All posts by Melissa Blease

Exclusive Trentino Wine Dinner at La Terra, Thursday 27 January

Trentino, Italy: spectacular mountain ranges, calming green lakes, magnificent valleys… and, at the heart of it all, the legendary Mezzacorona wine company, boasting over a century of winemaking experience producing single varietal wines that preserve the essential aromas of the Dolomites.

La Terra, John Street, Bath: a glorious recent addition to the Bath restaurant scene, where every aspect from service to food by way of presentation and overall vibe skilfully defines the point where classic, traditional Italian cuisine meets contemporary expectations (read my full, recent review here).

Put ’em together and what have you got? A very, very special Wine Dinner at La Terra on Thursday 27 January, putting Mezzacorona wines including classics such as Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay alongside Lagrein and Teroldego Riserva in the spotlight complemented by a bespoke 4-course menu especially created for this exclusive occasion by La Terra’s head chef Alex.

Tickets for what’s set to be a truly memorable evening cost just £65pp, to include drinks on arrival at 7.30pm and that 4-course menu with matching wines to accompany each course. Seriously, you do not want to miss out on this – but be warned: space is limited, and tickets will sell out fast. To make that all-important reservation, call the restaurant on 01225 482070, email or visit the La Terra website today. Ci vediamo, lì porcellini!

Monday-Friday fun, fun, fun (and super deals!) at The Locksbrook Inn

Got the January blues? The Locksbrook Inn is poised to chase ’em away on any and every night of the week.

Monday: you really don’t want to worry about what’s for dinner (let alone do the washing up) so dine in and enjoy 2-4-1 pizzas from 6pm. Tuesday: hoorah, it’s Tapas y Quiz night! The fun starts at 8pm and entry costs just £1pp (max team size 6), but here’s the real bonus point: you don’t even have to get your thinking cap on to enjoy 3 tapas dishes for just £12, so that’s a win-win all round. Ready to wine down on Wednesdays? Choose a bottle of wine costing £30+ and earn yourself a £10 discount – cheers! Thursday, we’re moving on to Steak Night: that’ll be an 8ozs flat iron steak cooked to your liking and served with fries and that all-important glass of wine for just £18.95. And when you’re ready to hit the weekend, kick it off in fine style with two classy cocktails from the Locksbrook’s super-classy cocktail menu for a tenner. Hoorah!

To book for any or all of the above (and to confirm Quiz Night dates) call 01225 427119, email or visit the Locksbrook’s lovely website. Dive inn!

Burns Night at The Marlborough Tavern, Tuesday 25 January

Och Aye the noo! I’m eagerly anticipating raising a wee dram (or several!) to boisterous bard Robbie Burns at the Marlborough Tavern on Tuesday 25 January, when a special 5-course Burns Night menu featuring Scottish-inspired delights such as Cullen Skink, Venison Tartare and Braised Highland Beef Shin with Haggis Croquette and Whiskey Sauce to the table for just £49pp (optional wine flight, £25pp) guaranteeing a very good Tav-time for all… kilt or no kilt. 

To make that all-important reservation (and be warned: space is limited, and this one is set to be very popular), call 01225 423731 or email today. Là breith sona dhuit, Rabbie! 

New Pig Guide review: La Terra, John Street

The Firehouse Rotisserie was a Bath institution that offered no good reason not to live on John Street forever. What’s not to like about a bright, cheerful modern bistro specialising in bright, cheerful modern menus on a classic Californian theme including pizzas that, when the FR first opened its doors almost 30 years ago, offered a revelatory experience to a generation raised on Findus’ evil french bread variant? But a couple of months ago, a Tweet that I blithely assumed would never be posted appeared on my timeline, from FR owner Richard Fenton: “The Firehouse Rotisserie will close on October the 23rd. We’ve had a great run for 25 years, thank you for your support and kindness. Love, Richard X”. And that was that; the Firehouse had gone forever.

Scroll forward just a handful of weeks, and my FR mourning period is suddenly interrupted by another collection of memories that, for me, go back almost as far as my steadfast go-to FR order of crayfish salad followed by Texas spice-rubbed rotisserie chicken with jalapeño coleslaw, hickory barbecue sauce and a Caesar salad side does.

The news suddenly hit that legendary sommelier/wine expert/consultant Vito Scaduto (also former Restaurant Manager/Deputy General Manager at the Bath Priory Hotel) had magpied into the vacant space that the FR had left behind. Vito! I first met him when I was a fledgling restaurant critic for Bristol’s Venue magazine decades ago, before I knew my Barolo from my Barbaresco and thought that Prosecco was the Italian word for ‘posh’. I visited the Bath Priory for one of my very earliest restaurant reviews for Venue, Vito waved his magic mentoring wand over my befuddled head, and my bosses decided to keep me in my job “for another six weeks” (hah!).

Vito has guided me through many menus for many a long year since, as he undertook a leading light role at Bradford on Avon’s Three Gables before becoming a front of house superstar at Clayton’s Kitchen. And in December 2021, here’s Vito and I again, greeting each other like the old friends we’ve become, this time with me being all confident’n’grownup’n’stuff, and him… OWNING HIS OWN RESTAURANT! If that’s not good cause for a celebratory glass of Italian fizz, I don’t know what is.

