April 23 2018
Pig Guide review: Clayton’s Kitchen
Summer’s here (well, it’s on the near horizon at least) and the time is right for… eating alfresco at every opportunity. But while any and every available space on the sidewalks and squares around the city are suddenly being used by cafes, bars and restaurants keen to offer us the chance to take their indoor experience outside, there are a handful of long-established ‘happy place’ zones that are not only thoroughly au fait with offering a seamless alfresco experience but also host a fresh, lively indoor environment that moves with the seasons as quickly as skittering clouds threaten to rain on our parades.
Clayton’s Kitchen is a prime case-in-point example here. While tables on the lovely little passage adjacent to one of Bath’s brightest chefs’ eponymous foodie-fabulous hob HQs (that’s Rob Clayton, for those who aren’t keeping up at the back) offer broad appeal to those of us in pursuit of a Parisian 19th arrondissement staycation experience, I personally prefer to take to a table indoors because, even if the sun is shining, it’s all bright and shiny inside too. The service is impeccable (charming, friendly and informative,) the wine list intelligently eclectic and the whole vibe thrums along to a subtly buoyant beat; dress up or dress down; party on or chill out – whatever occasion may have brought you here, you’ve definitely come to the right place. On the all-important food forecast, Rob’s dishes are fresh, seasonal and uncomplicated in terms of description, but what you get on the plate is always, always sparkling, uplifting and imaginative.
On our most recent foray, our starters – one of sweet, neat quenelles of Little Haven crab; the other bringing a beautiful melange of smoked, poached and marinated salmon together in one luxurious tumble – bought the fondest memories of a Côte d’Azur holiday to our table; we may have been at a window table for two in a contemporary bistro on George Street, but our senses were transported back to a glamorous little seafront bistro in Juan-Les-Pins.
For mains, we took a bolder-flavoured route to satiation: soft, pink Creedy Carver duck breast, buttery in texture but intrinsically, boldly gamey on the palate, served with utterly indulgent dauphinoise, silky celeriac puree and a fruity cassis sauce; pan-roasted fillet of beef with a lighthearted but deeply savoury onion and thyme puree, big fat duck fat chips and a mesmerising red wine sauce that perfectly complemented the full-on meaty richness of the beef. Like many folk, we’ve been cutting down on the amount of meat in our diet lately, but both of these dishes were well worth saving up our points for.
Similarly, we’ve been on a say-no-to-puds mission too… but not here, not now, and certainly not when Rob’s sticky toffee pudding – distinctly lighter in texture than others I’ve tasted but far, far more intensely flavoursome – served with peanut butter ice cream is on the menu, and he’s serving salted caramel mousse (shiny; glossy; gorgeous) with both coconut ice cream and hazelnut praline. If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, we strayed off the path of righteousness and found dessert heaven here.
I’ve been a big fan of Rob Clayton’s cooking for many a long year now (I first met him at the Bath Priory, but he has stints at Ménage a Trois and Chez Nico in London and the restaurant at the hotel formerly known as Hunstrete House – where he was one of the youngest chefs to ever receive a Michelin Star – on his CV too,) but he’s never, ever failed to delight, enthral and surprise me with his gorgeous grub. Whether you choose to take your taste of Clayton’s Kitchen on the terrace or do as we did and head for the great indoors, you really can’t go wrong – and that’s an all-weather guarantee.
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