With a history dating back to the Iron Age and Roman times, Bath is a city that still boasts a grand history. Whether visiting for a day, a weekend or longer, be sure to check out the city’s fantastic food and drink scene with our useful guide…
Take a fresh look at Bath Christmas Market!
Facebook: Bath Christmas Market
Bath Christmas Market is set to add some festive sparkle to the centre of the city again this year, from 28th November – 15th December, and this year there are even more reasons to come…
With more than 150 stalls this year, each run by a small business offering toys, jewellery, art, crafts, homeware and, of course, food, there really is something for everyone. All of the chalets are allocated giving preference to quality, handmade and locally sourced items – only the best will do for our customers! – and this year sees a third of the traders here for the first time, so you will find different gift ideas all over the market.
For foodies, this year’s event has plenty of treats. Cheese-lovers can stock up for the festive season at Bath Soft Cheese and the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company’s stalls, or seek out and try a ‘Cheese Bomb’. Those with a sweet tooth won’t want to miss Georgie Porgie Puddings, made to a secret family recipe, or sumptuous chocolate- covered honeycomb, a speciality of the Chocolate Society. For those with a more adventurous palate, try out some potted game – a modern twist on a traditional countryside favourite – or check out Purely Pickled Eggs who sell traditional British pickled eggs with ‘unique and eye-catching 21st-century flavour twists that delight pickled egg lovers everywhere.’ There are also cupcake stalls, spices, gingerbread, ciders… everything to delight a food fanatic, with plenty of tasters along the way too!
Don’t miss Bath Street, where you’ll find tiny, emerging local micro-businesses selling their products commercially for the first time, set in a pretty, icicle- laden, snowy setting – you’ll also find a great competition there, with the chance to meet Santa in Lapland!
Bath is the only Christmas market to have been awarded accreditation by Visit England as a Quality Assured Visitor Attraction – so if you are considering where you’ll go to do your Christmas shopping, remember: England’s best Christmas Market is right on your doorstep.
Bath Gift Guide
Looking for some Bath-based Christmas gift inspiration? From china to chocolate and chutneys to coffee, the city has it all. Here are some of our favourite ideas for this winter…
The Chocolate Society
The Chocolate Society is a small artisan chocolate company in the heart of rural Somerset. With a small team of talented chocolatiers they make some of the finest chocolates in the country, specialising in luxury chocolate truffles, liquid salt caramels and chocolate covered honeycomb.
All of the truffles are handmade in small batches, using only the finest ingredients. Where possible local produce is sourced, including honey from bees that live on the farm surrounding the factory. No artificial flavours or preservatives are used in any of the chocolates, all of which are available to buy online.
Personalised and branded chocolates can be made for private and corporate events as well as for luxury hotels and restaurants. The Chocolate Society also welcomes chocolate lovers to their factory to attend one of their varied chocolate courses.
The Potted Game Company
Glos. GL6 7HJ
Created by Gloucestershire chefs Rory Baxter and Jemima Palmer-Tomkinson, this award-winning potted game is a contemporary twist on an age-old idea.
Our seasonally sourced game can be served on any warm crusty bread, melba toast or just straight toast to make the ultimate snack or sophisticated starter. Or why not try on biscuits as nibbles with pre-dinner drinks?
Find The Potted Game Company in chalet number 127, on the north side of Bath Abbey at the Bath Christmas Market.
The Mixing Bowl Preserves
Come and visit our stall (132, opposite Brown’s on the north side of the Abbey) at Bath Christmas Market to try our special Christmas chutneys and preserves, along with all our old favourites and our delicious cheeses.
If you can’t make it, don’t worry: we will be at Bath Artisan Market in Green Park Station next year from February. Come and see us on the second Sunday of every month, and as a special thank you we will give you 10% discount with this advert wherever you visit us.
Bath’s Top Chefs
Green Rocket Café
1 Pierrepont Street Bath BA1 1LB
Facebook: The Green Rocket Cafe
Says Phil Pearce, “I am passionate about providing really fresh, tasty, interesting food which is approachable.
Our aim is to make everything in house from the baked beans and condiments at breakfast right through to the Indonesian tempeh that we serve on the evening menu, using organic and local ingredients where possible. My influences are drawn from over a decade of travel and working (and eating!) in restaurants around the world. It is our aim to create a warm welcoming space where you can drop in for some good food, coffee or a glass of organic wine.”