But personal history aside, there’s much to raise a glass to at La Terra. Sparkly and inviting from the street and even more sparkly and inviting within, the restaurant oozes confidence, competence, class and glamour from the off, with artfully understated bling apparent in every detail from the chic décor to shiny glassware on the shiny tables. There’s a spiffing view all the way through to the big shiny open kitchen towards the rear of the street level dining room, where a brigade of chefs led by head chef Alex turn a bright, shiny spotlight on superb Italian produce – and that produce made its presence felt the moment we took to our table; who doesn’t swoon when hit by the uniquely aromatic scent of truffle? Bring that menu on

Per Iniziare, Primi, Secondi… when in Rome one is obliged to eat like an Italian, isn’t one? And so our voyage began, with openers of fruity, buttery taleggio wrapped in smoky, elastic, velvety speck and the freshest burrata I’ve ever encountered; think, the Italian version of savoury clotted cream complete with soft, forgiving ‘crust’ holding all the creamy goodness into a tight, glossy dome, accompanied by a rich fig puree and sweet, toasty pine nuts. Should I ever be in need of a speedy blast of la dolce vita to give an erstwhile dull day a Romanesque uplift, these two dishes alone (accompanied by a glass of something splendid, of course) are top of my ‘Uplift’ hit list…

…but as we’ve established, they were just per iniziare, and those truffles that had already made their presence felt were on their way to our table in white oil format, drenched over a perfectly al dente butternut squash risotto with sage, parmesan and pistachios doing the flavour-kick equivalent of dotting i’s and crossing t’s in all the right places. We shared a dish of traditional Roman gnocchi too (a featherlight version of a familiar comfort food classic made with semolina instead of potatoes) that came with a broad bean puree and wild mushrooms, with lesser-spotted sweet/savoury, salty/rich Guanciale lifting an already heavenly dish to stellar heights.

Secondi? Certamente! Having put the Faraona (a very promising-looking combination of breast and wing of guinea fowl with roasted squash, sweetcorn and brandy sauce) on the ‘for when we return’ list, we opted for Agnello: soft, pink rack of Wiltshire lamb with grilled polenta, roast carrot and a very proper port sauce that tasted as good as it looked (La Terra presentation, by the way, is super, super-pretty) and left us both… well, lost for any further superlatives than that.

Stunned (and replete) as we were, it was time for Dolci. And so it came to pass that we shared a vanilla Panna cotta with pear compote and amaretti crumble, and pretended to share a second dessert of Zabaione that Mr Pig didn’t get much of a look-in on as I couldn’t get enough of the classic Italian eggnog mousse (think, a thicker-set eggnog milkshake) with blueberries and hazelnut praline putting a grown up spin on my childish perceptions.

Every aspect of La Terra, from service to food by way of presentation and overall vibe, skilfully defines the point where classic, traditional Italian cuisine meets contemporary expectations. It isn’t just a good restaurant – it’s a molto, molto bene ristorante, suitable for all occasions… or simply just a simple-but-superb lunch. In summary, Bath’s newest restaurant is waiting for you to visit and make fresh memories. Saluti, Vito! Here’s to new beginnings; ritrovarsi non è mai stato così buono.

New Pig Guide review: The Elder Restaurant at the Indigo Hotel

The subtly glamorous Hotel Indigo didn’t enjoy the best start in Bath. Having spent around five years hidden away behind construction company curtains, the development of the massive South Parade site (which incorporated a row of 18th century Georgian townhouses including both the former Pratt’s and Halcyon Hotels) endured all manner of delays and the hotel’s grand opening date was pushed back and back, eventually settling on a Big Reveal in spring 2020… and we all know what happened in spring 2020, don’t we?

But in the autumn of the same year, there was finally cause for celebration on the ancient, scrubbed up flagstones that line one of Bath’s most handsome thoroughfares: the Hotel Indigo opened its doors, revealing an impeccably refurbished, ambitious complex bringing 166 luxurious boutique hotel rooms and various elegant chill out zones (including a whole ‘private house’ for private hire) together in one captivating smorgasbord of delights, with the stylishly quirky, independently-owned Elder Restaurant at the epicentre of proceedings.

The Elder’s roots in Bath may have only been established just over a year ago but it already feels like a longstanding, vintage institution infused with refined, dignified, mature 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.

Elder 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, neither vegetarians nor vegans are overlooked – to the contrary, in fact; on the evening we visited, I was sorely tempted to try the meat-free Pithivier for my main course. However…

After pre-dinner tipples in the bar (the cocktail list is excellent here, and the overall vibe and surroundings – think, velvet curtains and soft, soft furnishings; highly polished tables; superb service – suitably seductive), our dinner began with an unbidden treat of a rustic, treacly, oven-fresh mini-loaf to tear, share and dip into dinky little mugs of steaming Bullshot Tea: an intensely-flavoured, spirit-lifting, meaty consommé rich in game stock… and, perhaps, sherry?

Given the fact that we’re right in the middle of the British game season (and, of course, The Elder’s related USP), following such an opener up with two fish-based starters felt somehow inappropriate. But when a menu adheres to such a neat formation, you kinda expect that whichever dish you choose is going to be a superstar… and those expectations were exceeded here. Having said that, I still didn’t expect my featherlight whipped Chicken Liver Parfait to pack such an intense, incredible flavour punch, at once delicate and deeply rich, served not with bread but on a bed of crunchy granola that added texture and bite, with balsamic and quince working all kind of extra-added sorcery: to summarise, this starter was simply divine. For Mr Pig, a tartare of meaty South Coast bream teamed with smoked eel, cod roe and apple and topped with fascinating squid ink crackers pretty enough to wear as a race day fascinator but even more fascinating to crunch on.

