All posts by Melissa Blease

New lunch menus at Robun… including a fabulous Sunday Roast alternative!

Set to celebrate its first birthday this month (wow, doesn’t time fly?), super-stylish Japanese restaurant Robun (George Street) has announced the launch of two exciting new menus that bring fresh lunch options to Bath throughout the week… and offering us a uniquely fascinating traditional Sunday lunch alternative too.

With Beef Miso, Grilled Chicken, Braised Pork Miso and Seafood options to choose from, the Ramen menu offers a range of hearty, fresh, healthy lunches guaranteed to liven up your lunch break in the tastiest possible way. Meanwhile, the Bento Box selection takes inspiration from Japan’s iconic single-portion boxed lunches (a symbol of Japanese culture and ideals with balanced nutrition at its core) and gives daytime diners the opportunity to sample dishes from across Robun’s menu including their legendary Yakiniku, Sushi and Sashimi, beautifully presented in traditional wooden boxes. There are meat, seafood and vegetable options to choose from, all served with miso soup, steamed rice, Wakame salad and Japanese pickles; see the full menu details for both Ramen and Bento Box selections here. So that’s weekdays sorted! And on Sundays…

Robun head chef Jon Claro has created a very special menu with the whole family in mind, inviting all generations to experience freshly-prepared, authentic Japanese cuisine. The Sunday at Robun menu (£30pp) offers five sharing plates including dishes such as Chicken Gyoza and Salmon Hosomaki to start, followed by a choice of mains including Wagyu Rump Steak (yes!) and Kimchee Chicken, with Mochi Ice Cream and a Fresh Fruit Platter for dessert. For little people, the Sunday Children’s Menu costs just £7.50 per child and brings a Sushi Selection, Chicken Karaage, Mochi Ice Cream and a Fresh Fruit Platter to the table, feeding hungry minds and bellies with something altogether different to the standard Sunday lunch.

The new Lunch at Robun menu is available Tuesday-Saturday from 12noon-5pm, while the Sunday at Robun menu is served all day on Sundays, from midday until late. Book today by visiting www.robun.co.uk, emailing info@robun.co.uk or phoning the restaurant on 01225 614424.

Gochisousama, Robun!

New Pig Guide review: The Thai, Saltford

Much as I love living in Bath – and I really, really do – I still, 27+ years after making the city my home, find certain snooty, embedded attitudes really… well, really weird.

Consider this comment, received in response to telling somebody that I work with that I was off to The Thai in Saltford for dinner: “Saltford? I only ever stop there if we’re on the way back from Bristol and need milk. It’s the Bristol-Bath version of a flyover state, isn’t it? There’s literally nothing going on there.”

Tell that to the 4000-ish Saltfordians (is that a word? It is now) who live in this characterful history-laden enclave on the banks of the River Avon, surrounded by heavenly pastoral lushness. A short hop from Bath by car, bus or very picturesque cycle path, Saltford is also home to four pubs (each one with its own distinctive personality), a lively marina and a manor house that claims to be the oldest continuously-occupied dwelling in England. Nothing going on in Saltford? Oh for goodness sake; the Bath person who said that clearly needs to get out more… like, a mere 7km up t’road. Anyway!

You know where The Thai is; you pass it every time you fly – sorry, drive – along the Bath Road to/from Bristol. It takes up no more space than your average shop front and doesn’t do anything in particular to make it stand out from the handful of average shops that surround it. So far, so very suburban takeaway? But at 8pm-ish on a Thursday evening, this tiny, unassuming, more-or-less roadside restaurant was buzzing with cheerful locals who all seemed to be on first name terms with the friendly staff.

We’d made the mistake of not making a booking (who knew? We didn’t), but hey, no worries; not long after he, me, a bottle of Tiger Beer and a glass of white wine (the house is a very nice Sauvignon Blanc) had made ourselves comfy on one of the wicker chairs just outside the front door we were moved inside to a pretty table for two on the other side of one of the big picture windows.

As one would expect from a Thai menu, there are spare ribs, duck pancakes, fishcakes, spring rolls, satay and all that jazz on the starter selection. But there’s also the lesser-spotted Larb: a kinda crumbed meat salad laden with fresh herbs, and fish sauce, and lime juice, and chilli. Hoorah!

