We’re beginning to sample the gastronomic delights of Somerset, and couldn’t resist visiting Matt’s Kitchen, in Bruton High Street. Actually what we really visited was Matt’s sitting room, which he’s turned into possibly the smallest restaurant I’ve ever been to. Small in size but certainly not on style: this is a bold venture in many ways.
Bold because, firstly, Matt’s Kitchen is only open for lunch on weekdays and a couple of evenings a week. Usually: it’s all very much a question of what suits Matt. He likes to keep his weekends free, but he sometimes hosts private dinner parties on other evenings too. Well if you can run a viable restaurant business without working too many unsocial hours, then why not?
The menu is bold too in it’s simplicity: it’s different each day, and published once a week (he sticks it in his window). What Matt shows on the menu is the main course of the day only – and even with that there’s a caveat that this is the plan, but it might change if he finds something else better. The day we went he’d advertised Provencal fish stew, and that was indeed what we were served as a main course. It was served On a bed of leeks with aioli and chunks of bread, and was perfectly good (although the potatoes could have been cooked a little longer).
The rest of the menu was recited to us by Matt. There was a small choice of starters: J had Matt’s homemade merguez sausages. They were very good. The family on the next table decided they were the best sausages they’d ever had (it’s that sort of place: a dream for eavesdroppers).
I had a mackerel mousse (light but large), and we also had a plate of three fresh salads (fennel and orange, marinated courgette ribbons, and fresh leaves). Matt gave us some green olive and almond tapenade too, which was delicious.
The puddings were great. Rhubarb ice cream with poached rhubarb was yummy (if you like ice cream with a crystalline texture, which I do). Lemon syllabub – again with poached rhubarb – was rich, creamy, and unctuous.
I have to say it took a bit of a leap of faith to eat in Matt’s kitchen, but it was worth it. There isn’t really any choice to speak of in any of the menu: when we had some choice it was because there was one dish left presumably from the previous day. And we had no idea what the prices of the starters or puds were going to be until the bill arrived. But with starters at £4, the mains at £10, and puds at £4 we came away with a very reasonable bill of £43 for 2 (we had 3 starters and there’s a small charge for corkage).
The decor is quirky and fun: a mixture of ancient blue Lias flagstones, timbers, a big inglenook, and white walls complemented by a very eclectic and characterful mix of 50s/70s furniture. The shelves display an amazing collection of bizarre artefacts (mostly vintage plastic toys and household implements) painted turquoise in true art-school chic. Sounds odd maybe, but it gives a very contemporary vibe and it works. Matt himself was charming, and quite how he manages to cater for 16 people and play host with only one helper as far as I could see is an incredible feat. Obviously lots of advance preparation, but the meal was none the worse for it.
Matt’s Kitchen is certainly one of the more unusual restaurants I’ve eaten in in this country, and definitely one of the more interesting. There’s something about the scale of the operation and the way you have to surrender to Matt’s menu that gives the meal a little drama and the sense of it all being a bit of An Experience. I’ll definitely be back for more. Booking essential: 01749 812 027