I continued following the coastal path for mains with a salaciously plump tail of Looe Harbour monkfish anointed with a deeply umami miso glaze that turned my fish dish into a kind of pescatarian toffee apple, teamed with similarly sweet/savoury black cabbage, earthy mushrooms and a gloriously mineral-laden hit of buttered dashi. Mr Pig, meanwhile, swooned into his sweet, tender Wild Fallow Deer with creamed cabbage, nutty pumpkin and the classic Fallow Deer accompaniment that is the glossy, luxurious sauce Grand Veneur.

Based on the evidence so far, I found myself expounding on a theory that Robinson and Edney’s menus represent the meeting point on the bridge where Escoffier-inspired haute cuisine meets contemporary cosmopolitan expectations, firmly putting The Elder at the top of the Foodie Fabulosity charts in Bath. But of course, I had to confirm my theory over dessert, and both the Valrhona Chocolate Marquise – the intensity of the cacao-laden dark, dark chocolate hit lifted by the bittersweet blood orange – and the Prune and Custard Tart accompanied by a Prune D’Agen and Cardamom Ice Cream that put a sophisticated spin on an erstwhile comforting classic and turned it in an adult-only treat offered me all the confirmation of my fanciful hypothesis that I needed.

And so, the velvet curtain was set to close on our Elder experience. But before we leave, a word on wine…

The wine list here is as carefully curated as the beautifully balanced menu, pushing accessibly-priced lesser-spotted varietals to the fore. If you’re lucky enough have waiter Nick at your service on your Elder excursion, ask for – and take – his advice; not only does he know his wine, but his inspired descriptions are an absolute joy to listen to. Cheers!

Pig Guide review: Dining Domes at The Bird

Seeing is believing. But sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see”: thus spake The Conductor in Robert Zemeckis’ 2004 modern classic Christmas film The Polar Express… and that’s the quote that immediately came to mind when I walked through the little gate off the car park to the rear of the The Bird, one of Ian and Christa Taylor’s Kaleidoscope Collection of thoroughly unique, independent hotels.

I couldn’t see – and therefore had no idea – of the delights that were in store for me before I walked through that gate off the car park. But I knew from the off that I was in for some kind of sensory treat as I’ve seen The Bird transform over the years, from pop-up beach vibe to pop-up Christmas Tavern and party zone depending on the season. In 2020, The Bird introduced us to Plate: the on-site, subtly glamorous, wittily flamboyant restaurant headed up by superchef Leon Smith. Each of those experiences have, in their own individual ways, amazed, surprised and delighted. But in putting the finishing touches to their Dining Domes – one part super-chic, luxurious space age pod, one part London Eye-style capsule booth, all parts a uniquely beautiful outside/inside experience – The Bird has flown imagination to stellar heights.

Each Dome is beautifully decorated with sparkling bauble chandeliers, soft lighting and seasonal table centrepieces artfully wrought from leaves, berries and twigs. Opulent fur throws are thoughtfully arranged over the back of the plush velvet chairs but it’s unlikely that you’ll need to use one for more than a glamorous comforter, as very effective heating makes each little pod warm, cosy and inviting, even on the first super-chilly evening of the season. Within moments of taking to one of those plush seats, you’ll find yourself raising a glass of the Champagne Taittinger that comes as standard before your feast – and in this instance, the word ‘feast’ is an understatement. And so it began…

A shiny disc of garlic confit salmon, smooth as silk, with neat little blobs of something horseradish-y and creamy to offset the rich, smoky flavour of the fish. Mild, featherlight quenelles of goats’ curd dotted with caviar, the plate pooled with fresh pesto. A whole baked Bath Soft Cheese, soft and yielding beneath its bloomy rind, wafting and oozing that intrinsic earthy, mushroomy Bath Soft Cheese ‘personality’ the moment it hit the table. There was silky charcuterie, too – Bresaola, Ibérico, chorizo, Capocollo, salami, Prosciutto Crudo, with pickles and chutney – and hearty wedges of Bertinet sourdough, and divine butter (yes, butter can indeed be divine), and massive, juicy Kalamata olives, and smoked, toasted almonds… and this spread, dear reader, constituted only the starter.

The wine flowed, the door of our Dome slid open again, and in came… a whole Brixham plaice, dotted with capers and shards of samphire, laminated with a brown shrimp and lemon butter sauce. Super-tender Himalayan salt dry-aged Chateaubriand with roast carrots, and pickled shallots, and peppercorn sauce. Wild mushroom and truffle pappardelle oozing with intensely nutty Old Winchester cheese. And, y’know, just in case: The Bird’s own, very special mac’n’cheese; a big bowl of sautéed Bromham greens; truffle and Parmesan triple-cooked chips; “no-dig” salad… our table was laden, our senses were bombarded, we were having dinner at the sanest, most stylish Mad Hatter’s Tea Party yet to be directed by Tim Burton. And then, the chocolate truffles arrived at the same time as the the Wild Berry and Passionfruit Trifle, and the Somerset cheese board with chutney and crackers… and our eyes were bigger than our bellies, so I asked for a very down-to-earth doggie bag, and of course – like all our we could ever ask for or want throughout the evening – my wish was very gracefully granted.

