1 Michelin Star Chefs: Merlin Labron-Johnson, chef owner, Osip

The  Staff Canteen

Merlin Labron-Johnson is the chef and owner of Osip in Bruton, Somerset. 

His latest venture, a step away from the hustle and bustle of central London, has allowed Merlin to spend more time focusing on his charitable endeavours - but hasn't got in the way of accolades or critical acclaim.

Osip

Address: 1 High St, Bruton BA10 0AB

Opening hours: 

Monday Closed
Tuesday    Closed
Wednesday    Closed
Thursday    12–2:30pm, 6–9:30pm
Friday    12–2:30pm, 6–9:30pm
Saturday    12–2:30pm, 6–9:30pm
Sunday    12–2:30pm, 6–9:30pm

Website and reservations:  osiprestaurant.com

Telephone: 01749 813322

Twitter:

Instagram: @osiprestaurant

Facebook: Osip Restaurant

biography

A South Devon native, Merlin wasn't eager to follow a typical school curriculum growing up. So little so, in fact, that he changed schools regularly, until he landed in an alternative school where he was free to pursue his own ambitions. 

In his first foray into the kitchen, Merlin made a deal with the dinner lady at his school, lending a helping hand in exchange for his meals. He recalls occasions on which he even cooked for the whole school, solidifying his ambition to become a chef. 

When he left school he secured a job at a nearby cookery school, before applying for a summer job at Simon Hulstone's Michelin-starred restaurant in Torquay, The Elephant

After this, won over by the high-end world of fine dining, Merlin went to work for Michael Caines at Abode in Exeter. 

Still aged 18, Merlin's grandfather suggested he apply for a job he had heard of working in a Swiss ski resort.

He obliged, painstakingly learning French over the course of two and a half years, which culminated in his working in a two star kitchen there.

The chef then crossed the border to France to work at The Albert Premier Hotel in Chamonix - a two Michelin star restaurant, where he got the strongest possible grounding in French classical techniques one could dream of. 

Next, the chef moved to Belgium to work at In de Wulf, for eccentric and highly skillful chef Kobe Desramaults, cooking dishes using methods dating back thousands of years. He spent two years there, climbing the ranks to the position of sous-chef.

Ready to experience work in a world-city restaurant, Merlin took up an offer from Will Lander and Dan Morgenthau to open a new venture in central London - and thus Portland was born.

Within nine months of opening, the Modern British restaurant received a Michelin star, and within a year, Will, Dan and Merlin decided to open a casual sister branch to Portland, Clipstone

The chef ran the kitchens at both restaurants for an additional two years, until in 2018, he stepped away to focus on his charitable pursuits - having been heavily involved with Help Refugees and Massimo Bottura's Refettorio Felix in Earl’s Court, to name a few.

After considering locations in Sussex and Kent, in November 2019, Merlin opened Osip in rural Somerset, receiving a Michelin star for the restaurant in the 2021 guide.

Early in 2021, the chef announced plans to open The Old Pharmacy, a wine bar and grocery store near the restaurant in Brunton.

What the guides say...

Michelin

 

OSIP

Located in the second smallest town in the UK, the building itself, a former ironmongers, has four rooms above it, with an extra out-house to put up more guests behind it. 

Described by the chef as a "tiny farm-to-table restaurant in the heart of Somerset," Osip seats 30 people at maximum capacity.

Merlin opened Osip with the view of utilising products either grown by the team or by organic farmers in surrounding villages (though Merlin resists using the 'farm-to-table' description) to create terroir-focused dishes with West country ciders, small-batch wines or a non-alcoholic pairing featuring sodas, teas, juices and ferments.

The no-menu dinner format means that guests are led through courses at the chef's whim, while at lunchtime they are asked to choose between a menu du jour or a tasting menu.

A typical meal only includes a few elements of game and poultry and emphasises the quality of the vegetables on the plate.

Michelin singles out the following three dishes from the menu to reflect the chef's style: Velouté of cep mushrooms with truffle and hazelnut oil; roast chicken, boudin noir, grilled cabbage and liver sauce; sheep’s yoghurt mousse with blackberries and sorrel ice cream.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th June 2021

1 Michelin Star Chefs: Merlin Labron-Johnson, chef owner, Osip