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16th July 2019 Rebecca Burns

Eating out in Bath

The West Country has a well-earned reputation for serving up superb food, and Bath is one of the region’s key gastronomic hubs. Fresh local produce, award-winning restaurants, cosy bistros and fashionable gastropubs all help to make Bath an ideal destination for eating out. Whatever time of year you visit, Feast in Bath delivers year-round foodie events, activities and special deals – from fermented drinks workshops, culinary walking (and sampling!) tours and English wine dinners to vegan markets, a Prosecco Festival and an art and afternoon tea workshop.

The best of British cuisine

Even if you don’t manage to attend a specific event you’ll find plenty of tantalising eating options across the city, from rustic, lively cafes through to elegant, high-end restaurants. Bath is particularly well known for its modern British cuisine, and many establishments pride themselves on sourcing as many ingredients as possible locally, gaining inspiration for their menu from the rich selection of produce available across the region. The city also has some very well-respected restaurants serving up other international dishes, too – including American, Greek, Indian, Japanese and Italian – so whatever your tastes or mood there will be somewhere to suit.

For British – and European – inspired fine dining, the award-winning Menu Gordon Jones is an unmissable experience while you’re in Bath. Avoid this place if you don’t like surprises, however: this is central to the overall experience. Featured on many prestigious foodie lists, this intimate restaurant focuses on serving impressive, exciting food with an element of surprise. The menu is designed by talented chef and owner Gordon Jones. The restaurant’s set taster menu is an excellent option for first timers, with organic and biodynamic global wines to pair with each course.

Shrimp and steak Eating out in Bath

Enjoy some delicious fine-dining on your trip to Bath

If you love wine as much as (or more than) your food, make your way to one of Bath’s newest restaurants: Le Vignoble. They serve small plates of French tapas sourced from the famous Rungis market in Paris to accompany their selection of 32 different wines which can be sampled, or purchased by the glass or bottle. Wine lovers can even serve themselves using an Enomatic self service wine machine!

For diners who would prefer to indulge in a fine dining experience without the formality, The Olive Tree is a great place to eat and drink, with an award-winning wine list and a reasonably-priced, contemporary Mediterranean-influenced menu. Given the high quality of the dishes, this three AA Rosette restaurant offers excellent value for money. The split-level dining space is fairly sparsely decorated, situated in the basement of the boutique Queensberry Hotel, but it is the fresh, seasonal dishes that are the main focus of attention. The menu has been designed by award-winning Head Chef Chris Cleghorn, who honed his skills as the protégé of a trio of world-renowned Michelin star chefs (Heston Blumenthal, Michael Caines, Adam Simmonds) so you can expect something special.

Featured on many prestigious foodie lists, Menu Gordon Jones focuses on serving impressive, exciting food with an element of surprise

European eats

Clayton’s Kitchen is a perennial favourite for local foodies and discerning travellers. Robert Clayton, the restaurant’s Chef Patron since its inception in 2012, creates uncomplicated dishes that explore and showcase the freshest and very best ingredients. He is inspired by Mediterranean and modern French cuisine. After training at Grimsby College of Technology, Robert became commis chef at Ménage a Trois in 1988. He also worked with Nico Ladenis at Chez Nico, which held three Michelin stars. He became Head Chef at Huntsrete House Hotel and received his first Michelin star in 1995, becoming one of the youngest chefs ever to do so. In 1997, he moved to head up the kitchen at the Bath Priory, where he achieved another Michelin star, which was maintained for his seven-year stay.

Also centrally located is the Circus Restaurant, a chic yet relaxed place perched on the corner of The Circus. It serves modern European food and old world wines. Chef and owner Alison Golden uses carefully-selected ingredients and cooks them simply, respecting their essential flavours while also putting her own stamp on many classical dishes to bring them up-to-date. She also uses gluten-free or no flour in most of her recipes. Meat-lovers can enjoy succulent steaks of the finest provenance and delicious sides at The Herd Steak Restaurant, which uses locally-sourced meat from Aberdeen Angus and Hereford Crosses reared in Coulston and aged for 21-28 days in Devizes. Open for lunch and dinner, this family-run restaurant is widely regarded as Bath’s best steakhouse.

