The former head chef at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Fitzrovia has announced that he will leave the city to open a “tiny farm-to-table” restaurant in rural Somerset this November.
Merlin Labron-Johnson, who oversaw Portland (part of the Woodhead restaurant group which includes Quality Chop House, Emilia, and Clipstone) winning a Michelin star in 2015, made the announcement on Instagram. The chef departed Portland in October last year.
He said: “I am very excited to announce that in November I will be opening a tiny farm-to-table restaurant in the heart of rural Somerset. We will serve a little menu of home grown organic vegetables and products sourced from friends in the surrounding villages.”
The as-yet-unspecified location will also include accommodation, as Labron-Johnson looks to emulate the moves of ex-Pitt Cue founder Tom Adams at Coombeshead Farm in Cornwall and former Typing Room chef Lee Westcott at Pensons in Worcestershire.
“There will be gorgeous bedrooms, fine cider and lovely wine,” the chef said. Further announcements, he added, would be forthcoming. He also said that he would continue in his role as consultant for the Conduit, the private members club-restaurant in London’s Mayfair.
In addition to Adams at Coombeshead and Westcott at Pensons, a number of London-based chefs have departed the city for the countryside in the past two years. Most have headed for Cornwall, a produce-rich county which has forged a strong bond with some of London’s most progressive restaurants. Those who have left London include chef Tim Spedding, formerly of The Ledbury, The Clove Club, and P. Franco, who, with his partner Louisa Rødkjær, stopped off at Coombeshead Farm on his way to opening a guesthouse and restaurant called Louisana Inn. Dan Cox, ex-Fera at Claridge’s head chef left London, also for Cornwall, where he runs Crocadon Farm, in 2017.
More recently, Jeremie Cometto-Lingenheim and David Gingell, owners of London restaurants Primeur, Westerns Laundry, and Jolene opened Fitzroy in Fowey.
More soon on Labron-Johnson’s plans in Somerset.