Merlin Labron-Johnson has known he wanted to be a chef ever since he was a teenager - growing up in Devon he was surrounded by the local agriculture and grew up eating with the changing of the seasons.
We speak to him about his Somerset kitchens, Osip and The Old Pharmacy.

Can you tell us a bit about you and how you came to be a chef?

I fell into cooking after striking a deal with the school cook who let me help her in exchange for lunches. I was sold. From then on, becoming a chef became my sole focus. This took me to Europe where I gained experience in some amazing kitchens in France, Belgium and Switzerland before moving to London where I headed up the kitchen at Portland restaurant before making the move to Somerset.

What made you decide to open your own farm-to-table restaurant?

For me, being so close to the source of what you're cooking is so enriching. There’s a saying among chefs that you’re only as good as your ingredients which rings so true. My cooking has always been ingredient-lead, so what better way than opening a farm-to-table restaurant, growing the produce with my own hands, to put this into practice. Creating the menu around what we have grown feels so natural and while it can be somewhat restrictive at times, this is where all the creativity starts.

Can you tell us what we can expect when booking a table at Osip?

Led by our locally grown, seasonal produce, the cooking is inspired by my time spent at the ‘tables d’hôte’ in rural France. Our menu is created around what we have that day and comprises six unpretentious and simple dishes. We really want to celebrate the bounty of the countryside that surrounds the restaurant, as well as for our guests to be able to enjoy our charming Bruton setting and intimacy of the rustic yet contemporary dining space. Osip was newly opened when the pandemic hit, so we had time to really refine what we were doing and hit the ground running when we reopened.

Are there any other local companies you'd like to shout about? Where do you usually eat, drink, and source ingredients in your local area?

There really are so many, I love to think of Somerset as this rich pantry of the UK with so much amazing produce on offer. A few highlights are Tamworth Pig Charcuterie and Fine & Foster and Pilton ciders. Westcombe Dairy is local to us for incredible cheeses, Vulscombe goat’s cheese is also sublime. The list is endless. We’ve actually made a cider in collaboration with Martin Berkley of Pilton which is on the menu at Osip. Lots of the food and drink from the local producers I’ve mentioned will be available at The Old Pharmacy - our new opening, a relaxed shop-cum-wine bar, just a couple of doors down from Osip. I also love stopping by The Seymour Arms for a cider and the bakery At The Chapel, both in Bruton.

You're a fan of Falcon Enamelware. What’s your favourite product and what do you use it for?

I must say I really love the pie set. There's something so comforting about the ritual of a steaming pie and being able to serve it up, right from the oven, in beautiful enamelware is a real winner.

How have you been keeping during this time? Do you have any tips for small business owners and creatives?

In many ways the pandemic has afforded me the time outdoors in Osip’s kitchen garden and at our local aquaponic farm to learn more deeply about growing all of our own produce, time I wouldn’t have necessarily had during service at the restaurant. It’s been a real godsend having the beautiful Somerset countryside surrounding us. For small business owners and creatives, now is a time to lean on your community more than ever. This pandemic has forced us to be hyper-local which I think can offer us so much more than we might have previously thought. Our Bruton community has been so crucial to us, everyone is so creative and supportive, we’ve built some wonderful relationships with neighbours, local producers and nearby shops. It has really lifted the spirits when we’ve needed it most.

Photos of The Old Pharmacy



Pigeon Grey Utensil Pot

Pigeon Grey Pinch Pot

Pigeon Grey Pie Set


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