Abbey Hotel, North Parade, Bath BA1 1LF
Chris Staines has an impressive CV; he was Head Chef at Foliage, Mandarin Oriental London where he held a Michelin star for seven years, and before that he was Chef de Cuisine at Marco Pierre White’s The Oak Room, which held three Michelin stars at the time. Bath is very lucky to have a chef of this calibre and Chris has an ever-growing fan base amongst the South West’s serious foodies.
Chris has a no-nonsense philosophy when it comes to his cooking. He sources the best ingredients he can find, combines this with a high skill level in the kitchen, and produces dishes of variety and style.
“Allium is the kind of restaurant that we would all love to have nearby, the ambience is relaxed, there is a great wine list to match the food and the menu changes frequently.”
The Kilted Chef
7a Kingsmead Square,
Bath BA1 2AB
Top-quality cooking has been in Dougie’s family for generations. His great grandmother was the pastry chef to the Queen Mother at Glamis Castle. Dougie trained at the Savoy Hotel in London and won Scottish Young Chef of the Year in 1984. He then ran his own very successful restaurant in Edinburgh.
After relocating to the South West, Dougie set up The Kilted Chef in Kingsmead Square, Bath, a year ago. Cooking is an integral part of Dougie’s personality. To create his menus he draws on his Scottish heritage, combines it with a contemporary approach and some of the finest produce on offer to create ‘classic flavours with a modern twist’.
Dougie says, “I am at my happiest working in a vibrant and busy kitchen cooking for our customers. Their appreciation and enjoyment is what inspires me.”
Menu Gordon Jones
Bath BA2 3AQ
Ingenious Chef Gordon Jones produces breathtakingly beautiful and, above all, incredible taste sensations in his eponymous restaurant, Menu Gordon Jones. The waiting list at this small, eclectic restaurant already speaks volumes for the popularity of this refreshingly honest and talented chef. Gordon himself says that his passion and staff enjoying their craft translates into the amazing atmosphere you get here. “It’s an easygoing vibe, which you can relax into and be yourself, whilst enjoying top-notch food and service.”
What many people love about Menu Gordon Jones is that the menu never comes into reckoning. Several carefully chosen ingredients are meticulously assembled for each course and explained by the knowledgeable Restaurant Manager, although occasionally Chef himself will pop his head around to share his views on the ingredients he has chosen. Gordon prides himself on using the best produce available; most recently he paraded his Alba truffles amongst his guests to admire during the Taste of Menu Gordon Jones 2013 event.
Gordon’s reputation is now widespread and customers should expect an experience to remember! All the chef asks is that you come with an open mind and be prepared for orgasmic culinary sensations!
9-13 Alfred St, Lower Lansdown,
Bath BA1 2QX
Introducing Head Chef Stuart Ash…
I left school at 16 to go to Bath Catering College where I was inspired by my college tutors Kean Maslen and Steve Benison. During this time I had work experience in the pastry kitchen at the Hyatt in London working under an amazing pastry chef, hence my love of making pastry and desserts.
I started working at Woods as Chef de Partie, leaving after 2 years to travel the world. During this time I worked in Stratford, Canada and Sydney. When I came back to Bath, I became Head Chef of Woods.
I am passionate about food. I love simplicity, seasonal ingredients and believe in buying the best products.
Woods has been full of challenges, it is much more than just the food, the restaurant has a great ambiance, the team is dedicated and we always encourage new staff.
Bath BA1 2EE
Introducing Head Chef Lorenzo Saluz..
I started to work in catering when I was 14. While I was studying, I worked in small independent restaurants in the Piedmont region and Sardinia, until I arrived in Bath 15 years ago. I worked in various Italian restaurants before starting at Aió two years ago.
I was raised in Piedmont and I love the hearty cuisine of this region, but I’ m also inspired by the delicate and simple seafood dishes from the coast of Sardinia, where my father’s family originally came from.
I’m passionate about quality ingredients: fresh, seasonal and locally sourced as much as possible. My staff and I strive to deliver this freshness and quality to our clients.
From our autumn menu, the savoury salt cod cheesecake and the lamb with blackberry and myrtle sauce are both very popular. Our typical Sardinian dishes, such as seafood fregola and roast piglet, are also firm favourites.
2 North Passage Parade
Bath BA1 1NX
flavour catches up with Richard Buckley, owner of Bath’s Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen
Name: Richard Buckley
Head chef at: Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen, Bath
Being raised vegetarian, food has always been central to my family’s way of living. What we ate was always really important and the way in which we ate it equally so. Meals were always together and very relaxed and full of laughter. Food for me is always about time spent together with people you care about. I love food, of course I do, but it always takes second place to the people I’m sharing it with.
