Peter Morrell and his wife stay at a boutique hotel which boasts a restaurant recently opened by two of the world’s most famous chefs
After a busy autumn my wife and I needed a break that was close enough to London to be convenient but different enough to make it feel like a real break. The ideal destination was Bath, it is less than 90 minutes from London by train and packed with history and culture.
Our choice of accommodation could not have been better, the perfectly located Abbey Hotel, a terrace of three grand Georgian houses now joined to create a comfortable boutique establishment. The hotel is a five minute walk from the station and a stone’s throw from all the major Bath attractions. An added bonus is that its restaurant has recently been opened by two of the world’s most respected chefs Pierre Koffman and Marco Pierre White who have each held three Michelin stars during their careers.
The accommodation in the hotel is spacious and comfortable with well appointed bathrooms. It’s stylishly decorated and there is a lot of very attractive art on the walls both in the bedrooms and the public areas. Our room at the front of the hotel had a good view over Parade Gardens towards the River Avon.
Literally 10 steps away from the hotel is the Bath tourist information office, an ideal place to start as it has a wealth of information on the town. We decided to start our sightseeing at the Holburne Museum about a 10 minute walk away. The route took us over Pulteney Bridge, one of only four in the world to have shops on it, and past yellow stone terraces of mansions that positively glowed in the late autumn sunshine.
The Holburne Museum was originally where Georgians met for tea and enjoyed the Sydney Gardens which surround the building. In the elegant interior is a well stocked permanent art collection which is supplemented by regular temporary exhibitions. We went to see Gainsborough and the Theatre, an exhibition devoted to former Bath resident, Thomas Gainsborough who was famous for his portrait painting. An added bonus was seeing David Hockney’s Mr and Mrs Clark to illustrate the continuing importance of portraiture as an art form.
Our next stop and under five minutes away from the Abbey Hotel was the world famous Roman Baths.which is an unmissable attraction. The large main bath is constantly replenished by Aquae Sulis, the sacred spring which delivers over a million litres of water a day at a temperature of 46c.
Since my last visit to the Baths more than 10 years ago a museum has been created. The fascinating tour of the exhibits is followed by a visit to the Temple of Minerva, goddess of the sacred spring. Other additions include the access to the east and the west baths, and rooms featuring the original underfloor heating system. High technology projection screens give you a real feel of what it was like to indulge in a visit to the Baths. Near the end of the tour you get a chance to sample the water from the spring. Make your own mind up about what it tastes like but it is good for you.
Under a 10 minute walk away from the Baths is a museum dedicated to one of Bath’s most famous resident, author Jane Austen. In the Jane Austen centre you will learn how the town greatly influenced her books, characters and personal life.
Close by is your chance to get an idea of what mansion life was like in the late 18th century. No 1 Royal Crescent, at the end of the famous curved terrace, has been furnished and decorated to reflect the taste and style of the era.
You can also sample the world famous Bath Bun in Sally Lunn’s house, one of the oldest buildings in the town. Sally was a young Huguenot baker who in 1680 created the recipe for the bun which is a cross between bread and cake. The house is less that 50 metres from the hotel
At the end of our exploration we concluded that Bath is a fascinating town to wander around in, it’s small streets building are very atmospheric and conjure up a real sense of history.
After a long day of sightseeing it was time to relax. We started our evening in the Abbey Hotel’s smart ArtBar which has an eclectic range of art work including a collection of glasses hanging from the ceiling. The cocktail list is as well curated as the art, with a selection of mixes both classic and contemporary as well as wines, beers and spirits. My wife’s prosecco was from Valdobbiadene where the best examples are produced, I kept to the Italian theme with an Aperol spritz.
We moved into the highly anticipated new restaurant Koffman and Me White’s. The theme of the restaurant is France meets the UK so the dining space has a cosy bistro feel and is aligned closely to the décor of the hotel with lots of pictures on the wall and cool colours. For the summer months there is also a large terrace for alfresco dining.
The menu offered an interesting selection of classic French and British dishes. In the starter section the farmhouse salad with ham hock and hen’s egg sat comfortably with snails à la bourguignonne and a main like fried fillet of Scottish haddock and chips was cheek by jowl with poulet noir, grand-mère.
We both veered towards the French, my wife started with croustade of eggs Maxim’s and I had the terrine de foie de volaille. My wife’s croustade was excellent, a pastry case was filled with egg, a mushroom duxelle and hollandaise sauce. My liver terrine was rich and satisfying, it was served with delicious fig chutney. cornichons and toasted sourdough bread supplied by the renown Bertinet Bakery which has a shop in Bath.
Our mains had been as hard to choose, strong contenders were braised ox cheek, lamb à la Provençale and Mr. Lamb’s shepherd’s pie. My wife eventual choice was the butcher’s steak and I had the Counnaught’s curry. The steak, which was cooked medium rare, was packed with flavour and very tender. It was served with béarnaise sauce, beef fat chips and roasted vine tomatoes, the chips were particularly notable.
My curry was highly enjoyable, it was an exotic mix of flavourful chicken and plump shrimps, fresh mango and ginger in a lightly spiced sauce and served with buttered rice.
There was a good wine list to suit all tastes and pockets. Our paired for the meal was a white, the Parini pinot grigio delle Venezie from an area in north east Italy famed for its aromatic wines. This was a good example, the bouquet had a strong fruity aroma with subtle honeyed notes. On the palate it was smooth with crisp apple and pear flavours and had well balanced acidity which worked well with the food. The finish was bright and lively.
For desserts celebrity foodie Alex James is the suppler of the cheese selection, for the sweet toothed there was a mix of favourites from both sides of the Channel. The classic pain perdu with custard and toasted almonds was on the list as was the very traditional sherry trifle. My wife was full from the first two courses and I could only manage ice cream, a scoop each of vanilla, coffee and pistachio which all had well defined flavours.
The combination of the surroundings, very friendly service and high quality food made this a great dining experience.
Our choice of Bath as a short break destination ticked all the boxes. Close to London, easy to travel to, lots of unique things to see and do, an ideally located hotel and a good restaurant to relaxed and enjoy good food.
The Abbey Hotel – https://abbeyhotelbath.co.uk/
Koffman and Mr White’s Restaurant – http://www.koffmannandwhitebath.com/
Tourist Information about Bath – https://visitbath.co.uk/
The Holburne Museum – https://www.holburne.org/
The Roman Baths – https://www.romanbaths.co.uk/
Sally Lunn Information – https://www.sallylunns.co.uk/
The Jane Austen Centre – https://www.janeausten.co.uk/
No 1 Royal Crescent – http://no1royalcrescent.org.uk/