Having requested a dial-down from a 4-chilli rating on the menu to just 2 (wimp alert), the chef in the open kitchen set about it. In what felt like no time at all, I was duly presented with an utterly compelling combination that bought slivers of soft, soft beef together with all those glorious sweet/salty/sour/bitter nudges that make Thai food so addictive, lashings of super-fresh coriander and mint making every forkful sing. Mr Pig’s Peppered Squid was an equal triumph, the batter light and crisp, the squid beautifully tender, the hot and sour chilli sauce offering a comfortably snug flavour-blanket to wrap it all up in.

For mains, my beloved Prawn Penang – my go-to Thai dish of choice that I never seem to be able to move away from – proved itself to be the one by which all other Penangs shall henceforth be judged: huge, lush prawns bathed in a thick, semi-dry, salty/sweet and slightly nutty sauce zhuzhed up with shallots, and garlic, and shrimp paste, and white pepper, and yet more of that fresh, fresh coriander. A proper Penang is subtly complex; The Thai gets that complexity and amps it up to the max. For Mr Pig, an equally complex Chicken Pad Krapow, liberal dashes of soy sauce creating an almost fruity chemistry with plenty of aromatic, peppery-sweet basil leaves while a handful of vibrant, al dente green beans added fresh energy and vigour to the plate and huge chunks of chicken happily soaked it all up.

As every dish is cooked ‘live’ to order in the open kitchen, the freshness burst through in every mouthful, lifting the quality up, up and away from too many Thai restaurants who leave too many sauces waiting around in the background for way too long; in summary, it was all so, so good – and I mean, really, properly good.

The bottom line? We paid just on £70 (with service) for our 2 starter/2 mains feast plus a big bowl of coconut rice, our brief-wait drinks and a bottle of that delicious house Sauvignon Blanc. The way forward? We will henceforth be making the 7km journey from Bath to Saltford on a very regular basis; Bathonians who exist solely in the Bath-only timezone should land in our ‘flyover state’ more often.

Supper Club with Ping Coombes at The Moorfields, Thursday 13 & Friday 14 October

MasterChef Champion of Champions Ping Coombes describes a Supper Club as “somewhere you arrive as strangers but part as friends”; think of it as one big, sociable dinner party in lovely company with amazing food, and you’re there. But where, and when? Oh, this is very exciting news indeed…

On Thursday 13 and Friday 14 October at The Moorfields (Oldfield Park), Ping will be doing her very special thing and cooking up four very special dishes inspired by her Malaysian heritage: some classic, some traditional, some experimental… but all guaranteed to be unforgettable.

Tickets for either date cost just £50pp; to book for Thursday 13 October, click on this link, and for Friday 14 October, use this one. But be warned: if you don’t book for either date, you’ll seriously regret it.

Tutored Great Wine Co Wine Tastings at The Moorfields, Wednesday 17 August & Thursday 8 September

The lovely Great Wine Co folk have joined forces with the equally lovely Bath Pub Co folk to offer two easy-going wine tasting events hosted by The Moorfields pub (Oldfield Park) and tutored by charismatic, entertaining wine expert Tristan Derby.

These fun, informal events are designed to build confidence in wine tasting and will include a selection of five accessible wines (white, red and sparkling) for you to acquaint yourself with, accompanied by nibbles to munch on as you sip.

Tickets cost just £25pp and all attendees will receive a 20% discount voucher if you choose to linger long and dine at the pub afterwards (see sample menu here), plus a ‘little something’ from The Great Wine Co. just for… well, just for being there.

To book those all-important tickets for the event on Wednesday 17 August click on this link, or choose this link to book for Thursday 8 September. But be warned: tickets for both events will sell out fast, so don’t hang about. Cheers, Piggies!

The Bathampton Mill: relaunch transformation revealed!

Having undergone a significant revamp, The Bathampton Mill will reopen its doors to reveal a glamorous transformation on Saturday 6 August.

The sophisticated makeover combines earthy, wooden tones with a rich warm palette, brass finishes and smooth leather, creating an opulent and cosy feel. Open log fires, plush velvet seating and feature lighting add a touch of glamour to this relaxing, inviting space, while expertly-crafted furniture, eye-catching artwork and feature finishing touches turn the pub into the one-of-a-kind destination it deserves to be – click on this link for the full, glorious details.

The new-look Bathampton Mill will offer menus that reflect seasonality and contemporary trends, with hearty roasts and Chateaubriand available at the weekend, all complemented by a rather spiffing drinks/wine list and an extensive cocktail menu.

