February 13 2014

An Open Letter to Gordon Jones

Dear Gordon,

Many moons ago, back in the days when people still preferred print to computer screens and not long after you first opened the doors to your then brand new restaurant on the Wellsway. I thrust myself upon you so the magazine I worked for could keep the baying cool hunters ahead of the pack. The resulting review was great fun to write (and, though I say it myself, good fun to read back on too – if you want to take a trip down memory lane with me, see here). I’m delighted to see that your restaurant is still thriving where others have sadly failed. And it was lovely to catch up with you just last week, when I put on my Pig hat and visited you for dinner.

As a deluge of rain turned the Bear Flat gutters into a free-flowing tide, we sat at a table by the window in your cosy little diner, all snug and smug and glad not to be anywhere else. We started our trip into your world with warm, steamy yeast-free bread accompanied by a creamy German wheat beer laden with hops that not only managed to create a sensation that I imagine would be similar to experiencing bread proving directly on the palate. With the bread, test tube tasters of basil, chorizo and balsamic reductions; dinky little cones containing cute, fat snails; and soft, mellow butters. Next up, intensely mushroomy wild mushroom espuma delivered a decadent, depth-charge blast of flavour, offset by a sparkling wine that elegantly teased the fungus into standing up for itself all the way through to the last slurps from the solid little pot it was delivered in – one hour in, and our journey was going very smoothly indeed. But that was just the start…

We moved on to welcome your own inspired take on haggis, neeps and tatties to the table – a cheeky homage, I’m guessing, to your Scottish heritage, complete with a velvety haggis bonbon coated in a crisp, salty shell. Then there was fish – in this instance, sweet, moist, roasted Cornish cod teamed with deeply savoury braised oxtail (you’d think these two would conduct a vicious war on the plate, wouldn’t you? But no, not here). There were lentils in the melange too, and chervil puree, and jumbo raisins…sweet, savoury, crisp, soft, silk, bite, crunch – it was all going on, all at once. Elsewhere, there was rabbit that tasted like foie gras, and foie gras that tasted like I would imagine a Rufus Wainwright song would taste if it were edible (this from a critic who vowed never, ever to eat foie gras, and now feels like a total hypocrite for understanding why so many people still continue to do so). Before a dessert of baked rhubarb rice pudding (ambrosia in the true sense of the word)we had dry gin with sweet lemonade (sorbet? SO last year…). At the finish, coffee brewed at our table in some kind of Japanese chemistry set contraption.

Throughout our experience – and it really, truly can only be described as an experience, not just a dinner – each dish was presented and explained to us by staff who seemed as delighted to be in the restaurant as we and our fellow diners were, including a snoot-free sommelier who acted as the pilot for our wine flight, ensuring that we never hit turbulence at any point in the journey.

But of course, Gordon, you know all this. You were there – as you are during every service – in the zone behind the open kitchen’s pass, leading your tiny team, keeping a watchful eye over your domain, working your magic, doing your own inimitable thing. Looking back on that evening in your company, it already seems a little bit too good to be true, a little bit fantastical, a little bit too darn outrageously amazing. But like you, I have a job to do too, and mine is to tell you – and those who are kind enough to read my words – what I thought of our dinner.

I apologise for taking a rather unconventional route to penning this restaurant review. But just as I am no longer limited by a strict editorial code of conduct or restricted by the whims of an advertising sales team, you work to your own beat too. You deserve your contemporary legend status. You’ve earned every whisper of the deliciously tasteful hype you’ve garnered. You have created Bath’s most unique eating experience. I know you’ll keep moving on, and moving up. But please, Gordon: don’t ever change.

Lovin’ your work, Chef!

The Pig x

PS. I still owe you a pint for those banana leaves……


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