This whole, fabulously fantastical feast – yes, all of it – costs just £60pp to include the magical surroundings, the almost other-worldly, dreamlike vibe, the richly detailed décor, the service that makes you feel like a red carpet superstar and more, more, more of so much more on an extraordinarily enchanted theme, all wrapped up in one utterly spellbinding package.

Seeing is believing. But sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see”: the Dining Domes at The Bird represent magic made real.

The Small Print: Dining Domes at The Bird are designed to accommodate a minimum of 4 guests and a maximum of eight. Lunch: £45pp, Afternoon Tea: £35pp, Dinner: £60pp. Children aged 12 and under dine at half price. Should you wish to hire a dome for less than four people, a hire charge of £100 will apply. Booking is essential. Meanwhile (yes, there’s more!): from Saturday 27 November, discover The Bird’s Alpine Lodge and Bar, serving cocktails, sharing platters and other festive delights in a cosy chalet environment every day from 12noon-late

Cool collaboration! Henry’s and Novel Wines Tasting Menu, Wednesday 10 November

Novel Wines: Bath’s very own unique, award-winning wine merchant specialising in undiscovered wines from around the world. Henry Scott: fascinating Head Chef at his eponymous little Saville Row bistro (that’ll be Henry’s, then) with a big reputation for foodie fabulosity. Put ’em together and what have you got? On Wednesday 10 November, something very special indeed…

…because that’s when Henry will be presenting an autumnal 5-course feast at his namesake restaurant co-hosted by Novel Wines’ co-founder and CEO Ben Franks who – after a welcoming glass of sparkling wine on arrival – will be talking us through the provenance of a selection of truly unique fine wines from his portfolio as Henry guides us through the delights of his menu.

Tickets for this splendid event cost just £75 per person; to make that all-important booking, click here… but be warned: space is strictly limited to an absolute maximum of 30 covers, so book today to secure your place at the party.

Pig Guide recipe: Pig Guide Pumpkin Pie, innit?

Pig Guide recipe: Pumpkin Pie

Carving up a pumpkin in readiness for the impending Halloween shenanigans? Ditch the trickery and go full-on treat with a Pig Guide Pumpkin Pie…

Ingredients (makes one large pie, serves 6-8)

750g pumpkin, peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks

140g caster sugar

½ tsp salt

½ tsp fresh nutmeg, grated

1 tsp cinnamon

2 eggs, beaten

25g butter, melted

175ml whole milk

1 tbsp icing sugar

350g sweet shortcrust pastry (shop bought is fine!)


Put the pumpkin chunks in a large saucepan, cover with water, bring to the boil and allow to simmer for around 15-20 minutes, until just tender. Drain well and allow to cool in the colander.

Roll the pastry on a lightly floured surface and use it to line a 22cm loose-bottomed or springform tart tin. Allow to chill for 15 mins while you heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.

Line the pastry case with baking parchment and baking beans and bake for 15 mins. Remove the beans and paper and cook for a further 10 mins until the base is pale golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

Increase oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Mash the cooled pumpkin through a sieve into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, salt, nutmeg and half the cinnamon with the beaten eggs, melted butter and milk. Stir well, then add the pumpkin purée and mix all the ingredients together until well combined.

Pour the mixture into the pastry case and cook for 10 mins before reducing the heat to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and baking for a further 35-40 mins until the filling has just set.

Allow the pie to cool, remove from the tin, mix the remaining cinnamon with the icing sugar and use it to dust the top of the pie. Serve chilled with double cream or ice cream.

Pig Guide review: Night Fever at Bill’s, Cheap Street

Disco: according to 70s-era disco supergroup Ottowan, she’s Delirious, Incredible, Superficial, Complicated… and don’t forget oh, oh OH!

Bill’s: a British restaurant and bar chain, founded in Lewes, East Sussex, by former greengrocer Bill Collison, which currently has around 78 branches around the UK.

Put ’em together and what have you got? Brace yourself for a smidgeon of gentle surreality here, but… Bill’s Night Fever takeovers every Thursday-Saturday until 13 November, featuring cocktails ‘inspired by’ the disco era (the Disco Inferno Passionfruit Martini; the Super Freak Strawberry Margarita; etc) and a food menu that boogies along to a similar theme pushing dishes such as Studio 54 Steak au Poivre and Funky Chicken in the direction of the dinner time dance floor.

Would The Pig Guide like to boogie on down to Bill’s and get funky? Now there’s an offer we couldn’t refuse…

It’s a miserable Thursday night, but Bill’s is buzzing – not, however, with glammed-up revellers in search of a glittering beat, but simply with the cheerful crowd that this easy-going British diner/brasserie tends to attract: smoochy couples, friends reunited, visitors to Bath cooing over nearby views of the Abbey (which is looking spectacular in its night-light glow) and families revelling in the delights of Bill’s ‘something for everybody’ menu: a contempo-European/globally-inspired affair that starts with breakfast/brunch, segues into lighthearted lunch and, post-sunset, brings an array of sharing platters, salads, steaks, burgers, chicken and fish to the party, with classic comforters such as Bill’s legendary Fish Pie, Mac’n’Cheese and Steak’n’Eggs and plenty of veggie/vegan options ensuring all bases are covered at distinctly down home prices.