We knew we were in for a change, but the results are breathtaking,” says Bathampton Mill General Manager Kiran Purewal, who has been at the pub for 2 ½ years. “The pub has undergone a true transformation while still retaining popular features like our terrace, gorgeous garden and open fireplaces. I can’t wait to welcome our regulars back and show off the refurbishment, but new guests are sure to be impressed too – my fantastic team are ready to welcome all.”

Fancy a sneak preview experience ahead of the official opening date? Click on this link and scroll down the page to book for exclusive, complimentary preview dining and/or the exclusive official launch party on Friday 5 August.

Ping Coombes launches Ping at Home range, available NOW at Larkhall Butchers

When is a ready meal not just a ready meal? Read on…

MasterChef champion Ping Coombes has launched a delicious new range of authentic Malaysian dishes, freshly cooked using locally sourced ingredients (including meat supplied by Larkhall Butchers) before being fast-frozen, making them ready when you are.

The Ping at Home range is available right now at both of Larkhall Butchers’ shops (that’ll be Larkhall and Widcombe, then)… and, according to Larkhall Butchers’ proprietor Peter Milton, they’re the best ‘ready’ meals he’s ever had.

So: what are you having for dinner this evening? Chill out! Ping’s solved that conundrum for you whenever it arises.

Bottomless Brunch now being served at Green Park Brasserie every weekend – hoorah!

Relaxed vibes, sunny terraces and possibly more Prosecco than Northeast Italy – that’s what they say, and that’s what they mean at Green Park Brasserie, where Bottomless Brunch is now being served every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11am onwards.

Of course, you don’t have to go Bottomless (as in, complement the Classic Brunch menu with unlimited Prosecco, Bloody Mary, Infinity Helles Lager, Aperol Spritz, Mimosas, Bellini or the Mocktail-of-the-Day) for your 2-hour residency between 11am-3pm Friday-Saturday and 11am-7pm on Sundays… but hey, it’s the weekend! You can afford to treat yourself to a little siesta afterwards.

The Bottomless Brunch menu costs just £37pp, while dishes on the Classic Brunch menu (including proper classic brunch dishes such as Eggs Royale and Benedict, fully-loaded Brunch Bagels, Summer Fruits Brunch, Crab Cakes and Steak Frites) are individually – and very reasonably – priced.

What are you waiting for? Well, the weekend, of course!

Pig Guide review: The Green Park Brasserie

The Green Park Brasserie was the second* Bath restaurant I professionally reviewed, almost 25 years ago, back when I was a fledgling food writer going out on a limb in a city that I was yet to become familiar with in search of reasons to make it my permanent home. Having opened its doors in 1992, GPS was, at the time, just five years old: “…but it doesn’t feel as fusty as the other long-established restaurants in Bath,” I wrote; “there’s something about the timeless-but-modern vibe here that tells me it could easily still be thriving for another five years.” Ah, look at me, back then: a psychic, no less, confidently predicting which businesses in Bath would or wouldn’t survive despite the fact that I’d only been in the city for around a week… and calling a 5-year-old restaurant ‘long-established’.

But it has to be said that, while a 5-year lifespan is – today even more than ever before – a Very Long Time in restaurant world, the version of Bath that I was getting to know at the time was full of restaurants that made GPB look like a young upstart that had dropped into a historic building (the former Green Park Station booking hall) in city full of ‘highly respected Bath institutions’ who all proudly flaunted their ‘established’ dates (1951; 1979; 1982; etc) on their restaurant’s signage, usually in gold leaf curlicue font.

While the Green Park Brasserie head honchos (that’ll be father-and-son team Andrew and Alex Peters, then) have resisted using that gold leaf curlicue font on their signage, they have every right to be proud that their business celebrated its 30th birthday this year. 30! Now that’s what I can confidently call long-established. But despite its vintage, Bath’s beloved brasserie is still very young for its age, a consistently youthful outlook combined with dedication, adaptation and diversification proving to be the secret of its success.

This buoyant, multi-faceted operation with an elegant, proper brasserie-style dining room (lots of polished wood; lots of gleaming brass; lots of potted palms) at the heart of the modus operandi is renowned throughout the west country for hosting four evenings of live music a week, generally on a jazz/funk/soul/swing theme, always pitched at a melodic, approachable volume so diners can choose to chat over a meal, specifically tune in to the music… or do both.