I’ve always loved cooking and have always worked in kitchens but it wasn’t until I finished my degree that I made a conscious decision to choose cooking; nothing else got me as excited. I got a job in a small kitchen and worked my way up.
I know it’s a cliché but industry accolades really aren’t important to me. It’s too easy to try and cook for critics, always looking for the latest trick or trendy ingredient and forgetting the customer. A restaurant full of happy diners is by far the best accolade a chef can wish for.
In terms of my favourite ingredients… would saying vegetables be too obvious?
I love taking each season’s vegetables and fruits and exploring their possibilities. Right now autumn is beginning and I’m really excited by all the varieties of apples and plums that are around. I’m very excitable and love finding flavour and texture in unusual places. We nearly always begin our dishes with a vegetable. We explore the different ways of cooking it and then try to combine it with sympathetic flavours. We are always looking for something familiar that can be given a little twist to make it exciting. The final test is ‘is it delicious?’ If we put it on a plate in the kitchen and everyone doesn’t clear the plate then we don’t put it on the menu.
Chefs are notorious for their lack of free time but when I do steal away from the restaurant I like to go trail running and cook food for friends and family. My sister has recently had her first baby so I spend a lot of time playing with him at the moment.
We want to create a relaxed warm restaurant where people come to catch up with friends and family and forget the world for an hour or two. The food will be the best artisan ingredients, carefully prepared and served with care.
Young chefs should choose their jobs carefully and work hard. However, it is equally important to learn how to think creatively and think for yourself. Too many chefs end up cooking the food of chefs they’ve worked for and never develop a style of their own.
Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen have recently published a recipe book, edited and designed by Rich Stapleton from Cereal Magazine. The book features recipes straight from the kitchen: contact Acorn to find out more.
Vale House Kitchen
Vale House, Loves Hill,
Somerset BA2 0EU
Kathie Auton blogs at hungrysauce.com
Kathie Auton enjoys a trip to Vale House Kitchen country skills and cookery school in Timsbury…
If you think you can handle a bit of house- envy, you should seriously consider booking yourself onto a course at the newly opened Vale House Kitchen. But don’t be mistaken into thinking that this is just another cookery school. Vale House Kitchen is a cookery and country skills school. You can choose from an array of courses, including jam and preserve making and seasonal cookery, both of which you might expect to find offered at a cookery school. But as well as this, you can try your hand at pig butchery, shooting, fly fishing, foraging. Here’s a place where you can get fully hands-on with your food, learn all the steps from catching to filleting to cooking a fish. You can head out into the beautiful surrounding countryside, harvest the wild goodies growing all around, then come back and cook them to perfection in the school kitchen.
Vale House Kitchen’s lovely owners – Bod and Annie Griffiths – are passionate about what they’re doing here, they share a real belief in the importance of these country skills and that knowing about where your food comes from can be empowering and inspiring. As Bod says, “After years of dreaming, working and fine-tuning it is amazing to see our vision come to life. Sustainability and preservation of traditional rural skills are at the heart of our ethos. And we are very excited to have the support of such skilled tutors at Vale House Kitchen.” And the tutors are an impressive bunch. What with Vivian Lloyd running the preserving course, Martin Hunt of Joe’s Bakery fame teaching bread making, not to mention former River Cottage guru Tim Maddams imparting his copious skill and knowledge, you really do know you’re going to get some quality tuition. The whole place feels gorgeously rural, a true escape from the city. You have the option to meet Bod at the nearby Carpenter’s Arms Pub before being driven to the house, and it’s quite an exciting way to start your day – the feeling you’re being whisked off an adventure well away from your usual life. Once you’re there, and you’ve got over how beautiful the house and garden are, surmounted your lust for the swimming pool and drooled over the beautiful school kitchen, you’ll become immersed in your course. So, yes, this is escapism, but you’ll have plenty to bring back with you when you return to your normal kitchen and your probable lack of swimming pool. Even well seasoned cooks will come home brimming with ideas and confidence. And on some courses it won’t just be a metaphorical bounty you leave with, I came home from my foraging course with Sloe Gin and Hawthorn Brandy steeping away in beautiful glass bottles. If you do fancy treating yourself or a lucky someone else, courses starts at around £120 and go up to £400 for the two-day shooting courses and, at the risk of mentioning Christmas, gift vouchers are available…not that I’m hinting or anything.
Q&A with Vale House Kitchen owner Bod Griffiths
What made you decide to open Vale House Kitchen?
