Category Archives: Hotel restaurant

At the Chapel. A weekend for one

I’ve travelled on my own a lot. Buenos Aires, New York, Rome, Lucknow have all been solo adventures; each trip planned in excruciating detail down to where I would have my 4pm coffee and post dinner stroll. Bruton was different. The street I live on in London is possibly longer than the distance between the start and end milestones of this quaint village in Somerset. And save for long walks, an occasional cheddar cheese farm and a country outpost of a city art gallery there is little else to “do”. 

I packed my tablet with several movies, carried as many books as clothes, and took along more newspapers for this long weekend than I usually read in a month. I’m a city girl. What was I doing spending my birthday on my own in the middle of nowhere? Mad. 

Cold and windswept, I walked into At the Chapel in Bruton. Welcomed by muddy gumboots leaning cosily against each other, wafts of freshly baked bread, and the warmest smile I’ve been gifted in the longest time, I knew I had just made one of the better decisions of my life. Charlie swept me into the beautiful atrium restaurant, where I would return like a homing pigeon for the next three days.

  

   

I don’t make New Year resolutions, I never begin diets on a Monday… so the only way I can describe what happened in Bruton is ‘revelations’: 

Where you come from matters 

I imagine Somerset is beautiful in every season, but especially scenic as spring takes hold of its rolling hills and bustling coastline. A short drive from Bruton is Tom Calver’s Westcombe farm, where 280 cows graze their days away in lush fields, less than a mile from the dairy (something about not wanting to disturb the milk’s molecules with too much travel). A small group of men make this award-winning cheese by hand, carefully slapping and turning the cheese until it’s ready for a long sleep in the cave. Tom could have turned the family dairy into a “business”. Instead, he chose tradition. His commitment to artisan techniques has resulted in the best Cheddar anyone will ever taste.

 

Where you are going matters too

Beginning with my first skinny, dry cappuccino, At the Chapel got everything right. And whatever they didn’t, they corrected with smiles so wide, and hearts so warm that I struggle to name any flaws in my stay. I was lucky to meet owners Catherine Butler and Ahmed Sidki who first bought this now fabulous restaurant, bakery, wine shop and hotel to convert into their home. Instead what they ended up doing was create a home for everyone who walks through their doors. A home with gorgeous bedrooms, outstanding pizza, and a team of inn keepers who look after you even before you realise you need looking after.  

 

Where you are matters most 

I have not stood still for a while. Always looking back and looking forward, I lost sight of the ground right beneath my feet. I weep for the loves I have lost, for the life that may never come my way. I weep a lot. The love and warmth at At the Chapel brushed away my tears long enough for me to realise that I am already surrounded by old friends and new strangers who love me today, now. Where I am, matters the most.

 -p 

 This is how I spent my weekend in Bruton:

  • Stayed At the Chapel in a lovely room (£150) with South-facing views of The Dovecote (and not once felt the need to hide behind my collection of books and movies). Each hotel guest wakes up to a warm croissant left outside the door first thing in the morning. Best I’ve ever tasted.

     

  • Walked through muddy fields to the fantastic Hauser & Wirth gallery. 
  • Roth Bar & Grill makes a decent Negroni with the longest orange peel I have seen. I don’t recommend the food.
  • Spent all other meal times at At the Chapel.
  • Visited Westcombe Dairy and came back with a truck load of Tom Calver’s Caerphilly, Cheddar and Ricotta. Sipped on the local brew – Fresh by Wild Beer Co.
  • Walked to The Dovecote.
  • Promised myself to return to Bruton. Soon.

 

 

 

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Filed under Bar, Bar food, Breakfast, British, Cheese, Cocktails, Coffee, Hotel, Hotel restaurant, Pizza, Travelogue

Bukhara. Home is where the daal is

I am the first to admit my double standards when it comes to restaurants that serve Indian food. Most friends who have eaten with me will criticise me for being too demanding of the food and the service. I have always maintained that I go to restaurants for one of two reasons: great food, great service. Ideally both, but definitely one. All that is forgotten though, when I eat Indian food. Quite clearly because it is the food I have grown up on, Indian food to me is about hospitality, ceremony, and a great deal of love.

When I heard that India’s favourite black daal was coming to London I was beside myself. Memories of some of the best meals of my life came flooding back. I couldn’t tell you about the first time I ate at Delhi’s Bukhara, but I can tell you about the last meal I had there with my grandfather, and how we ate bowls of their Daal Bukhara and hot tandoori rotis for hours. I can tell you about the time my friend proposed to her (now) husband over his favourite meal in the world. And I can tell you about the last time I was in the presence of their majestic Sikandari Raan.

Bukhara, India’s favourite restaurant, has decided to visit London for two weeks in a pop up avatar at the Sheraton Park Tower in Knightsbridge. My Twitter-bud Dolce Dini couldn’t make it to their preview lunch and I was more than happy to take her place. Thanks to her I was able to relive some of my favourite food memories from home, right here in London.

The afternoon began with glasses of bubbly in a canopied bar bursting with Indian colour. Kashmiri carpets, silk cushions, Rajasthani chairs… they had managed to squeeze the most clichéd Indian decor into one tiny space and yet make it look beautiful. It’s a shame this bar isn’t a permanent feature at the hotel! There we stood, a group of bloggers and food critics, making polite conversation with each other; but really all we wanted was to get to the main event – the grand menu that had travelled all the way from India.

The room we were led to gave us no indication of the sumptuous meal we were about to receive. We were seated at round tables with token candles in a banquet room that lacked any splendour, glamour, or character. I ignore the bland room, and the waiters discomfort in their kurtas… thalis of the food had started to arrive.

They offered us a sampling of the tasting menus that they will serve over the next two week (Vegetarian at £59 and Meat & Seafood at £79). The first round of sharing platters had the famous malai chicken kababs, king prawns, fabulous paneer tikkas and (cold :-() naans and rotis. Thankfully the Daal Bukhara arrived soon after and everything else was forgiven. The daal tasted exactly as I remember it. Nothing else has ever come close, and I’m willing to bet, no other daal ever will.

Next, the Sikandari Raan. When we have this in the original Delhi restaurant, there is a moment of silence on the table as we pay our respects to the sheer magnificence of this dish. The lamb will be tender and make you sing as you rip into it. The London cousin didn’t inspire much singing but was close enough to the original.

They served two desserts. A decidedly uninspiring phirni and an orgasmic (I don’t use this term lightly) gulab jamun.

I am surprised to say that after the daal my favourite dish of the afternoon was the tandoori aloo, something I almost never order in Delhi. With each mouthful of the fluffy potatoes drenched in ginger, chilli, coriander and stuffed with nuts and raisins, I disappeared from the room a little. I was six and decorating Mamma’s Gingerbread Men. I was seven, on the roof with Papa, stealing ber off our neighbour’s tree. I was nine and had just touched snow for the first time at Rohtang Pass. I was twelve and was waking up from my first night on a houseboat in Kashmir. I was fifteen and kissing my grandmother goodbye for the last time. I was home.

-p

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Filed under Daal, Dilli, Foodie Events, Hotel restaurant, Indian, London