November 30 2020

Pig Guide review: Plate at The Bird

Quirky but chic, subtly glamorous, wittily flamboyant and home to a kitchen dedicated to serving dishes wrought from the finest, freshest, locally-sourced seasonal produce that head chef Leon Smith (who boasts stints at some of the UK’s top eateries including Tom Aikens in Chelsea, the Michelin-starred Pony and Trap and The Royal Oak at Paley Street – where he achieved three AA rosettes – on his impressive CV) can get his hands on: Plate – a recent addition to the stylish merrymaking zone that is The Bird hotel on Pulteney Road – is all about spirit-lifting joy.

Cocktails with nibbles? Tapas with fizz? Proper pie with proper cider? A full-on, all-course blow-out, or a light lunch, or a grand celebratory feast, or a smoochy ‘just because’ supper with your loved one? Tick, tick, tickety-tick; it’s all going on at this seductively welcoming all-things-to all-people experience, where you’re treated like an old best friend from the moment you step through the door.

As you’d expect from a Kaleidoscope Collection venture (see also: Homewood), there’s much to catch your eye even before you’ve made yourself comfortable in the sparklingly pretty bar: intelligently fanciful modern artwork, curious curios, gracious knick-knackery, waggish wallpaper and vibrant but distinctly non-garish colour, colour, colour everywhere you look all serve to fascinate and cheer from the off. It’s totally unique to Bath, but the warm, unpretentious vibe and friendly front of house staff soften any ‘shock of the new’ hard edges with an ease and competence that immediately wrap you up in a warm, relaxed, comfortable shawl of bonhomie… and ain’t that just what we need, right now more than ever before?

Following cocktails in that bar (since having a Cosmopolitan here, I’ve craved nothing else to drink) we took to a cosy corner table in the dining room and picked our way through three dishes from the West Country Tapas section of the neat menu: mackerel rillette with luxurious smoked cod’s roe, piquant pickled cucumber and seductive saffron potato; lightly devilled crispy Brixham whitebait with a super-lively lemon mayonnaise; braised shoulder of Beeswax lamb. Of these three perfect small plates, the soft, succulent, slightly smoky lamb offset by an exceedingly moreish caper jam which was, in turn, mellowed out by the sweet, grassy tang of goats’ curd resulted in an outstanding little dishy indeed… and our raised expectations weren’t set to plummet any time soon.

For mains, for Mr Pig, a generous slab of super-fresh Cornish cod teamed with nicely-crusty roasted cauliflower, salty-sweet sea vegetables and subtly briny clams. For me, Leon’s trademark chicken pie: moist, smooth chicken tightly packed into a neat, super-short pastry crust, somehow lighter than a ‘traditional’ chicken pie yet still reassuringly, supremely, comfortingly familiar, served with sweet hispi cabbage, velvety mash and a proper chicken sauce.

We had puds because Mr Pig convinced me that if I really couldn’t eat he Valhrona Chocolate Mousse with cherries and Chantilly that I’d had my eye on from the get-go but claimed I had no room for, he could… but he didn’t have to. He was, however, beyond contented with his very own, very elegant Hibiscus Panna Cotta (which turned out not to be his very own after all.)

Gosh, Plate is very, very good indeed; if I could move in for Christmas, I would. And, given that the both the Fixed Price and a la carte menus offer exceptional value for money, Sunday Lunch promises great things, Gastro Kids are given their own lovely little selection and The Bird’s unique Dining Domes experience goes live from Wednesday 2 December, I probably sorta will.

That’s the festive season handed to you on a plate at Plate, then.

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