Thursday 18 April 2013

Where to eat and drink in Bath

When I moved to Bristol three years ago, I was astounded to find that Bath is pretty much right next door (my mental geography image of this part of the UK at that time mostly consisting of the word ‘Cider’ scrawled across the South West portion of the map, in crayon). It is in fact a mere 15 minutes away on the train from Temple Meads and it’s fair to say that it’s bloody lovely. 

As you are no doubt aware, I’m a sophisticated chap and like nothing more than a meander around this rather beautiful city gawping at some Georgian architectural majesty. Innit. As such, I have visited Bath a fair old bit and I reckon I have a pretty good handle nowadays on where’s good for a drink or something to eat and I want to share this hard earned information with you.

Now before I begin, as with my previously published Bristol guide to eating and drinking, I should point out these are the places I like, so bear that in mind whilst reading and subsequently spraying tea over your screen in a flabbergasted manner, then resultantly pounding out an angry comment, all elbows and arses. 

Saying that, I’m not ashamed to point out that I have supremely good taste and you could do far worse than to follow my guidance on such matters.

So, lets get cracking… 

Colonna and Smalls
First of all, coffee. This is undoubtedly the best place to get ‘cwaffee’ in Bath, in fact it’s probably the best place to get coffee in the South West. These guys take their brewing so seriously, it’s verging on geeky. I love it. Oh, and the cakes are bloody nice too.

6 Chapel Row
Telephone: 07766 808 067

The Star Inn
A fairly new discovery for me. One of the most beautiful and unspoilt pubs I’ve ever sipped a pint in. Seriously, the interior looks like it hasn’t changed since at least 1935. It’s like stepping back in time. No fruit machine, no flat screen TV, no garish posters offering 2 for 1 on WKD, just a fire in the grate and a background murmur of conversation and laughter. Absolute pub heaven.  I reckon the locally brewed Bellringer Ale is the drink to order.  

23 The Vineyards Off the Paragon (A4)
BA1 5NA 
Telephone: 01225 425 072

Sam’s Kitchen
An Ottolenghi’ish display of beautifully heaped salads, cooked meat and cakes greet you as step into this cracking little café. The lunch I ate here recently was probably one of the best I’ve eaten anywhere in Bath. A plate piled with various salads topped with slices of roast lamb and olive tapenade. Superb. The excellent aforementioned Star Inn is just in the next street up. 

61 Walcot Street
Telephone: 01225 481159

The Chequers
I had a cracking lunch in this Bath Gastropub and was so inspired by the dessert I ate, Elly and I nicked the idea for one of our most successful ‘Basement’ desserts. Looking at the menu, puddings are a particularly strong section. The set lunch menu is decently priced. The sister pub to The Chequers, The Marlborough Tavern is just nearby. I’ve had some extremely nice food there and some that’s been just OK, so I’ve found it a little inconsistent to be honest, nevertheless it has a superb beer garden, if the sun’s shining. 

50 Rivers St
Telephone: 01225 360017

Bertinet Bakery
I’m a huge fan of Richard Bertinet’s excellent sourdough. Definitely pick up some of that, even if you’re just visiting Bath for the day, (preferably sliced) it keeps really well and toasts nicely from frozen and while you’re at it, grab some pastries and cakes too. Everything is superb.

6 New Bond Street Place

Green Park Farmers Market
If you’re in Bath on a Saturday morning, head over to Green Park (formerly a train station) for the Farmers Market. There’s a fair bit of local produce on offer. I particularly recommend Homewood Cheese for their Ewe’s Curd. It’s cracking. Colonna & Smalls is located just around the corner, so get a coffee first to drink as you walk round.

Every Saturday 9am – 1:30pm
Green Park Station
Green Park Road
The King William
A lovely little Bath gastropub set over a couple of floors. There’s a bar and a small dining room on the ground floor and a couple of attractive dining rooms upstairs. There are some extremely nice wines on their list and some great local ales on tap.  Elly and I had a stonking Sunday lunch here.
36 Thomas Street 
Tel: 01225 428096
Chef Chris Staines, formerly of the Michelin starred Mandarin Oriental in London has recently made the move to Bath and already achieved some rather impressive reviews from national newspaper reviewers, including Jay Rayner of The Observer and John Walsh in the Independent. Hard to believe the restaurant is located in a Best Western hotel, nevertheless the food is beautifully cooked. The set lunch menu is a bit of a bargain. I’m really looking forward to eating there again.

