Cereal is a biannual, travel & style magazine based in the United Kingdom. Each issue focusses on a select number of destinations, alongside engaging interviews and stories on unique design, art, and fashion.

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At the Chapel

At The Chapel plays simply to the strengths of the area. Encompassing both history and recent changes, it offers a blend of the ‘very old’, and the ‘newer than knowledge’, that Steinbeck came in pursuit of all those decades ago.

The town of Bruton is settled very comfortably, almost secretly, within a steep rural valley in the heart of the West Country. Its grey medieval buildings fold into the shape of the fields, and only its spires are visible above the high hedgerows that line the approaching lanes.

The same sight would have greeted the American author John Steinbeck as he made his way down these winding roads in the late 1950s. Lured by the ancient history of the area, the inspiration for myths and rumours of magic, and the stage for the legends of King Arthur and his Knights, he came to Somerset to make contact ‘with the very old, the older than knowledge, and that this may be a springboard into the newer than knowledge’.

Steinbeck was in pursuit of Avalon, King Arthur’s last resting place and the site of the Holy Grail. He may not have found that, but, during months spent in cottage near to the town, he found a respite from a bout of writer’s block and developed a lifelong fondness for the area. ‘Time loses all its meaning’, he wrote one spring. ‘The peace I have dreamed about is here, a real thing: thick as a stone and feel-able and something for your hands’.

Peace still emanates from Bruton’s narrow streets, but today there are new temptations to draw visitors. At the centre of the High Street is At The Chapel, bought in 2000 by Catherine Butler and her partner Ahmed Sidki, a furniture designer. They opened it as a restaurant eight years later, and since then it has developed a bakery, a wine shop, and even rooms to stay in.

Heavy oak doors and dark wooden floorboards lead into a large, high-ceilinged central room, flooded with light. Long wooden tables and benches run down the centre towards the bar and pale green armchairs, tucked into solid round tables, sitting at its foot. They are made by Sidki, as is the spiral staircase in the corner, which curls up to a balcony. Modern art looks at home on the very white walls: bright abstract paintings, an elegant chandelier of glass baubles hangs from the ceiling, and a white figure – like a contemporary crucifixion – hangs between the tall, narrow symmetrical windows that would have flanked the alter.

The calibre of the art hints at the creative life of the area – local novelists, fashion designers and artists are among At The Chapel’s frequent visitors – and to the global gallery Hauser & Wirth, which opened its latest outpost up the road at Dursdale Farm last summer. Their restaurant, the Roth Bar and Grill, is also run by Butler.

But in spite of its new-found fashionable status (Vogue gave Bruton seven pages when Hauser & Wirth opened), At The Chapel reflects the town’s older heritage. Food is predominantly sourced locally. They take good advantage of Westcombe Diary, Somerset Cider Brandy, the proximity to the Dorset coast for crab, Lyme Bay for mackerel, and the quality of the meat from nearby farms.

At The Chapel plays simply to the strengths of the area. Encompassing both history and recent changes, it offers a blend of the ‘very old’, and the ‘newer than knowledge’, that Steinbeck came in pursuit of all those decades ago.

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At the Chapel
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At the Chapel

Further reading