Sesame’, ‘Trout & Turnip Roll with Japanese Artichoke’, ‘Black Garlic and Togarashi’ – all very fresh and flavoursome. These were followed by the kick of a ‘Roasted Vegetable Tea with Burnt Garlic Oil’, this was a sweet and salty, beautifully balanced broth. Our next course, ‘Tokyo Turnip, Almond Praline and Ricotta’, was presented as a flower and was almost too stunning to eat; the flavours didn’t disappoint! ‘White Onion Royale, Broad Beans and Wild Garlic’, was a wonderful light foam and, although just a small interlude before our main course, it was packed with flavour; the white onion and wild garlic were beautifully balanced by the broad beans. Our meal had so far been outstanding, in terms of both flavour and presentation, so the main course had a lot to live up to… all I can say is ‘wow’, ‘Roast Chicken, Hen of the Woods, Bearnaise Chicken Sausage, Cider Mustard’, was a sublime dish, the ‘chicken sausage’ was something that I could happily eat for breakfast (lunch and dinner!). Finally, dessert, ‘Pump Street Chocolate Tart’; with its crisp pastry shell and rich chocolate mousse filling it was exactly how any good tart should be!

We left Osip dreaming of our return! It’s possible to stay at the neighbouring guest house, No.1 Bruton, so we are already planning another getaway. Failing that, a day trip from London by train is just about doable, allowing for a lunchtime visit…

The Newt

A Hotel & Restaurant Review

May 2022

Last year, when we were in the midst of our second lockdown, Nick and I decided that we needed a ‘treat’ to look forward to. We had read positive reviews about the The Newt in Somerset, and hoping that in a year’s time the ‘covid situation’ would be better, we booked a stay for the May bank holiday. We had been looking forward to this treat for nigh on a year, so when we finally visited The Newt last weekend it definitely needed to impress us…

As we drove down the long, winding driveway, catching glimpses of Hadspen House, where we would be staying, we were duly impressed! Then, on entering our ‘Garden Room’ which overlooked the magnificent gardens, our breaths were literally taken away. Our room with its huge bay windows and terrace was full of light and beautifully appointed, it was I might add, probably the best room in the hotel and as I looked out on the view I really did feel like the ‘Lady of the Manor’!

What I hadn’t appreciated when we had booked The Newt, was the size of this enterprise, not only is it a country house hotel but also a working farm with huge public gardens. Rooms of the hotel are situated either at Hadspen House and in its stables or a half a mile down the road at the ‘Farmyard’. The Farmyard offers a very different hotel experience from Hadspen House, it is more relaxed and rustic, great for families and groups of friends who prefer a less formal country house escape. Rustic isn’t really my thing, so I was rather relieved that we had opted for a room at the main house, where I would be very content to be ‘Lady of the Manor’ for a couple of days! Hadspen House is a very attractive Georgian house which has been tastefully updated, the interiors have a contemporary edge, forget country house chintz, think elegant modern furnishings in muted colours – I loved the sage green and greys of our room.

Having settled in we decided to take a walk around ‘our’ estate. From the small private garden of the house, there is a gate that takes you into the extensive public gardens which are awe-inspiring. Hotel guests can take tours of the garden or, as we did, have a cyder tasting – The Newt makes its own cyder. It really is worth visiting the gardens simply as a day guest, the landscaping is phenomenal, however, despite the beauty of these gardens, I did feel relieved to return through the gate to the tranquillity of the hotel, it’s a little disconcerting to find the ‘general public’ around you when you’ve actually paid for a weekend getaway!.. Considering the cost of staying at The Newt, I had assumed that one is paying for exclusivity, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Fortunately, the spa is far from the public eye, so we escaped to the privacy of its beautiful heated indoor-outdoor pool and spa rooms!

Then of course it was time to eat, I must say that during our 3-night stay our days seemed to revolve around food – which is just as well as it is one of my favourite pastimes. The Newt prides itself on serving the freshest vegetables grown on its estate and certainly, the best of the dishes that we had during our stay were those based around these ingredients. Breakfast was served in the Botanical rooms, it was a memorable start to the day. The homemade granola, yoghurt and rhubarb compote were utterly delicious – I don’t think I’ve tasted yoghurt quite as creamy, whilst the rhubarb compote was perfectly tart and sweet at the same time. Then of course there were the various options for cooked breakfasts, all delicious – yes, we tried them all over our stay! Lunch and Dinner are offered at three restaurants over the estate, there is the aforementioned Botanical Rooms at Hadspen House, and also The Farmyard and the Garden Café…