Lively little sister operation the Bath Pizza Co was introduced to the fold in 2016, totally reinvigorating the former ‘dead zone’ behind the Braz (at the bottom end of the Sainsbury’s car park) and now a Bath stalwart in its own right.

And as if all that’s not enough, there’s yet more going on behind the rather grand facade on the Green Park Road/James Street West intersection: Happy Hour goes large at the Braz between 12noon-5pm every day; the cocktails are amazing at any hour; strictly seasonal, local produce is pushed to the fore across all the menus… and the recently-introduced Brunch Menu (including a tantalisingly tipsy Bottomless option, both available 11am-3pm Friday-Saturday and 11am-7pm on Sundays) is set to invigorate our perceptions of breakfast.

Quite simply, there’s nowhere else like the GPB in the city; to quote, erm, myself, in a recent paean to the joys of Green Park Brasserie published in the Bath Magazine: “it reminds me of visits to London’s Shoreditch, or New York’s Union Square – there’s something unselfconsciously, comfortably cool about the whole affair; it’s a ‘welcome to the neighbourhood’ party to which everybody’s invited.”

After a quick stint on the terrace (we were, as it turned out, slightly too over-optimistic about the ‘lovely sunny evening’ we expected it to be), we started our party this time around with a duo of suitably celebratory starters: crisp calamari accompanied by a divine Tom Yum mayo, fresh lime and yuzu gel (ooh, yuzu gel!), and super-savoury arancini, crumbly on the outside and meltingly gooey in the middle just as arancini should be, served on a little pond of deeply flavoursome Arrabiata sauce. A live band kept entertainment levels swinging along at just the right volume, and both dishes were beautifully presented without pertaining to fuss or ostentation. We were already in classic brasserie heaven…

…and our mains confirmed our tenancy: a massive (and I mean massive) 30-day aged Newton Farm rib eye steak, chargrilled on the outside and perfectly pink within, served with Mr Pig’s choice of herby chimichurri sauce and all the lovely frills and fripperies (garlic butter; fabulous fries; a little tumble of salad leaves) that make such an experience complete. For me, a plump, luscious, roasted fillet of sweet, super-fresh salmon served with wedges of sweet potato reclining on an utterly ravishing bed of creamy delight (see pic). Oh, it was all just absolutely everything you could possibly want from an evening out: great vibe, super service, fabulous food – the whole shebang; writing about it today has made me want to go back there tonight – in fact, I just might do that.

I love the Green Park Brasserie not because the kitchen is home to a wannabe Michelin-starred chef, or because it serves the hippest food in the city, or because it’s a brand new place that I’m showing off about being first through the door in. I’m rhapsodising because the Green Park Brasserie is just lovely, and down-to-earth in a way that makes down-to-earth feel really special, and because we’re really, really lucky to have a place like this, in Bath, to call our very own. It may be 30 years old, but it’s fresh, and vibrant, and progressive, and invigorating, and restorative all at the same time; it’s still cleverly moving with the times in a way that the curlicue brigade refused to do. And because the Green Park Brasserie been there for me for all these years, it – and Bath – feels like a place that I’m so happy to call home.

*so where was the first Bath restaurant I ever reviewed, I hear you ask? That one’s long since closed, for good reason; all I will say about it today is that I wrote, at the time, that it needn’t have bothered investing in a gold curlicue sign that read ‘established 1997’ – and I was right.

Pig Guide review: The Architect, Orange Grove

Have you ever looked properly at the former Empire Hotel building in the middle of Bath? Oh sure, you know the building I’m talking about: the grand, turn-of-the-(20th)-century former hotel that dominates Orange Grove. But have you ever considered the design of the roof?

Back in 1901, then-Bath City Architect Major Charles Edward Davis decided it was a good idea to use his design (commissioned by hotelier Alfred Holland) to highlight social class division and turned the building’s top layer into some kind of weird structural shorthand for Britain’s social class structure: a humble cottage for the lower class ‘working man’ on the left (where else?), a couple of plain houses in the middle for the middle classes (see what he did there?) and a castle tower on the corner to represent the upper class.

In one of his epic, 46-volume series of British county-by-county guides The Buildings of England (1951-74), Sir Nikolaus Pevsner described the building as ‘a monstrosity and an unbelievably pompous piece of architecture’ – sorry Nik, but despite (or perhaps because of?) the roof bringing to mind the legendary,1966 Two Ronnies/John Cleese Class System sketch, I actually think that the big, frilly, 6-storey wedding cake-style structure is rather pretty.

