Somerset’s Osip fundraises for pastures new

Chef Merlin Labron-Johnson has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds so his high-achieving but tiny Somerset restaurant, Osip, can move into new, much larger premises.

The new Osip will be a “country auberge” offering accommodation as well as meals, set in a restored historical building in the countryside a few miles from the current location in Bruton. Work has been under way for eight months, and the new funds will allow it to be completed so the new venture can open next year.

The campaign has raised £80,000 – two-thirds of its £125,000 target – in its opening week, with 25 days still to go. Pledges range from £25 for a tote bag to various meal options from £150 for two up to £8,000 for a bespoke meal at home for 15 guests.

Merlin made his reputation at London restaurants Portland and Clipston before moving to rural Somerset, where Osip has won an army of admirers. The 2023 Harden’s guide hails his cooking for “daring to be different” – “I was absolutely stunned by the intensity of flavours, the simple presentation and responsible sourcing of ingredients“.

Introducing the fundraiser, Merlin says: “Osip first opened in November 2019, just a few months before the Covid-19 pandemic. It was thanks to the support of our local community, our landlords and our incredible team, that we were able to not only survive the multiple lockdowns and corresponding economic hurdles – but grow our tiny restaurant into something that we are every proud of.

We emerged from Covid-19 with a new vision: To create a restaurant that is unique in that we will not offer a menu to our guests but instead, cook for them using ingredients that we have grown ourselves on a small farm that we had been able to build during lockdowns. Our core focus was to create joy and beautiful moments through food, drink and the kind of hospitality that transcends reasonable expectations. Collaboration, creativity, kindness and beauty have been four guiding principles that have shaped our work since the beginning and are the values that project us forward into our next project: Osip 2.0.

The new Osip will take shape in a more remote location, just outside Bruton. Amongst rolling hills and at the foot of a beautiful pine forest, our destination becomes more that just a restaurant. It is our home. Our house. A country auberge where you can stay the night, explore the gardens, take a tour of the kitchen and relax by the fire for an after dinner drink. In keeping with Osip tradition, our house will feature works by some of the most talented artists, creating a holistic space that shines a gentle light on the emerging crafts movement, through the medium of delicious food.”

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