#exploring Somerset: At The Chapel

at the chapel, bruton | simple pretty

street entrance (photo taken on sunny Saturday)

July has been the month of quick weekend getaways. (I excel at two-day vacations. I know: so American.) This past weekend, we took a Friday night train to Bruton so I could finally check At The Chapel off of my London Bucket List. The restaurant/bakery/hotel opened in 2008, and I think I’ve been plotting my visit since shortly after that.

It was a very rainy Friday, but thankfully it had slowed to a mist by the time we arrived at the station in Bruton and made the short walk to the property. We quickly checked in and then hurried downstairs for our 7:15 dinner reservation.

dining room, at the chapel | simple pretty

dining room

Our table was along one side of the chapel-turned-restaurant and I started to take in the surroundings. The restaurant quickly filled for Friday dinner: high ceilings and white walls helped disguise the dreary weather.

pizza at the chapel | simple pretty

pizza prep

The restaurant is known for its pizza, and I love pizza, so ordering was a no-brainer. (Don’t the carry-out boxes look great?)

dinner at the chapel | simple pretty


To add a bit of adventure to our pizza-and-salad meal, we added a side of Stills Farm carrots. They were amazing — buttery, colorful, and full of flavor. (In case you were wondering, the chorizo pizza was delicious, too.)

croissants and coffee at the chapel | simple pretty

room service breakfast

In the morning, guests at the hotel receive croissants at 7am, which arrive in a bag hung from your door knob (just in case your day starts later than 7). There is fresh butter and jam in the mini-fridge, and a French press for your coffee. Such an easy, elegant way to have room service!

bakery goods at the chapel | simple pretty

pastry + baked goods display

Of course, one pastry was never going to cut it for breakfast, so we headed downstairs a bit later to peruse the bakery‘s pastry table.

bread at the chapel | simple pretty

fresh-baked bread

Loaves of bread lined another wall, and most of it was gone by the afternoon, when we returned for lunch: this time, on the outdoor terrace (Saturday was sublime: gorgeous + sunny) with burgers and beer and yes, more carrots.

bakery/coffee at the chapel | simple pretty

view into bakery/pizza area

One of the highlights of my visit was meeting At The Chapel’s owners, Catherine Butler and Ahmed Sidki, at checkout. (They were manning the “front desk” when we came to collect our bags.) I was grateful to be able to tell them in person them how much I enjoyed our experience at their hotel. I also seized the opportunity to ask Catherine a few questions about the bottled wine they sell, as I was particularly curious about how an Oregon wine, Evolution, ended up on their short list. (At The Chapel’s retail selection is identical to the restaurant’s wine list, so if you find a favorite while dining, you can buy a bottle to enjoy at your leisure.)

all photos by jane potrykus

I didn’t take any photos of our room, but we stayed in room 5, which is on the top floor + offers magnificent views of Bruton.  The room was spacious, comfortable + perfectly appointed (Ren products are featured in the bath). I’d stay there again in a heartbeat, though I’m tempted to try room 8 next time, as it opens onto a private courtyard.

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Fern Verrow

fern verrow cookbook | simple pretty


The older I get, the harder I am to impress. And while I haven’t exactly been a star pupil of the Marie Kondo method, I have been quick to apply Kondo’s “Does it spark joy?” rule when considering new purchases. The brand-new Fern Verrow cookbook passes the Kondo test with flying colors: it’s full of joy.

A bit of background: Fern Verrow is a biodynamic farm located at the foothills of the Black Mountains in Herefordshire, England. When Jane Scotter and Harry Astley started out in 1996, they were new to farming but chose to educate themselves in the principles of biodynamic farming. The result is an intensely intentional approach, focused on the land both seasonally and holistically, often with a touch of spirituality. The couple incorporate many beautiful rituals into the work of a Fern Verrow farming year, but the story of Three Kings Day (January 6) is especially telling. Gold, frankincense and myrrh are ground into a powder that is added to water and then carefully — and deliberately — that bucket of water is used to sprinkle and hand-brush the elements onto all corners of the property. The time spent on this allows for reflection on the year that has passed as well as hopes and plans for the coming year. (The story is also a reminder that farming is hard work, even in January.)

