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A Night Away: art, food and music meet in heady unison at Boath House

Six hundred miles away from Sessions Art Club in Clerkenwell, the team behind the instantly institutional restaurant is making a second outing with their intoxicating formula of fine fare, art and a good soundtrack in a beautified Georgian pile… Only this time you can stay. Inigo beds down for the night

A Night Away: art, food and music meet in heady unison at Boath House

If you have ever ascended the lift that brings you to Sessions Art Club, the restaurant housed in the judges’ dining room of an old courthouse in Clerkenwell, London, then you will feel a strange sense of continuity approaching Boath House. For, though it may be 600 miles and a border away from its London counterpart, there is that same wonderful sense of arrival: a feeling of the outside world and its troubles slipping away, that the next few hours – or days, in this case – are going to be an awful lot of fun indeed.

At Boath House, that arrival entails a sweeping lawn-flanked driveway, the culmination of which is a quietly grand 19th-century Palladian house. Inside, beyond the towering columns, general manager Massimo awaits, handing you his card and telling you to contact him, day or night, whatever you need. He points to the drawing room on the right, where a sound system plays music at the perfect volume and there is a help-yourself drinks cabinet. Condensation trickles down a bottle of champagne in an ice bucket. Across the hall there is a smaller library-like room with a bookshelf lined with fine whiskies. Downstairs, Massimo explains, is a listening room with a turntable, TV and enough snacks to see you through a Star Wars marathon twice over. Would we like the Estonian wood sauna lit after dinner?

Not much of it feels like a formal check-in – something very much by design. “The starting place wasn’t ‘Let’s open a hotel,’” explains Jonny Gent, the artist and bon vivant, who, along with head chef Florence Knight and architect Russell Potter, is behind it all. Gent spent years living a peripatetic existence, painting and hosting guests in the 40-plus studios he’s worked in across the world, from Bangkok to LA. “I was tired of constantly moving, so I stayed up late one night and wrote down an idea – for spaces that would bring together music, art and food. Sessions is the first, but I always knew I wanted to do something in the Highlands – my studio here has always been one I return to,” he explains.

The ‘music, art, food’ thing may sound high-concept, but there is an ease and authenticity about how they’re brought together that amounts to a gentle immersion, rather than a force-feeding. The soundtrack, put together by a committee of music buffs, sets just the right tone. The first summer show brought work by the likes of Ryan Gander, Luke Edward Hall, Kate Friend and Sandro Kopp to the walls, but with a subtle at-home feeling, rather than a gallery one.

And then there is the food. Oh, the food. Dinner is taken in a pavilion a short stroll away, through a vibrantly planted walled garden and with a view of the very vegetables that end up on your plate. The Garden Café, overseen by head chef Knight, lives up to its name, with lively, fresh-tasting dishes that speak of the seasons, as well as local produce: giant radishes still with their leaves, sat next to thick crowdie, a Scottish cow’s milk cheese. Fried mussels with a dollop of parsley aioli. Smoked haddock beautifully worked into mashed potato and topped with a soft-boiled egg. A heather-honey tart that tastes of exactly that and nothing else.

As pure and comforting as the food are the interiors of Boath House. Under its previous owners, tartan and antlers abounded, but all that has happily gone, along with the dodgy colour scheme, heavy rugs and even the TVs. Some choice pieces of oak furniture remain, but they’re now backdropped by a largely neutral colour scheme and less-is-more decoration. It all gives the fabric of the building a chance to be appreciated. And what sights: Ionic columns, floor-to-ceiling sashes, a sweeping staircase, semi-domed niches and voluminous proportions all original to the 1827 design and lending a quietly luxurious feel to the place.

The sense of forthcoming fun upon arriving at Boath is not, we’re pleased to report, unrealised. The sauna, set by a river for cooling off, turns out to be a right hoot indeed, as does the listening room, where we spin Townes Van Zandt records and drink whiskies. Fishing trips, walking trails and swimming are all offered, but our rolltop bathtub, with views over the trees, keeps us inside.

Soon there will be even more to bring the place to life. A studio with a Japanese recording unit favoured by Wu-Tang Clan and Bruce Springsteen is in the works, and some of the world’s most established musical artists will be invited to use it. Hannah Cawley of Cawley Studio already provides the staff’s uniforms and is now preparing for a winter residency, during which she will use food waste to create dyes, as well as a line of clothing for the on-site store. Gent wants to offer more artists, from writers to painters, the chance to come here and create work, free from outside stresses. “If Sessions is about sanctuary, Boath is about healing,” says Gent, “We want people to come here and feel like they are having a break from the world.” Mission accomplished.

Further reading

Boath House


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