We were, of course, in search of a taste of Night Fever so, a couple of those disco-themed cocktails in hand (the super-sweet Super Freak Strawberry Margaritas, since you asked), we opted for the Studio 54 Sirloin Steak and the Le Freak Vegan Burger (nice contrast going on there, don’cha reckon?). There aren’t any starters on the Night Fever menu, but the Crispy Chicken and Sesame Dumplings and the Crispy Calamari on the main dinner menu were doing a very tempting, attention-grabbing Hustle… and they didn’t disappoint, both dishes proving to be a very well-matched partnership with lots of crunch, lots of chilli heat and a couple of very saucy sauces turning up the groove at our table for two. And the beat went on…

I’m not entirely sure that anybody ever went to Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager’s legendary 1970s Manhattan night club Studio 54 in search of a good steak, but if they had, I’m sure they would have been very happy with the one Bill’s is serving up in honour of S54’s infamy: it’s big, it’s juicy, and it comes with a bangin’ rosemary jus and very good fries. My vegan burger freaked me out (in a good way) too: super-juicy, served with nuggets of smoky vegan burnt ends, an excellent vegan cheese and rosemary salted fries that leapt straight to the top of my chip-hit charts.

And even after all that, who could say no to the Sundae Night Fever? Not Mr Pig! And it proved to live up to its name, topped with a chocolate glitter dome that, when drenched in hot salted caramel sauce, melted to reveal a tumble of chocolate brownie chunks and waves of vanilla ice creama disco inferno in dessert form indeed.

The thing is, though, Bill’s doesn’t need any attempts at extra-added glitter and sparkle to make it feel Mighty Real. The hospitality industry has been turned Upside Down of late, but Bill’s is very much Stayin’ Alive and still topping the high street chain Billboard Charts two decades on since the first branch opened, thanks to a winning formula of well-balanced, well-priced menus served up in a warm, welcoming environment by people who are clearly very happy to be doing what they’re doing… and with a commendable charitable initiative going on behind the scenes too.

Unlike Ottowan’s of Disco, here’s nothing superficial or complicated about Bill’s – and oh oh Oh! Why would anybody want to rock that boat?

The Bath Supper Club Collective Firework Supper at The Grapes Bath, Wednesday 3 November

Following on from the success of their inaugural event hosted at The Grapes Bath in early October, the Bath Supper Club Collective are proud to present their Fireworks Supper, taking place on Wednesday 3 November.

The seasonal feast will take place in The Grapes’ uniquely characterful, intimate first floor Jacobean Living Room and will once again be curated and delivered by Bath-based cookery writer, teacher, organic allotmenteer and Supper Club hostess Simi Rezai (who many of you already know as the force behind Simi’s Kitchen), who has rustled up a truly attention-grabbing menu including starters of Grape and Sausage Casserole (both meat and vegetarian options available), mains of Pulled Beef Brisket or Pulled Jackfruit with Spiced Hasselback Squash, Sweet Potato Wedges, Chilli Beans and ‘slaw, with Apple Tarte Tatin and cream adding sparkle at the end of the display.

Tickets for this uplifting event cost just £45pp to include, of course, that fabulous feast and a welcoming seasonal cocktail. To make that all-important booking click on this link… but be warned: numbers are strictly limited to a maximum of 24 guests and are expected to sell out fast, so move now to guarantee your place at the party. Talking of which…

As November 3 is the first Wednesday of the month, Jonny Melancholy and the Sad Cowboys will be playing live in their usual spot in the bar after the meal to keep the party going.

Photo credit: John Le Brocq

Pig Guide review (of a brand new arrival to the scene): Casa de Tapas, York Street

‘Tapas’: derived from the Spanish verb tapar (a cognate of the English word ‘top’), used to describe the little with-drinks nibbles served by proprietors of pre-19th century Spanish Posadas, Albergues or Bodegas – kind of, early Airbnb ventures that offered rooms and refreshments for travellers. On from this…

The oft-told story goes that the original tapa were thin slices of bread usually topped with charcuterie which sherry drinkers in Andalusian taverns used to cover their glasses with in between sips: on one level, a practical measure that prevented flies from hovering over the sweet sherry; on another level, a very canny up-sell: cured meats tend to be quite salty, so therefore activate thirst. If you’ve got a bar full of thirsty customers, you’ve got a bar full of speedier drinkers, right? On from this once more…

In Spain, groups of local merrymakers regularly cruise tapas bars, expecting to be presented with a sliver of ham, or a cube of cheese, or a crisp little croqueta to accompany their drinks as they go; so far, so very civilised. When the Brits ‘discovered’ Spain as a popular (and accessible) tourist destination in the 1950s and ended up binging on albondigas, an influx of tapas bars and restaurants came the other way, and duly opened on our at-home doorsteps. But on from this yet again…

