July 5 2022

Pig Guide review: The Green Park Brasserie

The Green Park Brasserie was the second* Bath restaurant I professionally reviewed, almost 25 years ago, back when I was a fledgling food writer going out on a limb in a city that I was yet to become familiar with in search of reasons to make it my permanent home. Having opened its doors in 1992, GPS was, at the time, just five years old: “…but it doesn’t feel as fusty as the other long-established restaurants in Bath,” I wrote; “there’s something about the timeless-but-modern vibe here that tells me it could easily still be thriving for another five years.” Ah, look at me, back then: a psychic, no less, confidently predicting which businesses in Bath would or wouldn’t survive despite the fact that I’d only been in the city for around a week… and calling a 5-year-old restaurant ‘long-established’.

But it has to be said that, while a 5-year lifespan is – today even more than ever before – a Very Long Time in restaurant world, the version of Bath that I was getting to know at the time was full of restaurants that made GPB look like a young upstart that had dropped into a historic building (the former Green Park Station booking hall) in city full of ‘highly respected Bath institutions’ who all proudly flaunted their ‘established’ dates (1951; 1979; 1982; etc) on their restaurant’s signage, usually in gold leaf curlicue font.

While the Green Park Brasserie head honchos (that’ll be father-and-son team Andrew and Alex Peters, then) have resisted using that gold leaf curlicue font on their signage, they have every right to be proud that their business celebrated its 30th birthday this year. 30! Now that’s what I can confidently call long-established. But despite its vintage, Bath’s beloved brasserie is still very young for its age, a consistently youthful outlook combined with dedication, adaptation and diversification proving to be the secret of its success.

This buoyant, multi-faceted operation with an elegant, proper brasserie-style dining room (lots of polished wood; lots of gleaming brass; lots of potted palms) at the heart of the modus operandi is renowned throughout the west country for hosting four evenings of live music a week, generally on a jazz/funk/soul/swing theme, always pitched at a melodic, approachable volume so diners can choose to chat over a meal, specifically tune in to the music… or do both.

Lively little sister operation the Bath Pizza Co was introduced to the fold in 2016, totally reinvigorating the former ‘dead zone’ behind the Braz (at the bottom end of the Sainsbury’s car park) and now a Bath stalwart in its own right.

And as if all that’s not enough, there’s yet more going on behind the rather grand facade on the Green Park Road/James Street West intersection: Happy Hour goes large at the Braz between 12noon-5pm every day; the cocktails are amazing at any hour; strictly seasonal, local produce is pushed to the fore across all the menus… and the recently-introduced Brunch Menu (including a tantalisingly tipsy Bottomless option, both available 11am-3pm Friday-Saturday and 11am-7pm on Sundays) is set to invigorate our perceptions of breakfast.

Quite simply, there’s nowhere else like the GPB in the city; to quote, erm, myself, in a recent paean to the joys of Green Park Brasserie published in the Bath Magazine: “it reminds me of visits to London’s Shoreditch, or New York’s Union Square – there’s something unselfconsciously, comfortably cool about the whole affair; it’s a ‘welcome to the neighbourhood’ party to which everybody’s invited.”

After a quick stint on the terrace (we were, as it turned out, slightly too over-optimistic about the ‘lovely sunny evening’ we expected it to be), we started our party this time around with a duo of suitably celebratory starters: crisp calamari accompanied by a divine Tom Yum mayo, fresh lime and yuzu gel (ooh, yuzu gel!), and super-savoury arancini, crumbly on the outside and meltingly gooey in the middle just as arancini should be, served on a little pond of deeply flavoursome Arrabiata sauce. A live band kept entertainment levels swinging along at just the right volume, and both dishes were beautifully presented without pertaining to fuss or ostentation. We were already in classic brasserie heaven…

…and our mains confirmed our tenancy: a massive (and I mean massive) 30-day aged Newton Farm rib eye steak, chargrilled on the outside and perfectly pink within, served with Mr Pig’s choice of herby chimichurri sauce and all the lovely frills and fripperies (garlic butter; fabulous fries; a little tumble of salad leaves) that make such an experience complete. For me, a plump, luscious, roasted fillet of sweet, super-fresh salmon served with wedges of sweet potato reclining on an utterly ravishing bed of creamy delight (see pic). Oh, it was all just absolutely everything you could possibly want from an evening out: great vibe, super service, fabulous food – the whole shebang; writing about it today has made me want to go back there tonight – in fact, I just might do that.

I love the Green Park Brasserie not because the kitchen is home to a wannabe Michelin-starred chef, or because it serves the hippest food in the city, or because it’s a brand new place that I’m showing off about being first through the door in. I’m rhapsodising because the Green Park Brasserie is just lovely, and down-to-earth in a way that makes down-to-earth feel really special, and because we’re really, really lucky to have a place like this, in Bath, to call our very own. It may be 30 years old, but it’s fresh, and vibrant, and progressive, and invigorating, and restorative all at the same time; it’s still cleverly moving with the times in a way that the curlicue brigade refused to do. And because the Green Park Brasserie been there for me for all these years, it – and Bath – feels like a place that I’m so happy to call home.

*so where was the first Bath restaurant I ever reviewed, I hear you ask? That one’s long since closed, for good reason; all I will say about it today is that I wrote, at the time, that it needn’t have bothered investing in a gold curlicue sign that read ‘established 1997’ – and I was right.

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