What was never pretty about the Empire, though, was that fact that a rather unloved branch of the rather unloved British casual dining chain Garfunkel’s dominated the building’s elegant, expansive ground floor (the upper floors are given over to multiple layers of chi-chi apartments for those aged 50+) for around 20 years, subjecting innocent tourists who believed all the A-board guff about the restaurant claiming to have been serving ‘the very best of British food since 1979’ to the delights of floppy fish and chips, sickly chicken tikka masala and the infamous, soggy self-service salad bar, the constant ‘ping!’ of the microwave bank in the kitchen constantly interrupting the not-quite-loud-enough-to-hear-properly-but-just-about-loud-enough-to-annoy background music that always seemed to feature the Eagles, Carpenters and Alanis Morissette on a constant loop.

But still, when Garfunkel’s finally closed its doors for good circa 2019 and news of the possibility of new owners magpie-ing into the vacated nest started to circulate, complaints from residents and locals came in thick and fast… and B&NES council firmly refused a refurbishment planning application.

But that was then and this is now. The necessary planning permission was eventually duly granted (albeit with several conditions attached), and contemporary pub chain Brunning & Price opened the doors to The Architect in June 2022 – and really, only a chain with chain-style funding could ever have taken the site over; a site such as this (location; size; scale – phew!) is most definitely couldn’t be small, independent business territory, could it?

It’s been a long time coming (and indeed, a long time getting to the point in this review – sorry about that, couldn’t help meself), but The Architect most definitely had the right grand designs in mind when it came to appealing to Bathonians and tourists alike. At last, the former Grand Hotel’s ground floor looks properly grand again, all high ceilings, polished wood and palm trees, and plush booths built into sensual, inviting curves, and beautifully-laid tables for small and large parties alike, supplemented by a stylish little alfresco terrace offering views of the Abbey. The bar area is shiny, gleaming and inviting, and the staff follow suit: warm welcomes, bright smiles, totally unforced friendliness… well done, B&P.

On the all-important food front, menus are divided into the categories that we’ve come to expect from a contempo-pub: Daily, Light Bites, Pudding, Children’s, Sunday, Brunch, Gluten Free and Sunday Gluten Free are all there, all present and actually, all very correct, as in there’s a solid emphasis on seasonality and sourcing that lifts us away from ‘just another contempo-pub menu list’ territory, while modern flourishes such as burnt lemon labneh with a falafel starter, sea purslane with a Hampshire chalk sea trout main and an enticing dish of coconut feta fritters served with herb risotto, asparagus and pickled shallots in amongst a well-considered vegetarian selection show a thoughtful imagination at play behind the scenes. Of course, the Classics haven’t been overlooked; you can, if you so wish, take the well-travelled soup/fish’n’chip/chocolate brownie route to satiation. But oh no, not us – not today, anyway.

If you’re visiting The Architect on a drinks’n’nibbles only basis, might I suggest that you nibble on the lamb fritters with herb emulsion? They’re very good indeed – just sayin’. For starters proper, a plate of Dorset air dried beef with tarragon polenta croutons, truffle mayonnaise and radish proved to be a well-balanced mega hit of super-savoury flavours, and offered robust contrast to my rather more delicate Devon crab salad (lots of crab, hoorah!) with brown crab mayonnaise on a dinky toasted crumpet; both very good indeed.

For Mr Pig’s main course, two massive, velvety slabs of slow-braised ox cheek served with a deeply umami combination of truffle mash, king oyster mushroom, shallot and cavolo nero; for me, a beautifully-cooked Chicken Milanese, its 1970s bistro reputation given a thorough makeover courtesy of garlic sage butter and goat’s curd, accompanied by a lively lemon green salad and earthy new potatoes; if you’re in the mood for a dish that looks backwards in order to look forward to right now, this is it.

We didn’t do puddings, thereby saving us, according to the menu, a total of 1819 calories between us (if you’re a proper Pig Guide stalker, you can work out what our choices would have been from that). We did, however, opt for excellent Espresso Martini nightcaps ‘cos there’s no calories printed on the drinks menu, which must mean that there’s negligible calorie content in drinks, right? And off we went into the Orange Grove night, Bath’s newest old watering hole revisited to very satisfactory results.