Wandering around Bath these days, you’d be forgiven for thinking… what happened to the UK’s homegrown tapas revolution? For sure, we’ve got a couple of big glitzy chains (and the odd little indie venture) attesting to specialise in the genre but in reality mostly serving up commercial rollout, pre-prepped, often pre-frozen portions of flavourless albondigas, floppy calamari and shrivelled gambas before a sad-looking plate of what tastes like boil-in-the-bag paella arrives at the table. Or, we’re subjected to the dreaded Small Plates menu: a snooty, ‘British’ version of tapas that costs upwards of £8-9 per dish and are only really suitable for sharing with others if you have a bag of chips on the way to the restaurant. And oh, don’t get me started on Asian/Cajun/French ‘tapas’, or the weird rebranding of Greek Mezze as a ‘tapas-style spread’… but we’re moving on for the last time here in, this time, a distinctly optimistic mood…

Tim Coffey – the force behind popular, long-standing Bath indie restaurants The Real Italian Pizza Co, The Herd and Joya Italian Steakhouse – has recently turned his talents to tapas. He’s scrubbed up (without taking any of the intrinsic characterful charm away from) the space recently vacated by Cafe Retro on York Street, built a terrific team and devised an accessible but wholly authentic tapas menu that skips from almendras fritas (all sangria is too wet without at least one handful of salted, fried Spanish almonds) to Tarta de Santiago taking in a properly classic selection of Spanish cheese and charcuterie, tortillas, croquetas, carne and pescado along the way.

Most dishes fluctuate around the £6.50-£7.50 price tag (and you can choose any three dishes for just £18 every Monday-Friday lunchtime), there’s a very generous Tabla de Embutidos that brings a heap of Spanish cured meats, cheeses, olives, bread and that all-important aioli to the table for £18, and a strong selection of vegetarian/vegan dishes make sure everybody’s invited to the fiesta.

Casa de Tapas feels like a proper tapas bar, the like of which you’d easily wander in to when rambling around Barcelona’s Ramblas, offering the kind of bright, shiny, linger-long or go speedy vibe that allows you to choose your own pace according to your mood rather than having the pace and mood dictated to you by an over-keen team. The menu moves according to a ‘what do you fancy, right here, right now?’ beat too; had we, for example, been en route to the theatre, or the cinema, or a gig, that Tabla de Embutidos could have appeared as quickly as a couple of accompanying beers… and probably have disappeared just as swiftly. Having a party? There’s literally something for everybody here, plus proper party-on jugs of sangria to keep spirits lifted. Smoochy date night? That was us, taking our time, chilling out, catching up.

And so it came to pass that we caught up on both Casa de Tapas and each other over waves of delectable dishes including what’s seriously the very best Jamón ibérico we’ve tasted outside of Salamanca, and two types of croquetas (a mushroom and a chorizo and Serrano ham incarnation, both at once perfectly crunchy/salaciously bechamel-creamy), and succulent prawns drenched in brazenly bold amounts of garlic and chilli, and soft, sexy, semi-cured chorizo in a flavour depth charge red wine reduction, and slow-cooked, smoky fresh octopus with dinky little potato chunks soaking up all that smoky sauce, and house bread topped with juicy, super-ripe grated tomato and more garlic and lashings of proper olive oil.

We drank too much Cava sangria, and too much house red wine (another note to take note of here: you know that rumour that’s at large at the moment regarding rocketing wine prices? Plunder the invitingly affordable wine list here and prepare to stop those tongues wagging), and because it was a Friday evening and we all know that calories don’t count on a Friday evening, we finished off our feast with a proper Basque-style ‘burnt’ cheesecake smattered with homemade strawberry jam and a Crema Catalana because… well, when in Spain.

Okay, we weren’t in Spain – we were on York Street, in Bath. But there’s something about Casa de Tapas that really does make you feel like you’ve been somewhere else for the evening, far away from the hedge fund owned “tapas” traders, and the formerly-frozen fritas, and the sad Small Plates being churned out just down t’road. Has the UK’s homegrown tapas revolution finally arrived in Bath? What we can say for sure is that, visiting Casa de Tapas for what is destined to be just the first of many excursions, se sintió como si volviéramos a casa.

Pig Guide news: Bath Supper Club Collective launch

The Pig Guide’s super-exciting new collaboration with two of Bath’s most fabulous foodies launched at The Grapes Bath last night (Wednesday 6 October) with a Middle Eastern Harvest Feast hosted by Grapes’ landlady Ellie Leiper and curated by Bath-based cookery writer, teacher, organic allotmenteer and Supper Club hostess Simi Rezai, who many of you already know as the force behind Simi’s Kitchen.

The feast – served in the uniquely beautiful, lovingly restored, intimate Jacobean Dining Room on the first floor of the pub – began with a Somerset Cup cocktail: The Grapes’ very own take on a classic Pimms made with the Somerset Cider Company’s Kingston Black and apples from the company’s orchard.

Once firmly in the eat, drink and be merry zone, guests tucked into magical sharing platters that included tantalising tasters of Sumac Chicken (or aubergine-rich Kashke Bademjan for the vegetarians), Loubia bil Tahini (green beans in tahini sauce), Batata Harra (golden garlicky potatoes) and a huge pile of herb-laden aromatic salad, resulting in a prandial voyage of discovery showcasing the uniquely tantalising flavours of the Middle East, with many of the strictly seasonal ingredients sourced from Simi’s own allotment. At the finishing line, Labna with Seasonal Fruit Compote offered a sweet goodnight kiss before we went our separate ways… but we’re soon to be reunited!

Ellie, Simi and Melissa will be hosting regular events throughout the year celebrating high days and holidays such as a Fireworks Night Supper on Wednesday 3 November and Burns Night on Tuesday 25 January; watch this space for full details and that all-important advance booking information.