The idea for Vale House Kitchen was conceived in early 2011. I have always had a passion for shooting and fishing, and even whilst living in London would regularly spend time in the countryside. After catching a salmon on a fishing trip to the river Exe and then enjoying a meal where everything on the plate was either from our veg garden or from the river, the early concepts for VHK were formed. I was also heavily influenced by my mum’s mum (Grandma Molly) who was an amazing cook. It was from her that I developed my love of making homemade chutneys and jams, moving on to fruit liqueurs such as sloe gin in adult life.
How do current food trends affect the courses you offer?
We do keep our eye on current food trends, but I don’t think they influence the courses we offer. We have always wanted to teach country skills such as shooting, fishing and foraging and marry them up with practical skills in the classroom. People need to get more connected with what is on their plate and we hope that our courses help to achieve that.
Which are proving to be your most popular courses so far?
All of our courses have been well attended but the most popular have been the ones that involve a real field to fork ethos: learning to catch, shoot or forage your raw ingredients before cooking them to perfection in our bespoke teaching kitchen.
Where next for Vale House Kitchen?
We have just launched our gift voucher system on the website and these are selling very well. It seems that people are keen to buy an “experience” for friends, family and loved ones this Christmas. We are also planning some pop up events here at VHK in the New Year, with guest chefs hosting unique dining experiences. Details will be on the website in due course.
Bath BA1 2EH
Emily Knight visits to see the changes that the team on George Street have made
Since first opening in 2001, Chandos at 12 George Street, Bath, has undergone a huge number of changes – especially in recent months. While some of their Bristol and Exeter venues have more of a deli feel, things are slightly different in Bath: every shop has a different focus.
“In Bath, our retail focus is mainly on wine,” says Chandos owner Iain Keith- Smith. “While we sell a lot of cheese and deli items in some of our other shops, we’re aware of the number of businesses in Bath that operate in this space – we want to provide experiences that you can’t get elsewhere in Bath.” Combine this wine focus with an evening dining option, a fantastic spread of breakfast and lunchtime offerings to eat in or take away and manager Henry and his team have a lot to shout about. The focus on wine is just one of the areas that gives Chandos Bath a unique offering in the city. With floor to ceiling shelves of wines – including fortified and sparkling options – for sale, customers can choose to buy their bottle either to drink in or take away. “We import a lot of wine directly from Italy and France,” explains Bath manager Henry, “which means that we’re lucky enough to stock wines that our customers won’t find in many places. We have a lot of people coming in to buy a bottle or two to take home, but we can also sell to consumers on the premises. We only add a £5 mark up to the retail price if customers are drinking the wine on the premises, which is far lower than many pubs and restaurants.” By far the biggest development in recent months has been the installation of two Enoline ELITE machines, described on the website of manufacturer Enomatic as ‘the world’s most advanced wine dispensing system’. Essentially, it’s a vending machine for wine, with customers able to choose from a taster, a small glass or a large glass of any of the bottles contained within the machine, simply by using their Chandos wine card. Each machine (Chandos Bath has two) can hold up to eight bottles of wine, its dual zone system allowing for reds, whites and rosés to be stored at the optimum temperature. Customers simply register a Chandos wine card (available on the premises) and top up their card with cash, allowing them to select from the 16 different wines that Chandos will offer via the machine at any one time. A small taster of each wine is free, with prices starting from £3.99 for a small glass. “We’re hoping to change the wines featured in the Enoline every week to two weeks, with the aim of eventually featuring every wine we stock,” says Henry. “It’s great to be able to showcase the fantastic range of wines that we offer, and for customers to be able to try before they buy. Buying a bottle of wine is a risk if you’ve not tried it before, and we’re aiming to take that risk away.”
“There are a few top end restaurants that have these machines behind the counter to make serving wines easier,” Henry continues, “but we use them quite differently here. It makes wine more accessible to everyone: it’s a great retail tool to help customers to choose a bottle of wine to take home based on more than the label and price tag, but also means that customers can try wines that they might not otherwise have tasted.” The wine is also an integral part of Chandos’ evening offering: open from 6pm until 10pm, Tuesday to Saturday, they offer a very different evening dining experience to most places in Bath. “We don’t claim to be a restaurant,” says Iain. “There are a million and one places in Bath that offer a great restaurant experience, and all we want to do is to offer decent ingredients and a nice glass of wine. Most of the time, you’ll go out, have two or three courses and order a bottle of wine, whereas at Chandos, you can mix and match. You may want to start with some bread and olives, have a charcuterie platter – and pour yourself a glass of wine to accompany it – maybe decide to share a fish platter later on, choose another glass of wine to match… you can even get up and have a look at our deli offerings while you’re there, or just come in for a cup of coffee. JP, who is our front of house manager, is always attentive and friendly, and you’ll find that he’ll often remember which wines you tried the week before. We’re laid back, but still with the level of service you’d expect at any restaurant.” It was during the day, however, that I visited – a time at which Chandos was doing a brisk lunchtime trade from their specially made counter, heaving with filled Hobbs House baguettes, salads and the most beautiful chorizo sausage rolls that I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. While it may strike some as odd that the counter is not refrigerated, there’s logic behind it. “Anyone who’s ever eaten bread straight from the fridge will know that it just doesn’t taste quite right”, says Henry. “We always know how fresh things are: a form is filled in with the time that each baguette is made, and we give each one a four-hour window in which to be sold. If it doesn’t sell, we remove it from the counter.” From the hustle and bustle of the place during a midweek visit, I don’t envisage Chandos having any difficulty in selling their breakfast and lunchtime offerings. There’s a lot of care and thought that has been put into this place – into the raw ingredients used, the products they sell, the way they sell them and the service. It really is a truly informal and inviting place, and one that will appeal at any time of the day.