The couple’s narrative makes for great reading. Through their stories of work and celebrations at Fern Verrow, I found myself drawn into the rhythm of the seasons and at times romanticizing about a farm of my own.

eggs: fern verrow cookbook | simple pretty

eggs (spring)

Thankfully, the cookbook appeals whether you’re in it for substance (the farming information and seasonal recipes) or style (with gorgeous photography by Tessa Traeger).

spring garden sandwiches: fern verrow cookbook | simple pretty

garden sandwiches (spring)

In the spring, nothing is simpler (or tastes better) than a radish sandwich — hopefully, with plenty of fresh butter.

edible flowers: fern verrow cookbook | simple pretty

edible flowers (summer)

A summer salad crafted from edible flowers is not only aesthetically pleasing, but healthfully decadent (and yes, delicious).

ducklings: fern verrow cookbook | simple pretty

ducklings (spring)

Is there anything cuter than a paddling of fuzzy yellow ducklings?

BBQ chicken w/sweetcorn and lime leaf relish: fern verrow cookbook | simple pretty

the recipe that sold the book (summer)

What impressed me the most about the book is that the recipes were approachable. As I flipped through it on the display table at my local shop, I could actually imagine making most of the recipes. In fact, the one that sold the cookbook for me sounds straight out of an American cook-out: barbecued chicken with sweetcorn and lime leaf relish. (Perhaps the Lime Leaf Relish renders it English?) I can almost taste it from the photo and when I have a patio and a grill again, it will be one of the first meals on the docket.

The farm used to operate a weekly stall at London’s Spa Terminus (Nigel Slater was one of their regular customers.)* These days, Fern Verrow supplies Spring, Skye Gyngell’s restaurant at Somerset House, for the ultimate in farm-to-table dining.

Fern Verrow (Quadrille, £25) is available in the US (and UK) via Amazon.

photographs of book excerpts by jane potrykus

(to see more from Fern Verrow, follow them at Instagram)

if, like me, you’re curious about what the Fern Verrow stall looked like, Tina at Colour Living took some lovely photos during her visit in 2012.

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#exploring Bath: The Fig Store

the fig store, bath | simple pretty

the fig store | 76 walcot street

I’ve been to Bath twice now: my introduction to the city was a whirlwind day trip showcasing the best of the city, courtesy of my host, Cereal Magazine‘s über-chic travel savant, Editor-in-Chief Rosa Park. Even at our not-enough-time frenetic pace, I could sense Bath’s laid-back vibe and fell in love with the city’s gorgeous Georgian architecture.

Earlier this month, my husband and I returned to Bath to continue the exploration at a more leisurely pace. One place I was eager to get back to was The Fig Store. The home and garden shop opened on Walcot Street in summer 2014 after an initial run on Milson Place as Fig and Pinker. To me, the new location is perfect, as Walcot Street feels like Bath’s art/design district (although truthfully, much of the city feels like an art/design district).

the fig store, bath | simple pretty

the view from the shop entrance

What made me fall in love with The Fig Store was its uncanny ability to read my mind and stock everything I need/want to bring my dream home to life: this refectory table on the shop’s ground floor showcased utilitarian luxe® goods perfect for entertaining simply with great style.

stoneware at the fig store, bath | simple pretty


A charcoal-black cabinet was filled with covetable creamy-white stoneware.

the fig store, bath | simple pretty

a range of plants for sale in the newly-opened garden

New this summer is The Fig Store’s courtyard garden area, elegantly showcasing a range of outdoor furnishings and plants. I rued the fact that we’re renters, as I wanted to scoop up one of everything and start a simple pretty London city garden.

garden at the fig store, bath | simple pretty

a view of the newly-opened garden from inside the shop

The shop is open Monday through Saturday, with the exception of Bank Holidays. If you visit the UK, a trip to Bath (and The Fig Store) should be high on your list. (A glimmer of hope: online shopping seems to be in the works.)