Pevsner might not have approved of the work of Bath’s former Grand Hotel’s grand designer but something tells me that, were he writing today, he’d most definitely recommend The Architect in his guide.

Michter’s Whiskey Social at The Dark Horse, Wednesday 6 July

If you’re not familiar with (or would like to learn more about) Michter’s Whiskey (and trust me when I tell you that you really do want to know more about it), then get yourself along to The Dark Horse on Wednesday 6 July and prepare to be enlightened courtesy of a relaxed, friendly, in-depth masterclass in one of Bath’s most characterful, seductively charming environments.

Michter’s is proud to honour a historical legacy tracing back to the founding of America’s first whiskey company in 1753 – read all about the company’s fascinating backstory here before clickety-clicking on this link to buy your ticket for the Dark Horse event which costs just £35 to include a Michter’s cocktail on arrival, the tutored Michter’s Whiskey tasting and a West Country Cheeseboard to nibble on while we sup. Cheers, Piggies!

Novel Wines Annual Wine Tasting Party at the Hilton Hotel, Saturday 24 September

Hooray, hoorah, yay… and, of course, cheers! Novel Wines’ Annual Wine Tasting Party is back this year for the first time since 2019, taking place at the Hilton Hotel on Saturday 24 September.

The Annual Wine Tasting Party is Novel Wines’ biggest and most exciting wine event of the year. Operating across two sessions (12noon-4pm & 6pm-10pm), ticket holders are offered the opportunity to sample over 100 truly unique wines from the NW selection alongside samples of luxury spirits, cocktails, a brand new range of premium ciders and with-drinks nibbles courtesy of local charcuterie, chocolate and cheese suppliers, all set against a lively Motown music backdrop; all in all, this is a proper wine party that you won’t forget for a very long time!

Standard tickets to either session cost just £35pp… or £30pp if you make the most of the Early Bird ticket offer and book your ticket before 30 July. Group deal tickets for 4 people cost just £110 for the whole group, and if you’re planning on going along with 5+ guests in tow, get in touch with Novel Wines for a quote. Oh, and bear in mind that there’ll be 10% discount offered on all wine and spirits purchased while you’re at the party.

What are you waiting for? Book your place at the party via this link TODAY – but act fast, ‘cos the evening session is already 50% sold out! You have been warned…

Pig Guide review: Always Sunday TOWN+HOUSE

According to several local history websites, there’s been a hostelry on the corner of Thomas Street and London Road since 1830, when King William IV came to the throne. The story about the former lodgings house being turned into a public house by way of celebrating the Sailor King’s marriage to Princess Adelaide, however, is a bit of a stretch, given that that particular royal wedding took place in 1818 and that particular king died in 1837… but hey, semantics, yes?

A handful of world wars, various royal family shenanigans, an unforeseen pandemic, several ownerships (including the pub enjoying a long-standing stint in the hands of Charlie and Amanda Digney, of Garrick’s Head fame) and a name change later, the historic hostelry is still standing, with all the building’s original quirks and eccentricities (delightfully rickety staircases and floorboards; lots of little nooks and crannies just made for resident ghosts) intact… but today, polished up to thoroughly modern, cosmopolitan expectations that bring a mishmash of colour glazes, funky, retro-meets-modern fixtures, fittings and furniture and a laid back but lively vibe that offers a warm welcome to all (regardless of vintage) to the party. This revamp, however, carries much more of a backstory than either the change of ownership or the super-smart renovation suggests.

Always Sunday has naturally evolved through connections with our creative friends and continues to grow as we explore and discover new opportunities,” says founder Lexi Dart, who established the AS community in Bath a handful of years ago starting with the Always Sunday House and now incorporating the Always Sunday store too (if you’re not already au fait with this fascinating initiative, read all about all the Always Sunday ventures in full here).

At the Always Sunday TOWN+HOUSE Bar and Restaurant, head chef Christian Bryan has interpreted Lexi’s AS vision in prandial/merrymaking terms courtesy of menus that push seasonality and local sourcing to the forefront every Thursday-Saturday evening, with brunch, fixe prix and superb Sunday Roasts offering access to all budgets and appetites. If you’re not in the mood for big food, both the seasonal cocktail list and a thoughtful selection of wonderful wines pair very well with the Bar Menu… and if you’re on way into big town, might I suggest the exceedingly well-priced early bird set menu as you go? But if you don’t know what you want but know you want ‘something’, the staff here make you feel like an old friend from the get-go; at this point, I must offer full commendation to Cosmo, who acted as a thoroughly lovely, lively companion, guide and mentor throughout our whole experience.