Best Western Abbey Hotel
North Parade
Telephone: 01225 805245
Hare and Hounds
Since I last ate here, a new head chef has arrived so until I go back, I can’t really recommend the food (Although the pub has the same owners as The Chequers and The Marlborough Tavern so the odds are it should be fairly decent). The reason I’ve included this pub in my Bath recommendations is the view. This place has the most amazing vista over the surrounding countryside, both from within the interior of the pub and outside in a rather lovely terrace and garden. Although it’s a little way out of town, if the weathers nice, head here for a drink and if you do have some food, let me know if it’s any good.

Lansdown Road
Telephone: 01225 482682
Finally, a couple of non-food related Bath tips… 

Bath Thermae Spa
Something to do in Bath that I highly recommend, especially if you’re in town midweek. (It gets stupidly packed at the weekend) The Bath Thermae Spa is absolutely frigging uber. Yes, it’s not cheap at £26 for 2 hours (Although if you’ve travelled to Bath on the train, print this voucher out and get 4 hours for the price of 2) but it’s worth it. Seriously, floating  in a warm open-air pool up on the roof, the surrounding countryside visible through the steam rising around you just has to be experienced…unless you don’t like pools. Personally I could have floated around in there all day. Tres ancient Roman. As I said, go midweek, in the morning, for the best experience. 

The Hetling Pump Room, 
Hot Bath St
Telephone: 0844 888 0844

Found is a shop owned by friends of mine and Elly’s, located just over Pulteney bridge. It’s basically full of extremely cool and well-chosen items, clothes, cards, stationery, bits and bobs and magazines (they stock David Chang’s Lucky Peach). Apparently Vogue has listed it as one of the top 100 stores outside of London, dahling. Well worth poking your head in for a look. Tell them Dan and Elly sent you to get 150% added on to anything you buy.

17 Argyle Street,
Telephone: 01225422001

So that’s my Bath food and drink recommendations. It’s not an exhaustive list, I’m always finding about new places to eat and booze at. If you think I’ve missed somewhere worthwhile, or you have a recommendation, let me know.

Thursday 11 April 2013

Doughnuts Part 2 – Fennel and Raisin Custard

After the last nerve-shredding excursion to doughnut hell, I can hardly believe that I’ve managed to summon the sheer brass bollocked fortitude needed to make another attempt, but I have and this time, things were different.

First of all, I tried out a new flavour combination. Inspired by the rather bloody superb fennel and raisin bread available from Harts Bakery, (Located just around the corner from Bristol’s Temple Meads station) my doughnuts would be stuffed with fennel and raisin custard and would taste, it turns out, frigging uber. Even if I do say so myself.

Secondly, I actually followed my pastry chef mate’s tips, advice and amendments to the published St John doughnut recipe.

If you read my last post on the subject of doughnuts, you may be asking yourself why try again, Dan? Why Dan? WHY?!

Well, if I’m honest, my ridiculous sense of perfection and my mungus ego was left critically wounded by how much of a massive ball ache I found the whole process last time. I just ‘had’ to have another go at it and confirm that I’m the absolute frigging daddy / an utter half-baked cretin (delete as applicable).

Well yep, I’m pleased to report it’s cheesy grins and congratulatory back slaps all round as a sweet yeasty doughnut smell of success pervades my smug old ass right now. I honestly couldn’t be more chuffed with how they turned out this time. I rock. Totally.

If you too fancy grabbing yourself some of this impossibly self-satisfied conceit, here’s what you’ll need in addition to the doughnut recipe from my previous post, HERE.

Fennel & Raisin Custard Doughnut

You’ll Need: -
6 Tsp Fennel Seeds, Crushed (to infuse the crème patissiere)
200g Raisins
2 Tbsp Fennel Seeds, Crushed (to dust the doughnuts).

First, as my chef friend advised, after mixing your dough, don’t leave to rise as the original recipe advises, place it straight into the fridge. I made it in the evening and left it in the fridge overnight. The resulting dough was much firmer and easier to handle than on my previous attempt.

I weighed the dough out into 50g per portion, before rolling into balls to rise, with my hands coated with a little sunflower oil.

Also as advised, I placed the doughnuts on greaseproof paper, two to each piece.
When it came to frying, (at 175C) I dropped both into the fryer at once, paper and all, holding onto the edge of the greaseproof and pulling it away as they dropped into the hot oil. This saved me handling the doughnuts and squashing them, something that caused me so much frustration last time.

When dusting your just fried doughnuts add a couple of tablespoons of finely crushed fennel seeds to the caster sugar.

The other changes are to the crème patissiere recipe, at the beginning; add 6 tsp of crushed fennel seeds to the milk and vanilla pods mix to infuse.

Finally, pour boiling water over the raisins and leave them for a few minutes, to puff up a bit, before straining and stirring through the finished crème-pat. No one likes a flaccid raisin.

So that, as they say, is that. I can hold my head high (and suck my stomach in even more) I have persisted and prevailed over doughnuts!
* Wild Applause*