An elegant 12-bedroom hotel with playfulness behind the polish, Number One forms a striking beginning to the town’s high street. Village-like Bruton already attracts a sophisticated following, with a generous smattering of galleries, restaurants, shops and gathering spaces that belies its tiny size. Number One and Osip prove that it has space for more, however, a stand-alone hotel and white table-clothed dining space complementing what’s there rather than competing with it.
Such local integration is key for Claudia Waddams, who grew up nearby, and her husband Aled Rees, an experienced hotelier; the property’s Somerset location has been drilled into the surroundings with as much consideration as its reclaimed antique fixtures (look closely and you’ll spot photographs by Don McCullin, leather key fobs by Bill Amberg and upholstery by jeweller and designer Solange Azagury-Partridge – all locals – among the furnishings).
On the ground floor is a lounge lined with talking-point photographs (spot shots by Terence Donovan, Brian Duffy and Perry Ogden) and an honesty bar while legendary garden designer, Penelope Hobhouse, is behind the hotel’s courtyard garden.
Which room should I book?
Front of house is the Georgian townhouse itself, a former hardware store run for many years by the whimsically named Mr Windmill and now home to five guest rooms. Here, designers Frank & Faber have gone for a tasteful riot of pattern on pattern with period fireplaces and gilt mirrors set among colourful stripes, florals and velvet (family friend Kaffe Fassett dropped in to paint a cherry blossom mural on the staircase walls).
If you’re seeking history, these are the rooms to book (ask about the dessicated cats!). Townhouse 1, with its seagreen and pomegranate colour scheme, is the grandest. On the first floor, in what would have been a Georgian drawing room, it’s huge, with a show-stopping pink-tiled shower as well as a claw-foot bath. Sunshine-hued Townhouse 2, next door, is dubbed the Prince Charles room; Frank & Faber took inspiration from the royal memorabilia Mr Windmill left in this room, commissioning a Candace Bahouth mirror to hang over the mantelpiece. Townhouse 3, tucked at the back of the building, feels private and romantic with a pretty window-seat and a roll-top bath. On the top floor are two attic suites, both with walk-in showers; Townhouse 5 has a Jacobean door and a cameo-pink and buttercup colour scheme while Townhouse 4 has a dainty stone fireplace and a cornflower-blue palette.
If these rooms feel homely (in a decadent way) that’s because many of the furnishings have been ‘borrowed’ from Claudia’s mother, Brigid Keenan, a well-travelled fashion journalist and author. In Townhouse 3, for instance, there’s a signed Yves St Laurent painting, in Townhouse 1 an intricately inlaid cabinet from Syria.
Behind the main house is a trio of cottages with simple white bathrooms, quarry-tiled floors and neutral colour schemes. Cottage 1 is (almost) on one level on the ground floor, Cottage 2 has a cosy living area downstairs, with log-burning stove, and a bedroom and bathroom upstairs and Cottage 3 is on the first floor. Finally, four further bedrooms are set to open imminently at the end of the garden in what was previously a forge (literary fans should ask about the John Steinbeck connection). These rooms will be more industrial in style, with forged ironmongery, Crittal windows and ticking-striped bedlinen.
While the hotel’s design ticks all the right boxes it’s the details that wow. Bathrooms are stocked not with the usual brands but with organic toiletries from a tiny local supplier, Great Elm Physick Garden (including little sachets of powder to mix your own rose and basil face mask as you soak). Guest soaps, from Jane Maddern (another Somerset supplier) come in little waxed envelopes so you can wrap them up to take home with you. The bathroom fixtures, too, have been thought-through more than most; shower controls are set away from shower heads and a single light beneath the toilet comes on when you open the bathroom door for stumble-free night-time trips to the loo.
The food and drink
A reflection of Devon-born Labron-Johnson’s fuss-free approach, Osip’s intimate, bistro-style dining space has a natural, pared-back look with stripped and tiled walls, pale linen tablecloths, rustic ceramics, vintage mirrors and a green striped banquette along one wall.
At lunchtime there’s a choice of à la carte or a set menu, in the evening a five-course set menu only, both packed with ethically produced ingredients from the southwest. While we wait for our starters – retro-sounding but devilishly modern eggs mimosa and pumpkin financiers filled with velvety pumpkin puree, sage leafs and shavings of cured egg (worth the table booking alone) – we are served little cups of bone broth laced with lapsang souchong, roast wild duck bones and verdant green leek oil. Deliciously savoury, these spoke of more good things to come.
Which they did. First a plate of carrot, mouli, radish and beetroot pickled so deftly that the overriding flavours were of each individual vegetable, not what they had been steeped in. Then “Bird”; morsels of buttery roast chicken served with puddles of smoked hay and apple sauce, bread sauce made with leftover sourdough, a pale but punchy gravy and silky, finely diced red cabbage with just the right amount of sharpness.
Desserts ranged from a dainty hazelnut parfait éclair to an unctuous crème caramel drenched with raisins and Somerset cider brandy – wobbly as a drunken apple picker and impossible to stop eating.
Hazelnut parfait éclair at Osip
Served in Osip, breakfast is a simple but deeply satisfying help-yourself affair. Try creamy, vanilla-spiked rice pudding topped with a scattering of homemade granola and a spoonful of toffee-ish milk jam. Rummage in a little nest of hay for a still-warm boiled egg. Cut yourself slices of freshly baked sourdough, hunks of Westcombe cheddar or flakes of pheasant terrine. Then finish on a sweet note with a slice of brioche with strawberry preserve or a sliver of jammy pear and quince tart.
What else can foodies do?
There’s plenty for foodies to do in Bruton. Stroll over to art gallery Hauser & Wirth for lunch at the Roth Bar & Grill, shop your way down the high street via designer homewares stores Caro and Hole & Corner. Stop for coffee and fresh-from-the-oven bakes at At The Chapel. Or pop into the local Spar, a few doors down the High Street, to buy Brickell’s small-batch ice cream before you head home.
Is it family friendly?
The restaurant is better suited to date-night dinners than family dining (for that, head a few doors down to At The Chapel for bowls of tomato linguine or half-size versions of its gorgeous wood-fired pizzas). The hotel, though, is a great option for families. If you have older children, you can book rooms 4 and 5 together so you have the whole of the top floor to yourselves. If your children are still too young to sleep in a separate room, ask for Townhouse 1 or Cottage 1, both of which have large living areas with sofa beds that can be made up for kids at no extra cost. The three courtyard cottages are also dog-friendly.
If you like the colourful two-tone mugs by local potter, Richard Pommeroy, laid out on your room’s tea tray you can buy one to take home.