If you fancy eating at a well-established, unpretentious gastropub, the Marlborough Tavern is well worth a try. Conveniently located near Royal Crescent, it’s a great place to stop if you’re sightseeing in the area. Popular with tourists and locals alike, this much-loved pub is spacious and upscale yet casual, with seating both indoors and out. It is a perfect spot for home-cooked early evening snacks and drinks, or for a more lavish dinner – and there are some interesting vegetarian options alongside tempting meat and fish dishes.

Just steps from Pultney Bridge, Blue Quails Deli has a pleasant little cafe that has earned itself a great reputation for offering fresh, high-quality food and excellent service. This place is particularly well known for its all-day breakfasts, plus the many gluten-free bread and cake options available. There is a limited amount of seating available, but if you can secure a table you will get to enjoy generous portions of delicious deli-style dishes such as fritatas, salads and “meal in a bowl” options, which combine rice, soup and meat or vegetables, and are always popular with regular customers.

Centrally located is the Circus Restaurant, a chic yet relaxed place perched on the corner of The Circus. It serves modern European food and old world wines

Tapas and burgers

Pan-European tapas restaurant Same-Same But Different aims to create a menu that is a little bit unusual, and changes with the seasons. It’s impressive to learn that everything is made from scratch on the premises, even the dressings, stocks and sauces such as mayonnaise. The cafe-style setting is laid-back and informal, and the menu is full of tempting treats, from fried oysters with fennel and lemon salad to Spanish-style tortilla with fresh aioli. Many of their dishes have exciting international influences, while their famous breakfast and brunch menu is served daily until 3.30pm (4pm at the weekend). You can also enjoy artisan sandwiches for lunch, or a simple snack of fresh home-made cake and organic Fairtrade coffee. As the evening arrives, the restaurant is transformed into a cosy, candlelit retreat serving more substantial main meals alongside a small but carefully-selected choice of wines.

Another ongoing trend in Bath, which can be seen across the UK, is an obsession with upmarket fast food restaurants. You can grab mouthwatering burgers, shakes and cocktails at tiny neighbourhood eatery Meatbusters in Victoria Buildings. There are also several well-established chains such as Gourmet Burger Kitchen and the Handmade Burger Co. – the latter of which offers a choice of over 40 different burgers, all made from scratch, on sourdough or brioche buns – alongside hand-mixed milkshakes. The city also boasts some superb fast-food take-aways when you just want to grab some food on the go.

Burger on wooden board Eating out in Bath

Burgers are all the range in Bath, with a range of great restaurants dedicated to everybody’s favourite fast-food

Schwartz Bros on Walcot Street has a well-deserved reputation as one of Bath’s finest long-standing quality burger take-aways – although possibly not serving food the fastest. This is because food is cooked to order, and it is well worth the relatively short wait. The menu offers a good choice including hamburgers, chicken burgers, and vegetarian and vegan options, plus a wide range of sauces and toppings. And to top it off, all of the ingredients are high quality: they use non-hydrogenated, non-GM rapeseed oil for frying, for example; the cheese slices are not processed; and all of the beef can be traced back to its farm of origin.

As far as take-away burgers go, you would struggle to beat Schwartz Bros, although the tiny Mr D’s in St. Georges Place is another popular alternative. If you fancy sitting down for some American food in a more refined setting, GPT Smokehouse is a great find with friendly waiting staff and delicious smoky ribs and burgers – cooked low and slow over a hickory wood fire, and served up on wooden platters. This retro-style American restaurant has all the sides and staples you’d expect, including ‘slaw, regular fries, sweet potato fries, and brownie with ice cream for dessert.

Another ongoing trend in Bath, which can be seen across the UK, is an obsession with upmarket fast food restaurants

International flavours

Californian and Tex Mex flavours dominate at Firehouse Rotisserie, an independent restaurant that has been a landmark on the Bath restaurant scene for two decades. Situated in a quiet spot just off the main shopping area, this relaxed restaurant is best known for its flame-roasted, free range rotisserie chicken in three key flavours (lemon herb, Texas spiced, and Cuban), but you can also order sourdough pizza, steaks, salads, daily specials and seasonal dishes from their busy open kitchen. Other international cuisine is also well-represented in Bath.

