Although this post is a long-delayed wrap-up of eating in Bath, I first have to note that yesterday was the second anniversary of my arrival in London. Oh, I’m sure the British are cheering now.
Well, on to the chow: on the whole, the places we ate in Bath served well-prepared, quality food, but service is generally where things fell apart.
On the pricier end of our meals (£18-25 per main course) was the Olive Tree restaurant located in the Queensbury Hotel, not far from the Circus and Royal Crescent. The Olive Tree’s food is supposed to be modern Mediterranean, but I think “modern” anything just means you can count on a choice of fish, meat and chicken dish with upscale trimmings and presentation. Overall, I’d go back.
I wasn’t thrilled that we were seated in an area that felt like it used to be a bar/anteroom. The servers would hover and hang out near the bar, which was next to our table, or else they’d be zipping back and forth looking kind of stressed. There just shouldn’t have been a table where we sat.
On the bright side, our crappy table location meant the light was good enough that I could photograph the food, and we were far away from the bachelorette party seated at the heart of the main dining room.
Highlights: A corn soup amuse, while not super-creative, was summery sweet without being syrupy. Jon’s scallops were, again, sweet and perfectly rare, and my haddock-and-leek mille feuille was a tasty deconstructed fish pie: flaky pastry crust layers served with light, white fish meat and a sweet, creamy leek puree.
From the photo at the top of this post, you can see that the presentation of the mille feuille was just a little too busy, but it tasted good, which is really what matters most in the end.
The cheese course was the most disappointing part of our meal: all four cheeses lacked intensity of flavor. Based on taste, they all could’ve been the same cheese despite the outward appearance of being a blue cheese, goat’s cheese, etc. Save your £9 and either try a different dessert or call it a day.
The Firehouse Rotisserie was slightly less pricey than the Olive Tree (I keep wanting to say Olive Garden . . . ) with main courses in the £12-20 range. Jon and I were sucked in by our B&B’s description of this place as “California casual.” The decor is warm and cozy (see photo above), but the food is too random and rich to be called “California,” really.
When was the last time lamb tagine was served in a California-style eatery?
For a starter, Jon and I shared a passable chorizo pizza (the crust was thin and the sauce had a good sweet-and-salty balance, but the chorizo was not too tasty), and then Jon devoured a steak frites, while I stuck with the braised lamb and couscous. The lamb was good, but the real draw was the couscous, which was fluffy and chock full of slivered almonds and dried apricots. I only wish I’d gotten a little more couscous and a little less lamb. Overall, a good vibe in the dining room, friendly service, and good-quality (but random) food.
The Boston Tea Party deserves a mention because of the gazillion times we dropped by for their strong, rich espressos and coffees. It sits in Kingsmead Square, near the Thermae Baths and the Mezzaluna restaurant (which we’d read great things about but which was closed when we tried to eat there). So if you need a coffee fix, or if you’re just highly amused by the name (what do you think it means to most Britons?), definitely give the Boston Tea Party a try.
For a quick lunch, Jon and I sort of enjoyed our pizzas at the Real Italian Pizza Co, located on York Road just behind the Bath Abbey, but the service was outrageously slow. It was the classic situation of two servers for two dining rooms, with each dining room packed with forty or fifty diners. I felt kind of bad for the servers, but honestly, pizza is no good when it gets cold, no matter how high-quality the ingredients are. So I have a feeling that with one or two more servers, the pizza would actually be good because it might still be hot when it arrives at your table.
We had much better luck next door at the equally-creatively-named “Real Italian Ice Cream” shop. The gelato there was airy and rich-flavored. No vacation is complete without some quality ice cream in the park, so we headed over to the nearby Parade Gardens to lick down our chocolate and strawberry cones. And that’s all I can recall now about our eating adventures in Bath.