A taste of a place – Bath
Bath; a world heritage city of Roman and Georgian architecture; synonymous with Jane Austen and
mineral rich spring water. Compact and overflowing with independent shops and places to eat and
So why has it taken me half a (long) lifetime to get here, when people come from all over the world
to visit? And why did I fail to realise that the city would busy (with all these worldly folk) and I would therefore need to make reservations to visit the baths, go on a boat trip, eat at Pintxos tapas bar, drink fine wine at Corkage wine bar, etc, etc….??
Ok, so organising an agenda has never been a strong point, but I have to admit that even I am ever
so slightly embarrassed that we have come away from Bath without visiting the world famous bath,
or indeed taking the waters. At one stage, I even resorted to asking the guy on the door if there was
a gift shop I could visit, but apparently you need tickets for that too…
So what did we see? Well, we were certainly impressed with the grand architecture of the Royal
Crescent and the Circus. We loved the wide avenues and the beautiful stone that the buildings were
constructed from. The “walkability” of the city is a great plus too.
We were extremely heartened to see the plethora of heritage pubs such as “The New Inn”
(Monmouth Place); a reassuringly straightforward pub, popular with locals and visitors alike. Serving a mean G&T with the rare bonus of a roof terrace.
“The Griffin Inn” (Monmouth Street) was an elegant offering with an immaculate flower laden
frontage and a stylishly curated interior, where a carafe of water came with your drinks order…
However, our favourite, was the very low key “The Royal Oak” (Lower Bristol Road) incorporating its own microbrewery, “Ralph’s Ruin Brewery” (“named after a dog who likes ruining stuff”). This pub is about as unpretentious and no frills as it gets. When I looked at their FB page later, their strapline is “No messing, we’re just a pub. Music, beer and good times”, sounds like perfection to me. The kind of place I could happily while away an afternoon, or maybe a weekend in. Definitely on the list to revisit next time.
We ate at “The Scallop Shell” (Monmouth Place), following recommendations from our 2 favourite
Pauls (Miller & Feary!). This is a cheerful family run venture, with a boat cabin like feel, all ropes and weather beaten furniture.
The only place I have eaten where the name of the farm who have supplied the potatoes is on the menu – that’s how seriously they take their spuds! It is unfussy, with homely blue and white crockery, excellent local bread and it serves the freshest fish and seafood, according to what’s in season. I went for mussels and a beautiful piece of lightly battered hake with alioli. Very good indeed. (Well done, the Pauls!).
The following day, we opted for a tasty handmade focaccia at the rather nice “Chandos Deli”
(George Street). A cute deli at the front selling a good range of products and ingredients, with
around 6 tables at the back. The counter heavily laden with beautiful pastries, super fresh salads and
filled focaccias. You just choose what you like the look of and they serve it right up, with good coffee. Highly recommended.
Later that day, I decided to put my train station/market theory to the test – I reasoned that even in
such a well- mannered place as Bath, there must be a no frills eatery or two around the station
(particularly in the absence of a market).
Happily, my theory proved correct and we were rewarded with the excellent “Chilli Family Noodles” – literally a cordoned off corridor in the train station (next to the loos). The place was full, the menu comprised of photos on the wall, the smells were exquisite and I have to say the noodles were divine. I went for the veggie wheat noodle soup and Brian went for a duck noodle option, of which he said the same. This place is the epitome of what we are searching for; simple, reasonable (very, in this case), offering a few dishes, excellently done. Where the love goes into the food, not the décor. Give this man a (Michelin) star! 100% we will be coming back to this place, and soon.
Other somewhat random observations;
Curiously, we noticed more than a few outlets claiming to serve the best Cornish pasties –
competition for this title is clearly stiff and not exactly where you would expect it to be taking
place…Lots of Cornish pasties but I failed to spot a Bath Oliver anywhere…
We reckoned the buskers must surely have auditioned for their pitches, so polished were their
The spirit of protest is alive and well in this seemingly well behaved city. We met a friendly bunch
who protest outside the abbey every single Saturday, come rain or shine. Currently raising
awareness about the NHS pay increase and Trident. Right on, we say!
Reasonably priced accommodation was a lot harder to come by here (certainly compared to our
recent Bristol trip). We eventually found a nice little annexe on Air BnB, perhaps a little farther out
than we would normally choose, but it had a coffee machine and a good shower – are our top
requirements. Probably another case for planning ahead, next time…
The vexed subject of buns! Bath Buns, or Sally Lunn’s buns? – apparently these are not the same
thing; a bath bun being a sweet roll sprinkled with fruit and crushed sugar Whereas Sally’s buns are
part bread/ part cake served toasted and topped with either savoury (eg, beef or veg) or sweet (such
as lemon curd). The mystery deepens. Also curious was the fact we couldn’t find a Bakery in which to find a bun, of any variety. Clearly a subject that requires further investigation on our next visit…..
We did not find the answer to our car based conundrum of which came first; the word bath (meaning bath), or the place Bath (bit like our perennial orange debate – colour or fruit?). Again, something else to get to the bottom of next time….