We went all out for Always Sunday on a Saturday evening, at a window table for two in the small but perfectly-formed first floor dining room that offered an away-from-it-all view of the London Road thrum punctuated by the gentle flap of a Union Jack flag (fitting, given that it was Platinum Jubilee Weekend) fluttering on the breeze.

Starters of Wye Valley White Asparagus complemented by a fabulously fresh wild garlic pesto, a perfectly runny quail’s egg and properly aged parmesan for Mr Pig and a simply superb combination of heritage tomatoes and burrata mozzarella (think, an only just slightly more savoury version of clotted cream in cricket ball proportions) dotted hither and thither with more of that pesto boded very, very well indeed; this kitchen know all there is to know about using right here, right now flavours to their very best advantage.

Next up, for me, a super-fresh, super-meaty pan-roasted monkfish fillet with earthy new potatoes, huge, moist Brixham mussels, clams that still softly whispered tales of the sea, a complex roasted red pepper and chilli oil, samphire and a curry sauce that (and please read this as the compliment that it’s fully intended to be) tasted like the chip shop curry sauce of your foodie dreams; overall, an outstanding dish that looked as good as it tasted.

For Mr Pig, a massive rib eye steak that cut like butter and tasted like the real, proper beef that it is (ah, the combination of Larkhall Butchers and a proper chef never let a carnivore down) with big fat chips, confit portobello mushroom and peppercorn sauce. Even our side dish of roasted tenderstem broccoli deserves a special mention for being a proper portion of glorious green stuff sprinkled with toasted almonds.

And after all that, we had dessert… and you should too, especially if the Strawberry and Almond Tart with crème fraîche sorbet (oh, and basil, and more macerated strawberries, and meringue shards) is on the menu, and/or the Pina Colada: not the cocktail, kids, but a sublime coconut and buttermilk panna cotta with spiced rum pineapple salsa, lime gel and coconut sorbet.

In years to come, local legend may flex and bend the history behind TOWN+HOUSE; I can see those websites now: “… opened in 2020, to mark the Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee”, etc. Of course, that ain’t the truth. The truth is, if you wish it could be Sunday (almost) every day, this glorious modern-day, very hospitable hostelry is your spiritual home.

Pig Guide review: new menu at Côte

If you’re looking for pretty, you’ve come to the right place – Milsom Place, in fact: a super-pretty, characterful, split-level urban sanctuary based around a historic cobbled courtyard, today home to a variety of independent businesses and restaurants. It’s also home to one of the UK’s 85+ branches of Côte Brasserie, a British chain (established in 2007) who describe their general USP as “passionate about French cuisine, and bringing a little of that rich brasserie culture and tradition to the UK”… and you can’t help thinking, while wandering along the little urban enclave that make Milsom Place the very special kind of place that it undoubtedly is, that the Bath branch of Côte couldn’t possibly have been better located; there’s an inherent grace and style about the whole ancient-meets-modern experience (Milsom Place dates back to the early 18th century, don’cha know) before you even set foot in the brasserie itself.

You could, should you so wish (and weather allowing) take to a table right on those ancient cobblestones themselves; Côte boasts plenty of alfresco opportunities, including a super-modern upper-level terrace adjacent to the first floor bar. But on our most recent franglais foray, we opted to sit in the main restaurant, next to the big picture windows; the best of both worlds, oui?

Now I have to admit that, when I grab my coat and head for Côte (which I do on a fairly regular basis), I stick to my own tried-and-tested route to satiation: French Onion Soup; Steak Frites;Chocolate Mousse (the latter being a stalwart of Côte’s very well-priced Prix Fixe menu that comes in at less that £21 for 3-courses every weekday until 7pm). But recently, some exciting news hit my inbox: Côte’s new Executive Head Chef Steve Allen (previously Head Chef at Gordon Ramsey at Claridge’s) recently launched a new menu, which he describes as “the biggest evolution of its food in Côte’s 15-year history” – très intéressant, non?