The Farmyard Restaurant

We ate at the Farmyard Restaurant on our first evening. Guests at Hadspen House can drive themselves over in a buggy or staff can drive you – we opted for the latter, as I wasn’t sure we could be trusted to navigate our way home through the fields of sheep after a couple of cocktails and wine! The dining experience is more relaxed with a sharing menu. ‘Broccoli & Anchovy’, was wonderfully fresh with a touch of lemon and an addictive, salty anchovy aioli. The ‘Mullet with Spring Onion & Gremolata’, had well-matched flavours with the sweetness of the chargrilled onions and tart gremolata. Moving on to our main dishes there was the star of the evening ‘Whole Place, Brassicas and Burnt Lemon’, cooked to perfection, it was divine. The ‘Pork Chop, White Bean, Roast Onion & Thyme’ couldn’t match the deliciousness of the Plaice, and although the chop was quite tasty we found the white bean purée a little bland. As an extra dish, we ordered the ‘Jersey Royals, Hang Op & Wild Garlic’, I could have eaten the whole dish alone, the combination of salty potato and wild garlic was moreish! Finally, desserts; an ‘Apple Crumble & Custard’ and ‘Chocolate Mousse & Salted Caramel’ – both were the perfect end to a very good meal. It was a great start to our stay and we hoped that the food at the other two restaurants would follow suit…

The Botanical Rooms

The Botanical Rooms is a beautiful wood-panelled, formal dining room overlooking the grounds, there is also seating in the airier, more modern conservatory. We preferred to have dinner in the formal dining room (although at breakfast we enjoyed the light-filled conservatory). After our positive experience at the Farmyard, we had high hopes for our dinner at The Botanical Rooms. We started with ‘Chilled Broad Beans, Apple & Lovage Juice with Whipped Goats Curd’, a light dish with delicate flavours, and ‘Chalk Stream Trout with Chevril & Walnut Vinaigrette’, which was well cooked, but the flavours were overpowered by the vinaigrette. Main courses were, ‘Nettle Marinated Lamb with Asparagus, Anchovy, Garlic & Parsley’, the asparagus dressing lifted this dish beautifully, and ‘Pork, Turnip, Mustard & Pickled Greens’ which was very good but the pickled vegetables were too intense for the dish. Finally, for dessert there was a ‘Sweet Cicely & Strawberry Cheesecake’, which was deliciously delicate, and ‘Forced Rhubarb & Lemon Verbena Sorbet’, a fresh tasty dessert but the rhubarb was unable to shine through the strong lemon flavouring. The meal was enjoyable, both the setting and service were impeccable, but we were a little disappointed as the food lacked the balance of flavours it promised – it lacked that ‘something special’.

The Garden Café

The atmosphere that a restaurant or hotel creates can be one of its most important attributes. Before our visit, we booked the Garden Café for Sunday Lunch, I probably would not have done so if I had been aware that it was in the ‘public gardens’. The Garden Café has, without doubt, an amazing view of the landscaped gardens and if I were visiting as a day guest I would have been more than happy to dine there. However, as a hotel guest, I feel that the atmosphere of this restaurant was not conducive to the hotel’s style, and I felt that it rather broke ‘my lady of the manor’ dream! For me, visiting a hotel such as The Newt is a form of escapism, you buy into the exclusivity of a country house. The Garden Café was a step too far into reality for me! The food was enjoyable, although doesn’t merit an in depth review; it was a tasty lunch in a restaurant with wonderful views and well priced at £25 for two courses.

In conclusion

Our stay at The Newt was, without doubt, a beautiful experience, the room, with its views, was absolutely breathtaking. There is no denying the beauty of the grounds and the stylish interiors. I loved the atmosphere in the hotel, from breakfast in the Botanical Rooms to cocktails in the bar – I should mention that they not only do their own signature cocktails but are happy to make any you suggest, a real bonus for a ‘cocktail lover’ like myself! The service was impeccable and the staff were relaxed, friendly and genuine. However, The Newt has a fine balance to maintain; it sells itself as an exclusive country hotel escape and demands the high prices which go hand in hand with this, but at the same time, to fund its incredible grounds it has to open to the general public – two rather conflicting positions. I do feel that given the expense of a stay at The Newt (believe me, it’s a lot – a decision we made in the madness of lockdown!), I don’t think that it offers the exclusivity that some hotel guests, like myself, yearn. So, would I visit The Newt again?… Yes, but with so many other hotels to try I may be tempted to go elsewhere… or, of course, I could return to my number one hotel experience, Foxhill Manor (see my review here!).