July 4 2016

Henry's: Bath's most exciting new kid on the restaurant block

It’s always a shame when the owners of a much-loved merrymaking institution fly their longstanding nest, especially at the moment, when Bath seems to be increasingly inundated by bland, faceless chains and franchises desperate to turn our loveliest buildings into insipid coffee shops and lacklustre canteens. But sad as it is to see the restaurant formerly known as Casanis change hands, there’s more than a glimmer of uplifting news to help us cope with the shock of the new.

The gorgeous little bistro on what must surely be one of Bath’s prettiest traffic-free lanes may have only reopened as Henry’s a mere matter of weeks ago, but it’s already quietly thriving under the new stewardship of a young chef with a rather interesting heritage. Until fairly recently, Henry Scott was a sous chef at the Allium Restaurant at the Abbey Hotel. Before that, his interesting, inspirational small plate flavour combinations had gained him a cult following at the short lived ‘British tapas’ venture Culture and Cure, and before that, he’d worked at Michelin-starred Mayfair restaurant Hibiscus after adding stints at various upper crust kitchens in Sydney, Australia, to his CV. So it could be said that Henry has come a long way already… but wow, he’s now very much arrived.

It’s reassuring that Henry has chosen to pretty much maintain the general Casanis vibe that makes the setting of his new venture so enduringly appealing: a quietly chic modern bistro ambience with a clever layout making the very most of a small space, intimate yet not in the least bit claustrophobic. The moment you walk through the door, the heady aroma of a good kitchen in action greets you, and friendly staff make you feel like an old friend from the off. Meanwhile, those all-important menus are equally captivating: two sets of neat 3-3-3 selections, one of which solely concentrates on vegetarian/vegan options, and both offering broad, fascinating appeal.

I absolutely love small menus – they speak, to me, of confident contemplation, seasonality, and purpose. But in order to avoid that dreaded affectation of in-the-know exclusivity, they must be well-balanced. And Henry’s mini-menus tick all my boxes, in all the very best ways – there was honestly not a single dish on either menu that failed to tantalise and make me eager to pig out in the most tasteful manner. But after deciding I wanted everything, I eventually opted for chicken pate with sweet pine nut crust to start (£8), while Mr Pig went for crispy squid with mooli, coriander stem and yuzu (£7)… and so, our tasteful adventure began. My pate was an utter, multifaceted delight: almost mousse-like in consistency but bold, bold, boldly flavoured on the palate, with the pine nuts adding a uniquely crunchy texture. As for the squid: I personally can’t recall the last time I tasted squid so fresh or clean-tasting, with the yuzu bringing a fresh take on the classic citrus pairing to the party and the mooli politely inviting a blast of umami intensity to join the fun – one third of the way through our fact-finding foray, and Henry had worked his magic. But still, the best was yet to come.

For me, baked cod that still tasted of the summer tide, cooked just to the point of sweet, creamy perfection, resting on a soporific wild herb risotto and served with a little jug of langoustine broth that, although packed with a bold personality all of it own, cleverly managed to complement rather than overpower the delicate balance of the dish as a whole (£17). For Mr P, beef shin that swooned acquiescence at the mere glance of his fork, served with what Henry describes as “loaded new potato and onion puree,” which in this instance translates to the plate as a deeply savoury melange of buoyant, brave flavours that again could, in the hands of a less competent chef, overwhelm the dish but instead served to subtly expand the richness of one of the most robustly characterful cuts of meat (£18). This was brave, “in-the-moment” cooking at it’s very, very best; plucky and self-assured without being bombastic or pretentious.

Did we have dessert? Oh of course we did! Smooth, light pistachio parfait served with proper, old-fashioned vanilla sponge and poached rhubarb (£7); strawberry frangipane that respected its bakewell heritage without paying any kind of tricksy homage to Mr Kipling (£7).

We’re lucky, in Bath, to have a handful of chefs on our doorstep who are capable of creating exciting, delightful, exquisite flavour combinations – and we should never take any of them for granted. There is room, however, to welcome a brand new rising star to the fold… and trust me when I tell you that Henry Scott’s reputation is set, in a very short while, to go stellar.

Henry’s, 4 Saville Row, Bath BA1 2QP Tel: 01225 780055; web: www.henrysrestaurantbath.com

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