The Fig Store / 76 Walcot Street / Bath

Monday-Saturday, 10:00 – 5:30

+44 (0) 12 2542 8031

all photos by jane potrykus

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Photo Favorites: July 2015

bath, england: july 2015 photo favorites | simple pretty

Summer 2015 is racing along. So far, I’ve survived an early-July London heat wave, the Tube strike, and have just returned from an overnight trip to Bath. It’s such an elegant, livable city, and the feel is what I’d like to capture in our next spot. Big enough for options (and cafes); small enough for quiet. Ideas and suggestions are most welcome.

This week, a dear friend is in London on business but she’s set aside a bit of time for a girlfriends’ catch-up. I’m really looking forward to it, as her insights and advice are always just what I need.

While I ponder the future, but try to stay in the present so as to drink in every minute, here are a few of the Instagram pics that have captured my heart this month:

  1. Private lake for the day…
  2. Love the alphabet magnet menu …
  3. That pull toward large bodies of water …
  4. #twelvedaysofpumpernickel
  5. Provincetown shop
  6. Tiny (mini) @gailsbakery snax
  7. yep, it’s summer in st. ives
  8. What I wouldn’t do right now …
  9. The amazing artwork of Norichika Kitamura
  10. Apricots, peaches, tomatoes and strawberries …
  11. Current mood : White on white!!
  12. starting to work on my next book …
  14. { Lazy Sunday } …
  15. Two olives
  16. I can’t say no to this stuff …
  17. Ice-cream number 2, with fruit …
  18. the tour begins!
  19. Floriole is closed for the Fourth …
  20. And back in London….
  21. Sunday lunch
  22. Frilly.
  23. untitled
  24. a pleasant surprise …
  25. Tiny pincg bowls.
  26. part 2 die-cut …
  27. 3-for-1 canelés!! …
  28. We’re ready for you x
  29. A swath of ice cream coloured flowers

photo at top: bath, england view by jane potrykus

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appointed notebooks + desktop supplies | simple pretty

The search for Utilitarian Luxe® notebooks and office supplies used to lead straight to Japan and Korea, where, armed with Google Translate, one could hunt down a gorgeous minimalist notebook, but good luck finding your quarry in the US! Designer Suann Song took note of this gap in the market, and taking matters into her own hands, launched Appointed this spring via a wildly-successful Kickstarter campaign.

Appointed is proudly hand-crafted in the USA from high-quality paper stock + materials, using an understated, neutral-but-elegant color palette. Suann assiduously prototyped the line and sent samples around for feedback from aesthetically-minded friends. The result is a gorgeously luxe (yet undeniably practical) collection that debuted to rave reviews. Now that delivery to Kickstarter investors is complete, the Appointed webshop is open and stocked with the introductory range of notebooks, notepads, desk supplies, and gifts. (For the ultimate luxe accent, notebooks can be customized with a foil-stamped monogram for an additional fee.)

My Kickstarter donation netted me some notebooks (7.5″ x 9.5″), workbooks (6.5″ x 8.5″), a ‘to-do list’ notepad, and some sticky notes, but what I am eagerly awaiting is Appointed’s take on the perfect planner. I have a feeling I’m going to need one to keep track of 2016: it’s going to be a busy year.

Appointed is set to launch to wholesalers at NY Now in August.

appointed signature notebook in charcoal | simple pretty

signature notebook | charcoal

appointed workbook in canvas white | simple pretty

workbook in canvas white (+ appointed business card)

appointed 'to do' pad | simple pretty

‘to do’ pad

appointed adhesive note set | simple pretty

adhesive note set: lined + grid

image at top from appointed.com; all other photos by jane potrykus

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