Pig Guide review: The Mint Room

Petrol queues, irate taxi drivers, new students moving in, out and generally shaking it all about. Storm clouds threatening to break, confused tourists asking if St James Cemetery is part of Bath Abbey… and then, a broken-down bus: last Thursday evening on Lower Bristol Road was hardly what you’d call a relaxing experience.

But all the while, while negotiating the thrum (and please bear with me on this apparently random segue), there was a little song playing in the back of my head: “there’s a place for us, somewhere a place for us; peace and quiet and open air, wait for us somewhere…” …and the earworm was right.

If you haven’t visited The Mint Room recently, there’s yet more reason to catch yourself up than ever before. The restaurant’s head honchos have recently revamped their super-smart rooftop bar, replacing the sofas with stylish bar furniture, shifting the bar itself around to offer yet more space, bringing the edges of the tensile roof down to ward off chills, and installing plenty of very effective heaters to double-down on making the inside/outside vibe not only viable but properly inviting, whatever the season.

And that’s where our ‘place for us’ on our most recent Mint Room foray began: at an elegantly-dressed table up on the roof (yup, there’s another ear-worm waiting to happen here) where we enjoyed classy cocktails from the classy cocktail menu accompanied by The Mint Room’s very special take on street food: a Deconstructed Punjabi Samosa so beautiful that I’d be happy to have a full-size photo of it on my wall at home; puffed rice with toasted peanuts, tamarind and mint chutney; Pani Puri with chickpeas, diced potato, pomegranate seeds and tamarind water, which you can down in one or nibble slowly (at this point, I’ll leave it up to you decide which of our table for two did what.)

As gracious as our rooftop party was, it was soon time to descend into the restaurant ‘proper’ where soft hues based on a latte/cappuccino palate provide a chic, flattering backdrop for the tasteful bling (glittery walls; flickering candlelight) that adds yet more glamour to the whole experience – and our starters (two of each, each; Mr Pig and I don’t do things by halves) were equally alluring: tender lamb chops marinated in Punjabi spices with Sweet Potato Shami; an utterly divine Keralan Sea Bass Moilee that put a region renowned for its coastal harvest, soporific coconut-based sauces and temperate, subtle spices in the spotlight, resulting in a truly magical dish indeed.

After a palate-cleansing mango sorbet, a trio of curries including sweetly spicy Delhi ‘old style’ Butter Chicken (Somerset Tandoori Chicken Tikka? Yes, really!) and deeply flavoursome Beef Chettinad arrived, accompanied by fluffy saffron pilau and and buttery, super-fresh garlic naan…like, WOW? Indeed! Sumptuous, extravagant, sophisticated flamboyant – we weren’t just having a good time; we were, quite simply, in good food nirvana, with the sweet stuff at the end of our feast (highlight: the sweet, sticky, fun-fun-fun ‘Indian doughnuts’ that are Gulab Jamun; densely creamy, rosewater-infused Pistachio Kulfi; a beautifully-constructed ‘grown up’ layered chocolate gateau that I apologise profusely for forgetting the formal title of) dotting and crossing all the i’s and t’s that The Mint Room had already perfectly punctuated.

Our early nibbles rank amongst the best prandial preludes we’ve ever encountered in any restaurant in Bath, while the rest of our banquet can only be described as positively stellar, a sentiment aided and abetted by the kind of artful presentation that’s almost criminal to disturb. Competent, confident and audaciously inspirational, Head Chef Soyful Alom and his team are masters of the art of modern Indian cookery at its very, very best.

You can either dine at The Mint Room like a Maharaja (the wine list is suitably stately too), pop in for a simple Rogan Josh and a Cobra, or bypass the food altogether and chill out (but not, as we’ve already established, literally) on the rooftop terrace. But whichever way you choose to do it, you’ll pay far, far less than you’d expect to fork out for the outstanding quality on offer – and gain a far, far more memorable experience than I’d wager you’ve had in a restaurant in a very long time.

Hold my hand and I’ll take you there…” Or, just book a table for yourself, right now; you won’t regret it.

The Middle Eastern Harvest Feast launches Bath Supper Club Collective at The Grapes Bath, Wednesday 6 October

The Pig Guide is super-excited to be collaborating with two of Bath’s most fabulous foodies to present the first in a series of Bath Supper Club Collective events at The Grapes Bath on Wednesday 6 October.

The Middle Eastern Harvest Feast will be curated and delivered by Bath-based cookery writer, teacher, organic allotmenteer and Supper Club hostess Simi Rezai, who many of you already know as the force behind Simi’s Kitchen. The BSCC launch is timed to coincide with both The Great Bath Feast and British Food Fortnight, and the event will take place in the uniquely beautiful, lovingly restored, intimate Jacobean Dining Room on the first floor of The Grapes.

I was originally inspired to start up the Bath Supper Club Collective because seasonal produce and the ability of food to bring people together is one of the great pleasures in life,” says Grapes’ landlady Ellie Leiper. “Since moving to Bath from the countryside where we grew our own produce for decades and had our own flock of milking sheep, heritage pigs, goats and poultry, I have been struck by a powerful need to reconnect to the changing of the seasons through dishes that delight. Simi’s love for the land and how that translates in her native dishes is joy on a platter for me, as this was the food I grew up with in Nigeria, sharing meals with many Middle Eastern family friends. Meanwhile, Melissa of Pig Guide ‘fame’ was an obvious choice in terms of getting the wheels on this wonderful project rolling!”