While the new menu does indeed bring lots of interest-piquing ‘updates’ to the selection (new vegan and vegetarian options in particular have been given due – and fascinating – care and attention, while on the other end of the spectrum the kitchen’s signature Côte de Boeuf, hand cut in Côte’s own in-house butchery, now seasons and matures for 30 days, elevating it to spectacular flavour-heights), the classics that Côte’s foundations were built on still offer that reassuring baseline that keep brasserie menu fans (and they are legion) coming back for more.

Flying the flag for impeccable sourcing and seasonality, a starter of Wye Valley Asparagus with tomato béarnaise and a rich, creamy, golden-yolked poached egg may sound like a very British opener to a French-themed feast. But there was a lively joie de vivre about the dish (lemony, herb-infused breadcrumbs; that béarnaise; those generous slices of Côte’s legendary baguette) that firmly placed the Ooh-la-la centre stage. Similarly, the Crab Maison – a very generous portion of fresh British crab muddled with creamy avocado and piquant capers, served on more of the baguette-that-we-couldnt-get-enough-of – invoked seaside nostalgia for Brittany holidays-gone-by. Talking of Brittany…

Côte’s Breton Fish Stew isn’t a recently-revamped addition to the menu – but personally, I’m glad it’s been left untouched. There are few places in Bath where you’d find a fish stew this generously packed with piscatorial treats (sea bass; prawns; squid; mussels) all bathing in the kind of chilli-infused white wine broth that you’d happily drink from a mug on the menu on a regular basis. Dive in? I didn’t need to be told. The Monkfish Normande, however – a creamy but piquant one-potter putting a slab of meaty Cornish monkfish at the heart of the matter, with massive mussels and an apple/shallot/fennel combo poached in an organic Normandy cider broth – is a menu newbie… and a dish that I for one hopes never goes away.

Et pour le dessert? Well if you want to do this part of the meal properly, fabulously French-stylee, you could go cheese then pudding – and, spying on the next table to ours (as one does), I have to admit that I wish I had. But hey, there’ll be a next time for sure (and next time, I’m opting for one of the crepe newbies too). But this time around, I got stuck into my beloved Chocolate Mousse, and we had a Crème Brûlée too, and we finished off our wine (that we’d ordered too much of ‘cos the wine list is wonderful here, and very affordable – oh, and we started with a Kir Royale, which is also highly recommended), and we chatted to our lovely waiter who’d informed, advised and generally made our French excursion très, très bien throughout our whole staycation experience.

Did I want to go home? No I did not! I wanted to stay, and sip Calvados, and make like Marais and Cocteau… but hey: une autre fois. And there will be une autre fois at Côte, time and again.

Celebrate English Wine Week at Homewood: the No-dig Gastronomic Feast, Thursday 23 June

Where better to celebrate English Wine Week than at thoroughly modern English country house hotel Homewood… especially when a lavish 3-course gastronomic feast prepared and created by chef/gardener Darren Stephens awaits you!

Darren is a very active advocate of No-dig Gardening: a non-cultivation method used by some of the best organic gardeners in the UK. The method provides rich soil for produce to flourish in, with the added bonus of clearing a formerly weed-infested growing area; essentially, by avoiding digging, soil life remains undisturbed.

On Thursday 23 June, guests will start the English Wine Week celebrations with a glass of English sparkling wine on arrival before you stroll through the orchards, enjoying canapés being roasted on top of Big Green Egg barbecues as you go. Following your exclusive tour and a chat with Darren about how the No-dig garden came to be, you’ll meander up to The Lookout where a selection of freshly-baked breads, crudités and terracotta pots filled with hummus await you before a feast to satisfy all your senses is served… including, of course, a glass or two of the finest English wine.

Tickets for this unique event cost just £90pp, but be warned; they’re expected to sell out fast. To make that all-important booking, click on this link today. Cheers, Piggies!

Skills for Social Entrepreneurs: An entrepreneur’s perspective with Josh Eggleton at The Grapes, Thursday 15 June

If you’d like an insight into how Michelin-starred superchef Josh Eggletone (co-founder of The Pony & Trap/the Pony Bistro; co- owner of Bristol Beer Factory) manages the tricky balance between profit and purpose, juggling different businesses and the tensions between competing social, environmental and financial aims, get yourself along to The Grapes on Westgate Street at 5pm on Thursday 16 June and prepare to be enlightened.

Working in partnership with the BaNES Social Enterprise Programme, Josh aims to inspire participants as they learn about his own journey to sustainability and understand the skills required to manage competing objectives. How fabulous is that? To make that all-important reservation, click on this link TODAY!