i recently went to bath for the first time. it is a beautiful city and my friend amanda and i ate beautiful food. lots of beautiful food.
supper on friday night was at the wheatsheaf in combe hay. named as a rising star in the 2008 michelin guide, we had high hopes for this pub turned restaurant with rooms which is in the village of combe hay, four miles outside bath.
the setting is absolutely wonderful – we sat out in their gardens for a pre-supper drink and admired the views over the surrounding countryside. the pub décor is contemporary and the staff very welcoming. we also made friends with a rather beautiful chocolate brown spaniel who was on the look out for tummy-rubs.
the food was lovely but neither of us could see what had caught the michelin inspector’s eye to label it a rising star. i started with slow roast pork belly, tempura of baby squid and sweet chilli. everything was delicious but the different components remained distinct and didn’t come together to create something extra. my main was loin of mendip lamb, aubergine caviar, confit garlic and summer vegetables. the lamb was fabulous but again the dish as a whole didn’t sing and the aubergine was very indistinct. to finish, amanda and i chose a cheese board which was wonderful. the wheatsheaf has a fabulous cheese menu and we chose a selection of english cheeses which were served with a variety of delicious homemade biscuits.
we spent much of saturday exploring bath and, as a treat for all our pavement-pounding, we decided that a champagne cream tea was called for! we visited the much-praised pump rooms but found the setting sterile so decided to opt for tea on the lawns at the royal crescent hotel.
the food was abundant but we would have preferred a better balance between sweet (excess) and savoury (dearth). the setting is stunning on a sunny afternoon – there is a spa at the hotel so many people were sitting in white robes as they ate their teas; others were playing croquet – but it comes at a price. we spent almost £100 between the two of us and that only included two glasses of champagne each.
a late supper at the olive tree restaurant restored us. set in the queensberry hotel this restaurant lacks character but the food was truly delicious. perhaps inspired by the various pigs we saw scattered around the city, again i chose pork belly to start, this time served with pickled vegetables and plum fritter. the combination of flavours worked perfectly with the slightly acidic pickles cutting through the rich sweet flavours of the pork. plum instead of the more obvious apple was a lovely touch. amanda’s panfried scallops with celeriac pure, apple and pecan salad were also a lesson in flavour and texture combining.
our main courses we similarly good – while my grilled red mullet with warm nicoise salad tasted of the sea, amanda’s venison with crushed roasted celeriac and beetroot marmalade tasted of the earth. this was food cooked to celebrate nature’s bounty.
and that was it. we stayed in a lovely little guesthouse which is just off the royal crescent and is very affordable, unlike many of bath’s other accommodation options. i’m looking forward to going back to bath and already have the perfect excuse as bath is a city which david has never visited. i must share it with him! and see how the pigs are getting on…
combe hay, bath ba2 7eg
telephone: 01225 833504
the royal crescent hotel
16 royal crescent, bath ba1 2ls
telephone: 1225 823333
olive tree restaurant
the queensberry hotel, russel street, bath ba1 2qf
telephone: 1225 447928