Simi enjoys and cooks food from across the world but is best known for her native Persian Azeri dishes. For the past 11+ years she has facilitated and hosted cookery classes inspired by seasonal fruit, vegetables and herbs, sourced from her own allotment when possible and championing local producers. In 2019, Simi launched her successful Lockdown Supper Clubs and she is now looking forward to receiving guests at The Grapes for a feast that she describes as “celebrating the harvest bounty synonymous with this time of the year” (you can check out that fabulous menu here.)

Tickets for the inaugural Bath Supper Club Collective cost just £45pp to include, of course, a fabulous feast and a welcoming seasonal cocktail; to make that all-important booking click on this link… but be warned: numbers are strictly limited to a maximum of 24 guests and are expected to sell out fast, so move now to guarantee your place at the party.

Can’t make the date? Ellie, Simi and Melissa will be hosting regular events throughout the year celebrating high days and holidays such as a Fireworks Night Supper on Wednesday 3 November and Burns Night on Tuesday 25 January.

Pig Guide review: Bandook Kitchen, Milsom Place

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 high street flagship stores. It’s also home to Bandook Kitchen, a key member of the highly-acclaimed Mint Room family who have branches of both restaurants in both Bristol and Bath.

While the Bristol incarnation (at the heart of Wapping Wharf) may have fashionista funk on its side, the Bath location has inherent grace and style; it’s all kinda ancient-meets-modern (Milsom Place dates back to the early 18th century, don’cha know), and there’s something magical about the whole complex before you even set foot in Bandook Kitchen itself.

Once inside the restaurant, it’s pretty magical too. Owner Moe Rahmen says he took inspirational cues and clues for the restaurant’s sophisticated but eclectic design flourishes (think, colour, colour, colour, working together in bold/subtle harmony; plush banquette seating; striking statement lighting) from the Hindustani cafés where the British and Indian army used to gather to eat together. Gosh! Those guys certainly had a keen eye for stylish detail. Moe’s looked back in order to look forward in terms of the menu too: from street food and small plates to full-on big dishes with a big history taking in dosas, chaats, pavs and all kinds of tantalising gotta-try-thats along the way, there’s something for everybody from the timid to the temerarious here, while the drinks menus (and take note that the cocktail list is a thing of beauty to behold) puts paid to the recent social media ‘outrage’ regarding restaurants hiking up drinks prices since reopening after the pandemic.

Despite that seductive interior, we enjoyed our most recent Bandook supper at a heated alfresco candle- and fairy-lit table that gave the whole experience a chilled out holiday-style vibe. The only stressful part of our evening was ordering: so much choice on the menu, all of it appealing, and every dish distinctly affordable. What to do? Start with a small’n’street selection, move on to Raj-syle feasting dishes… and bear in mind that you won’t raise any eyebrows if you end up asking for a doggy bag for leftovers.

A Samosa Chaat – described as a “deconstructed Punjabi vegetable samosa” – was so pretty that the thought of prodding it with a fork felt akin to a criminal offence. But once prodded, prepare to have your senses arrested by flavours: soft curried chickpeas, waves of thick, cool yoghurt and layers of tamarind and mint chutney, all scattered by fresh pomegranate jewels, make this little dish a Great Big Hit. Glossy Squid Koliwada shimmied across the table bringing further style and substance to proceedings; crisp little goujons of Amritsari Fish – the subtle chilli heat in the batter tempered by a mellow blast of mint chutney – proved to be compulsively crunchy; and Delhiwale’s Pocket Kebab (a flaky, buttery layered paratha stuffed – and I mean stuffed – with softly-spiced, super-moist chicken) danced along to an altogether earthier tempo… I don’t know who Delhiwale is, but if this is the kind of street food that he keeps in his pocket, he’s definitely a friend for life.

So far, so very non-stop exotic cabaret; in all honesty, just four small plates down (plus a couple of those cocktails), we could have stopped there. But a very good Twitter friend recommended that I try the Lucknowi Parda Lamb Biryani, and it would have been rude not to, so I did. It turned out that my Twitter friend has excellent taste: puncture the crisp pastry lid, and you unearth soft – and I mean, soft – morsels of lamb in the kind of silky, aromatic, subtly sweet/spicy broth that you just know is the kind of concoction that only an expert in the biryani field could prepare. Meanwhile, arriving at Mr Pig’s platform: Railway Lamb Curry, originally developed by chefs working on the railways during the British Raj. Railway is a curry that can’t be categorised: not as bold as, say, a Madras but far less subdued than a Korai or a Bhuna, and relying (I’m guessing?) more on ginger and garlic than chilli for heat, with a distinctly sweet/sour hit adding fascination at every stop on the way to an empty bowl.

Ah, I love Bandook Kitchen. I love the restaurant’s style, audacity and overall vibe. I love how it’s filled a big gap in the Bath eating out scene by blending upper-crust Indian fine dining with a casual, welcoming – and again, I have to reiterate this point – affordable ethos. It’s effortlessly uplifting, and unselfconsciously soul-soothing. And if you’re looking for pretty, you’ve come to the right place.