Farleigh Road Farm Shop & Café
Bath BA2 7NG
It was only on August 10 this year that Liz Nelson and business partner Ruth Priest opened the Farleigh Road Farm Shop & Café in Norton St. Philip, having taken over an existing farm shop business. With a wealth of experience behind them (the pair also own Plank’s Farm Shop near Devizes, which is six-and-a-half years old), the new farm shop and café is already proving to be a hit.
“Every farm shop has a different philosophy,” says Liz, “and ours is to do things as locally as possible. Where we can, everything that we make and sell is local – and if we can’t find local, then we will ensure that products are Fairtrade or organic. If this isn’t possible, then we go for best in class (for example, our Spanish and Italian deli items). We’re keen to make sure that everything we sell is the best.”
The café is also proving to be a popular spot for everything from coffee and cake to breakfast and lunch. From 9am, customers can enjoy a full breakfast menu, which includes full English breakfasts and bacon sandwiches as well as alternative options such as freshly made waffles. The lunch service includes sandwiches, but also a range of hot food made on site, including croque monsieurs, soups, quiches and more substantial meals. “Our homemade fish cakes and stuffed mushrooms are really popular,” says Liz, “and our cakes and brownies all go down well. John Torode is a big fan of our lemon drizzle cake – he called it the ‘world’s sexiest lemon drizzle cake’ and even wrote about it in a national newspaper!”
“At Farleigh Road Farm Shop we make our own range of very popular ready meals, soups and desserts to sell in the shop using only local ingredients, as well as award-winning pasties, scotch eggs and sausage rolls. Dishes such as our Lancashire hot pot are flying out at this time of year!”
Having an on-site butcher is also a coup for Farleigh Road Farm Shop. Butcher Andy sells local meat only, as well as making his own sausages and curing his own bacon. It’s a great place to bear in mind for Christmas dinner shopping – their free-range turkeys are available to pre-order now, along with aged Aberdeen Angus beef, gammon roasting joints and more.
Liz and Ruth are also planning plenty of events to showcase the very best local producers. Keep December 7th free for the Farleigh Road Christmas Craft Market, at which they will be linking up with artisan craftspeople from the area to provide Christmas shoppers with soft furnishings, soaps, candles, pottery, Christmas decorations and more, along with Farleigh Road’s own mince pies, Christmas cakes, puddings and mulled wine.
ONE THREE NINE – Boutique B&B
Contemporary English design on the doorstep of Bath.
A luxurious boutique B&B with chic, modern interiors, stunning individually styled bedrooms, sumptuously comfortable beds by Hypnos, warm-toned modern bathrooms with luxury products, flatscreen TV and wireless internet connectivity throughout. We have a delicious breakfast menu or you can enjoy our ‘Breakfast in Bed’ range. A home from home atmosphere with all the trimmings.
Bea’s Vintage Tea Rooms
Bath BA1 2QP
Bea’s doesn’t operate a reservation system but they have a private room which can be booked in advance for larger parties of 10 or more.
Step back in time and experience the 1940s at Bea’s Vintage Tea Rooms, a blissful retreat only minutes from the city centre and adjacent to the Assembly Rooms. The attention to detail is amazing and the staff with their trademark red lipstick and bandanas cheerful and friendly.
The food, cakes and scones are genuinely homemade and delicious. Try the shepherd’s pie, bubble and squeak, rarebit, macaroni, selection of cakes, buttermilk scones and more. The Afternoon Tea is a feast, as is the High Tea and can be enjoyed at any time of the day with a cup of exquisite loose leaf tea.