December 30 2012

Looking back, looking forward: the Bath buffet, 2013

Its original reputation may be built on an illustrious history, but contemporary Bath time doesn’t stand still for long – certainly not in restaurant terms, at least. Few new openings, however, caused as big a stir as our favourite newbies did when three superchefs opened their doors to three of the best restaurants in Bath, all within a couple of months of each other: step forward, in order of appearance, Gordon Jones (Menu Gordon Jones), Chris Staines (Allium Brasserie) and Dougie Bonar (The Kilted Chef) – and not a single link in any kind of chain between them. Elsewhere in the independent world, lively watering hole (and, bizarrely enough, nail bar) Rhubarb flourished in the Grove Street nest vacated by Fubar earlier in the year, Nonna’s brought an authentic taste of Italian home cooking to Gay Street, former Michelin-starred chef Rob Pearce gave the careworn Curfew Inn a welcome makeover, the duo responsible for both the Marlborough Tavern and Chequers took former carvery’n’meal deal yuk-spot the Hare and Hounds under their competent wings and treated it to a thoroughly refreshing revamp, Abbey Ales waved a similarly-stylish wand over the Trinity Inn, the Roman Baths Kitchen combined laid-back glamour with locally-sourced modern British sensibilities to great effect on Abbey Churchyard and Sam Moody regained a Michelin Star for the Bath Priory; quite a lot to digest indeed. But there’s yet more to chow down on…

A veritable chain invasion got a grip on Bath in 2012, with Brasserie Blanc and Carluccio’s paving the way for the imminent arrival of Mexican chain Chimichanga, just open on Sawclose (there’s also a brand new Cowshed venture coming soon to Bladud Buildings/the Paragon, but two branches does not a chain make). At t’other end of town (immediately adjacent to the railway station, to be precise), businesses based at The Vaults – the final piece in the jigsaw that is the SouthGate development – opened just as the old year came to close, bring a branch of Bath Ales’ Graze Bar and Chophouse, a gleaming new Gourmet Burger Kitchen, a third Bertinet Bakery and – any moment now – a Nando’s and a Prezzo to the Bath food fight. But fortunately, fighting wasn’t on the agenda at either the second Bath Good Food Awards or the Great Bath Feast, a month-long timetable of events that brought all Bath’s eateries and a handful of visiting celebrity chef superstars together in one big, glorious celebration of local food. The BBF is all set to do it all again in October 2013, by which time – if dear old Lady Bath continues to keep taking whatever vital vitamins she’s on – Bath will have more restaurants per capita than Bristol and London combined.

***These words come courtesy of a feature first published in the Eating Out West section of Folio magazine, January 2013 issue; hugs all round***

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