Centuries ago, Beau Nash – Bath’s official Master of Ceremonies – influenced, defined and determined the ‘What’s Hot and What’s Not’ chart in Bath. He died in 1762, but Beau’s legacy lives on in the fabric of the city around us today – and it feels somehow fitting that I’m writing this review on what would have been his birthday.
Walking along the scrubbed-up flagstones to the front of the recently-opened Indigo Hotel – a handsome, ambitious complex that brings 166 luxurious boutique hotel rooms, a private members club, various elegant chill out zones and a stylishly quirky, independently-owned restaurant together under one impeccably refurbished row of Georgian townhouses on South Parade – I couldn’t help but wonder if Beau might be lurking in the shadows, watching a whole new generation of pleasure-seekers investigate Bath’s newest pleasure palace. Some 300-ish years ago, the dynamic dandy would no doubt have been one of the first visitors through the doors… and I’m happy to report, on Beau’s behalf, that I’m guessing he would have chosen not to exit again for many a long, happy hour.
The Elder Restaurant is infused with refined, dignified glamour: one part contemporary gentlemen’s club, one part upmarket hunting lodge, all parts accessible brasserie-style elegance, with window tables offering street views and booths (gotta love a booth!) adding intimate dinner a deux opportunities. Menus are conceptualised by wild food and game aficionado Mike Robinson who works in close collaboration with Head Chef Gavin Edney to curate a neat array that showcases the very, very best locally sourced, seasonal, sustainable produce. Game is at the top of the Elder menu (which explains the hunting lodge décor) but the meat at the heart of the matter in terms of inspiration, execution and presentation is far more Michelin-standard than the hunt-themed ethos suggests. If, however, meat is off the menu for you or a fellow diner, vegetarian and vegan options are readily available on dedicated discrete menus.
Our foray began with an unbidden treat of a rustic, treacly, oven-fresh mini-loaf to tear, share and dip into dinky little mugs of steaming game tea: an intensely-flavoured meaty consommé rich in game stock and Madeira. Following this unexpected opener up with two fish-based starters felt somehow inappropriate, but the fret was wholly unnecessary; nothing – not even that opening, full-on flavour fest – could detract from the inherently sweet, briny delights of Dorset Crab served warm in an impeccably crisp, light pastry case with lemon mayonnaise to add vibrancy and grassy chimichurri for contemporary flair, while a tartare of meaty South Coast bream teamed with smoked eel, cod roe and deeply umami dashi and topped with fascinating squid ink crackers pretty enough to wear as a race day fascinator were both as far removed from the forest as its possible to get.
I continued following the coastal path for mains with a fat, glossy cod fillet fresh off a Mevagissey day boat (as all the best cod is, at this time of year) teamed with salt-baked celeriac, lively pickled onion, juicy little nuggets of bacon and soft, soft lovage all lighting the way to supreme satisfaction, while Mr Pig found his personal nirvana in a dish that bought super-mature sirloin and ale-braised shin of heritage beef together with beef fat hash browns, cruciferous greens and an devilishly bold, glossy Chianti sauce together in perfect carnivorous harmony.
Did we shoot for the dessert menu? Indeed we did – and our aim was flawless: intensely fruity caramelised pear anchoring featherlight mille-feuille, a pool of chocolate sauce with a mirror glass finish and a shot of intensely luxurious vanilla ice cream adding further indulgence; earthy, fruity blackberry tart with more of that ice cream, cleverly balanced by a sprinkling of salted almonds and an exuberant, uplifting blackberry sorbet.
In summary, The Elder is an intelligent, well-considered addition to the Bath food scene. Prices are exceedingly accessible for the quality of the experience (our Friday evening dinner came in at just £45 for three courses) and the overall vibe makes dining in Bath’s newest kid on the restaurant block as convivially congenial as a reunion with an old friend – such as Beau Nash, perhaps? The self-styled King of Bath would most definitely approve…