Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The Chapel, Cotford St Luke

For those that don’t know it Cotford St Luke is a relatively new village built on the site of the former Tone Vale Hospital. Some people must still feel that there is some sort of stigma attached to the name “Tone Vale” (it was the Somerset County Asylum) for the new development has been renamed “Cotford St Luke”. I’m not sure where the Cotford bit comes from, but the hospital chapel in the grounds was known as the “Church of St Luke”. 

The hospital was built in about 1895 and closed its doors 100 years later; remaining empty for a few years (if like me you have an attachment to wrecks, ruins and relics you can still find some fascinating photos taken whilst it was empty on sites such as and until building work started around it. The hospital itself has now been (and in parts is still being) renovated and remodelled as apartments as have many of the other original buildings, plenty of modern estate houses have sprung up in and around the site and after driving around for a bit we reach our destination - The Chapel itself.  Now transformed into a pub/restaurant and surrounded by little boxes it makes a change from the normal “XXth Century Coaching Inn”.

It’s 2.00pm on a Saturday. Outside the place is a little untidy but inside The Chapel is huge – and practically empty. A family of five (including granddad and grandma) are finishing a meal, and there’s one other person at the bar.  The place has been tastefully modernised, a mezzanine dining level has been put in and there must be seating for about 100 people both up there and down in the bar area. I sneak a look at the evening menu (no tuna baguette here – the kitchen is now shut), it’s all chicken stuffed with brie, slow roasted belly pork, lamb shank, grilled sea bass and three different types of steak - the sort of thing that seems to depressingly be becoming standard evening "gastro" pub fare nowadays.

All is not lost. The Chapel prides itself on being a CAMRA pub and offers a selection of beers and ciders from the Cotleigh Brewery.  Sadly the beers may be real, but the cider offering is dire – Swedish (what on earth do Swedes know about making cider?) – two different fruit flavours or an alcohol free (?!?!) variety … But good old Gold is also on offer, so I settle for a half.

After having a really good look around, trying to work out which of the interior fittings are original (the tiles) and which have been reclaimed from elsewhere (practically everything else!) I take a seat in the squishy, comfy chairs near the fireplace and avail myself of the pile of magazines on a nearby coffee table.  The place is eerily quiet – but then most of the local residents are probably out shopping and I would imagine that this place really wants to be a restaurant rather than a pub.

Seems a bit unfair to give it a score since it was standard Thatcher’s cider, I didn’t sample any food and there was no atmosphere because it was empty!  Maybe I should return for an evening meal – although to be honest the idea depresses me.

As I leave I take a quick look around the outside.  The building really is beautiful but its new setting amongst all these identikit boxes make me feel quite sorry for it and the depressed feeling increases ... maybe it's actually quite apt given the location.

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