October 26 2018

Pig Guide review: Beckford Bottle Shop and Tasting Room

In the late 18th century, the Assembly Rooms were at the epicentre of fashionable Georgian society in Bath: the place for the glitterati of the day to do much of their meeting, greeting, eating, dating, mating and generally hanging out, in full-on flamboyant Georgian style.

While the overall vibe of the Beckford Bottle Shop – which opened just a couple of weeks ago on Savile Row – has (fortunately) nothing in common with the snooty pomposity and strict codes of conduct that defined social etiquette at the time when Beau Nash ruled Bath, it’s lovely to take to a window seat that offers splendid views of one of Bath’s most iconic historic buildings and raise a glass to the dashing dandies who dedicated themselves to hedonistic pursuits over two centuries ago in the nearby locale – heck, the very building we’re sitting in could well have been owned or at least lived in by one or two of those fabulous fops… and I daresay they, like us, would have been rather smitten by Bath’s latest new kid on the merrymaking block too.

Bought to us by the same team behind a similarly-styled (but smaller) shop venture in Tisbury and three lovely pubs in Wiltshire and Somerset, the Beckford Bottle Shop combines upper-crust off licence (250+ intelligently-sourced wines alongside a carefully-curated range of craft beers, ciders and premium spirits) with a Tasting Room that specialises in British cheese, amazing charcuterie (if you’ve ever wished you had a convenient glossary of the genre to hand, look no further) and inventive small plates. Each area is tastefully chic, beautifully lit and supremely seductive, with cosy corners for couples to canoodle in, flexible seating for larger groups and an utterly fabulous, huge red leather corner sofa set around drinks tables towards the back of the street level shop area; on top of (or rather, below) all this, a twisty-turny staircase adjacent to the charcuterie counter leads to a characterfully convivial, subterranean chill out zone in the basement.

As we were a party of just two on the evening we visited, though, we sat in the window in the room with that view, where we indulged in a splendid array of small plates perfectly paired with a gentle tide of spectacular wine selected for us by Travis: an infectiously enthusiastic oenophile with a wonderful way with wine-related words. If you, like us, had never tasted a Greek Malagoussia/Assyrtiko, or Vermentino Sessantaquattro from Poderi Parpinello, Italy, this is the place in which to go forth and discover: both wines were perfect with with a curtain-up dish-trio that bought anchovies, parsley and shallots on toast (simple; sublime), marrow fritti with aioli (think, juicy, fat, featherlight ‘chips’ served with very posh garlic mayo) and smoked cod roe with balsamic onions (‘real’ taramasalata; soft, sweet/sour/sticky/sexy jam) to the party.

For our next scene, we opted to go thrice bold: deeply flavoursome, super-soft ox cheek glazed in red wine; sweet, pink, mint-infused, yoghurt-marinated lamb cutlet; silky, elegant creamed leeks emboldened by a lavish cloak of Westcombe Cheddar. Could Travis work his matching magic again? Indeed he could, bringing yet another Greek god to the table (a dry, smooth subtly tarty Agiorgitiko from the Monemvasia Winery, laden with smooth, leathery sophistication) and an inky, brooding, fabulously fruitful Primitivo di Manduria. Seriously, the Beckford Bottle Shop has a wine list you could happily get lost in while exploring – as long as Travis is your tour guide and the small plates keep on coming, your peregrination will turn into a party. And in that lovely laid-back, fuss-free, all’s-well-with-the-world way, our evening in the hands of the Beckford Bottle Shop team was indeed a party, for which much of the credit must go to our hosts: the staff here are just lovely – friendly and informative, and really good fun to get acquainted with.

But the time came when we had to think about waving goodbye to our new friends came around all too quickly, not least of all because current licensing laws aren’t quite as lackadaisical as they were back in Beau Nash’s day. And so, we eschewed treats (there’s a ‘treats’ menu – yay!) of madeleines, or chocolate mousse, or even an ice cream sandwich (there’s an ice cream sandwich on that ‘treats’ menu – yay!) in favour of a selection of four cheeses from the frequently-changing Specials board (apologies – I wasn’t keeping up with my note-taking at this point, but suffice to say, all four were just lush, and all served at the perfect temperature too) with which we enjoyed nightcaps of plummy, spicy Niepoort LBV and a tantalising, subtly effervescent Moscato d’Asti that, now we’ve been introduced, I will aim never again to eat cheese without.

So… suffice to say, we like the Beckford Bottle Shop very, very much; it is, if you like, the new Assembly Rooms – we recommend that you assemble here and hedonise at your earliest opportunity.

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