Zürich, London, New York, LA, Hong Kong… and Bruton. Hauser & Wirth, the modern and contemporary art gallery, opened an arts centre just outside the small, pretty Somerset town in July 2014: an ambitious, beautiful conversion of an old farm, it also boasts an acre and a half of perennial meadow, two shops selling books and locally made handicrafts, a six-bedroom farmhouse available for rent, and Smiljan Radić’s Pavilion, last seen at the Serpentine Gallery in summer 2014.
Just as importantly for hungry culture vultures like The Gannet, the venue also has an excellent restaurant. Roth Bar & Grill is a gem of a place, an old cowshed transformed into a vibrant, buzzy dining room, preserving many of its original architectural features, but now with dozens of artworks on the walls, loosely themed around food and farming: Henry Moore’s drawing of a lobster’s claws is especially fine.
Start with a cocktail – many feature spirits infused with herbs and hedgerow fruits – from the remarkable bar: a tribute to Swiss artist Dieter Roth, it was built from scavenged materials (a central motif of Roth’s art) by his son and grandson. Then, order some sustenance from the menu. A plate of home‑cured charcuterie with buffalo mozzarella, perhaps, featuring excellent, clove-scented bresaola; sweet and nutty lomo; a pleasingly squidgy pig’s head terrine; and a grilled flatbread, smothered in herbs and lemon.
Big, buttery, garlicky Lyme Bay scallops cling tenaciously to their shells, breadcrumbs adding crunch; perfectly pink chicken livers are doused in a pepper sauce that soaks into sourdough toast. Main courses are similarly robust and full-flavoured: venison sausages, properly gamey, are tumbled together on the plate with cavolo nero, Puy lentils and a spicy, intense tomato sauce; a side order of green and yellow wax beans is winningly dressed with Parmesan, lemon and marjoram.
A thick, medium-rare chunk of rump steak arrives black-striped from the grill, with a disc of mushroom and some tarragon butter melting happily on its surface, its buttery strip of fat showing the quality of the beef. Chips are superb; watercress and radish salad a good foil for the meat.
Roth Bar & Grill is exactly what a country restaurant should be: its combination of a laid-back dining room and a serious kitchen would not feel out of place in Shoreditch, while the twin rustic virtues of a friendly welcome and top-notch local ingredients make for a hugely rewarding meal. Chef Steve Horrell and wife Jules, who runs front-of-house, have created a restaurant with real heart and soul.
There is a glass chamber to the left of the entrance – lined with more than 500 Himalayan pink salt bricks, it contains several animal carcasses slung from hooks. This is not, however, a Damien Hirst-inspired artwork: it fulfils a more practical function, ageing the farm’s beef, lamb, pork and game for up to 60 days. Now that’s what I call an installation.