May 9 2014

Pig Guide review: Culture and Cure

Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off up the Lansdown hill we go (and trust us when we tell you that it’s really only a very short walk from Bath city centre) to visit Culture and Cure, the brand new British tapas venture that, despite only opening its doors just a few short weeks ago, has already caused quite a stir amongst the Bath foodie Twitterati. And just five minutes after we made ourselves comfortable at a cosy little corner table-for-two, it was immediately easy to see why that grapevine is buzzing.

Culture and Cure has very pleasingly reinvented the premises formerly familiar to many Bathonians as Grappa which – many moons ago now – was one of the city’s chicest chill out pitstops before former head honcho Richard (Firehouse Rotisserie/Hudson Steakhouse) Fenton sold it to rather less capable owners who eventually turned it into little more than a rather shabby bar with a lacklustre pizzeria attached. Today, the street level bar has been scrubbed up and transformed into a spacious-but-cosy, supremely welcoming frill-free merrymaking zone, with a restaurant, cocktail bar and open kitchen on the next level up and a sofa/cushion strewn cinema room on the third floor. Blimey! Add to such a super-appealing mix menus that take us on a small plate journey through what The Pig believes to be the best selection of locally sourced flavours for miles around, and there’s something for everyone going on here; little wonder, then, that – once seated in your zone of choice – there’s really little reason to leave.

At the start of our foray into the C&C world, Colin Phillips – who, alongside business partner Karen Cairns, is responsible for this supremely hospitable new venture – offered Mr Pig a tasteful tasting selection of locally brewed craft beers, while I sampled the house wine: British wine, no less, courtesy of of Mumfords Vineyard, just down the road in Bannerdown. Wine that travelled less than 4 miles to make it to my table? Bring it on! But hey, even this tipple-fond Pig can’t live on quaff alone. So here we go, Piggies – grub’s up!

If you’re in search of speedy sustenance, there’s enough on the everyday C&C menu to tickle every tastebud. Bar Snacks run the whole gamut from with-drink nibbles such as spiced popcorn and cheese biscuits to moreish snacky treats including scotch eggs, sausage rolls, Bertinet sourdough with ham butter or Welsh Rarebit dip and truffled eggs toast. On from there, there are the Hot Cheesy Dishes (think, British versions of SWISS THINGS) and the properly good cheese/charcuterie platters of which C&C co-owner Karen Cairns is particularly proud – and rightly so; we sampled a sharing platter (pictured) as part of our Pig feast, and it deserved a gold medal for sourcing (British through and through), selection, accompaniments and presentation alike. But as immediately satisfying as that immediate menu selection is, I urge you not to overlook the C&C ‘Specials’ board that – on the night we visited – included oat-rolled Jerusalem artichokes with watercress mayonnaise and salaciously sumptuous beer-battered oysters (both of which we indulged in) and three of the best dishes I’ve Pigged out on in Bath this spring season: a really clever dish of cured salmon on a bed of smoked lentils (clever because the smoky flavours came from the pulses, while the salmon was allowed to make it’s own fresh, clean, sparkling tastebud splash); velvety, slow-cooked shin of beef served with a mustard-filled choux bun and – my favourite dish – a soporific, heavenly Chicken Skordalia: soft, moist shards of top-quality chicken relaxing on a pillow of almond (and sourdough? Sorry but I was too enraptured at this point to take clear notes) puree. I could live on this dish and this alone for months and still never tire of its appeal… and I’m sure if I (or you) asked chef Henry Scott to fulfill such a wish, he’d cheerfully comply. Henry, by the way, is a very skilled young chef-to-watch, quietly flaunting a CV that includes stints in both Claude Bosi’s double Michelin-starred Hibiscus (Mayfair) kitchen and a spell at the Bath Priory before he began working his magic at C&C. And Henry’s food is indeed a magical experience: not only do his little dishes go large on thoughtful flavour but they come with a very low price tag for the quality and selection on offer too, with most dishes fluctuating around the £4-5 mark and few breaking the £6-7 barrier. By the time you read this review, the restaurant should be in full swing, where portions go larger but at prices that still guarantee not to break the bank.

In summary, Culture and Cure is an utterly delightful experience from start to finish. The food represents a true celebration of British flavours, while the overall vibe offers a rare (to Bath, anyway) combination of unforced conviviality at a properly affordable price. The Pig will be back time and time again, for cocktails, film screenings, parties, de-stress kick-back sessions at the end of a busy day… and of course, much more of that highly recommended grub. I’m also going to request that Karen, Colin and Henry take the spotlight at a Pig Guide Supper Club as soon as they’re ready to party. Culture and Cure: Bath needed you to remind us how eminently tasteful a British night out can be. The Pig offers you a very warm welcome indeed.

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