A popular little place to eat fantastic Greek food, for example, is Jars Meze, a friendly place located just around the corner from Victoria Art Gallery. On weekend evenings it is usually bursting at the seams so it is sensible to book a table well in advance, but it’s well worth it for the atmosphere, delicious food and reasonable prices. It’s also essential to reserve a table at popular times in cosy Sotto Sotto, a top choice for classic Italian dishes with a contemporary twist.

Just moments away from the Roman Baths, this small, vaulted cellar restaurant has been awarded “Best Italian Restaurant in Bath” at the Bath Good Food Awards. The menu is packed with simple yet enticing dishes, ranging from pistachio-crusted rack of lamb and confit Gressingham duck legs to fresh grilled swordfish with roasted vegetables – but just remember to leave room for the tartufi di cioccolato (hand-made truffles) or limoncello profiteroles with fresh, white Italian custard.

A creative menu of modern and classic Indian cuisine is available at The Mint Room, a stylish, contemporary restaurant with a reputation for great service and food. You can expect innovative dishes using many local, free-range ingredients, served in sophisticated surroundings. Giant Indian murals dominate the spacious interior at The Eastern Eye, an award-winning northern Indian restaurant housed above a bank within a splendid, three-domed Georgian building. The dining room itself started out in 1824 as a rather impressive meeting hall, but today customers – including many celebrity guests – can enjoy a wide range of tandoori and balti dishes, and some less obvious curry options. The lunchtime and à la carte meal offers are excellent value for money.

Californian and Tex Mex flavours dominate at Firehouse Rotisserie, an independent restaurant that has been a landmark on the Bath restaurant scene for two decades

Sushi, spice and vegetarian options

For a more rustic Indian experience tuck into wholesome street food without spending a fortune at Chaiwalla, a small “hole-in-the-wall” eatery on Monmouth Street, just around the corner from arts and entertainment venue Komedia. You can expect a generous portion of tasty, freshly-prepared food and, although you may have to join a queue, it is well worth the wait. This is also a good place for vegetarians and vegans to find nutritious meals packed with flavour. An alternative vegetarian destination is the cosy Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen in North Parade Passage, which has featured in the Good Food Guide. This lovely bistro opens for lunch and dinner in one of Bath’s oldest buildings, serving up seasonal, wholesome, contemporary food crafted from plants and accompanied by fine wines.

When it comes to sushi, unless you’re happy to depend on a big chain like Yo! Sushi, by far the best option in Bath is Yen Sushi, a modest establishment tucked away down a narrow street in the city centre. Despite its simple, modern décor and informal atmosphere, the food is great at this small, independent restaurant, and it’s often so popular you will find yourself waiting for a seat. The staff are friendly and on-the-ball, and you can watch the talented sushi chefs at work while you sit around the conveyor belt, choosing whatever you fancy. You can also order off menu, and there are lots of noodle dishes alongside fresh sushi options.

Sushi on tray with soy sauce and pickled ginger

There are a number of great sushi restaurants to try in Bath

Another Asian cuisine that is well-represented in Bath is Thai. One of the newest in town is Giggling Squid, part of a dynamic chain of quirky restaurants that focuses on simple, rustic Thai Tapas. For more traditional Thai décor head to the dark-wood interior of Koh Thai Tapas, where it is hard to believe it is part of a chain. It feels pretty authentic, and the tasty menu doesn’t disappoint. You can pick from a selection of spicy Thai favourites such as Thai red curry, alongside some tamer options for those with more sensitive tastebuds, and if you ask the waiting staff they will recommend dishes based on your preferences. The tapas experience to share is a great way to sample lots of different dishes, and reflects the traditional Thai way of eating together as a group.

Alternatively, on a balmy evening you could enjoy Thai food (including several gluten-free options) outside on the balcony at the friendly and very central Thai Balcony, although seating is limited so it’s worth booking ahead. Finally, if you fancy dressing up and taking a trip out of town into the rolling countryside, six miles from Bath you can indulge in food cooked to perfection by a Michelin star chef Hywel Jones and his team at Restaurant Hywel Jones at Lucknam Park Hotel and Spa. With an à la carte and a gourmet menu to choose from, you will be transported to a bygone era once you’re seating in the sophisticated dining room.


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Image credits: ©Bimo Uki/Florian Metzner/Lior Shapira/Unsplash; Nick Smith/Clayton's Kitchen; Joshua Resnick/Adobe Stock

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