June 5 2022

Pig Guide review: Always Sunday TOWN+HOUSE

According to several local history websites, there’s been a hostelry on the corner of Thomas Street and London Road since 1830, when King William IV came to the throne. The story about the former lodgings house being turned into a public house by way of celebrating the Sailor King’s marriage to Princess Adelaide, however, is a bit of a stretch, given that that particular royal wedding took place in 1818 and that particular king died in 1837… but hey, semantics, yes?

A handful of world wars, various royal family shenanigans, an unforeseen pandemic, several ownerships (including the pub enjoying a long-standing stint in the hands of Charlie and Amanda Digney, of Garrick’s Head fame) and a name change later, the historic hostelry is still standing, with all the building’s original quirks and eccentricities (delightfully rickety staircases and floorboards; lots of little nooks and crannies just made for resident ghosts) intact… but today, polished up to thoroughly modern, cosmopolitan expectations that bring a mishmash of colour glazes, funky, retro-meets-modern fixtures, fittings and furniture and a laid back but lively vibe that offers a warm welcome to all (regardless of vintage) to the party. This revamp, however, carries much more of a backstory than either the change of ownership or the super-smart renovation suggests.

Always Sunday has naturally evolved through connections with our creative friends and continues to grow as we explore and discover new opportunities,” says founder Lexi Dart, who established the AS community in Bath a handful of years ago starting with the Always Sunday House and now incorporating the Always Sunday store too (if you’re not already au fait with this fascinating initiative, read all about all the Always Sunday ventures in full here).

At the Always Sunday TOWN+HOUSE Bar and Restaurant, head chef Christian Bryan has interpreted Lexi’s AS vision in prandial/merrymaking terms courtesy of menus that push seasonality and local sourcing to the forefront every Thursday-Saturday evening, with brunch, fixe prix and superb Sunday Roasts offering access to all budgets and appetites. If you’re not in the mood for big food, both the seasonal cocktail list and a thoughtful selection of wonderful wines pair very well with the Bar Menu… and if you’re on way into big town, might I suggest the exceedingly well-priced early bird set menu as you go? But if you don’t know what you want but know you want ‘something’, the staff here make you feel like an old friend from the get-go; at this point, I must offer full commendation to Cosmo, who acted as a thoroughly lovely, lively companion, guide and mentor throughout our whole experience.

We went all out for Always Sunday on a Saturday evening, at a window table for two in the small but perfectly-formed first floor dining room that offered an away-from-it-all view of the London Road thrum punctuated by the gentle flap of a Union Jack flag (fitting, given that it was Platinum Jubilee Weekend) fluttering on the breeze.

Starters of Wye Valley White Asparagus complemented by a fabulously fresh wild garlic pesto, a perfectly runny quail’s egg and properly aged parmesan for Mr Pig and a simply superb combination of heritage tomatoes and burrata mozzarella (think, an only just slightly more savoury version of clotted cream in cricket ball proportions) dotted hither and thither with more of that pesto boded very, very well indeed; this kitchen know all there is to know about using right here, right now flavours to their very best advantage.

Next up, for me, a super-fresh, super-meaty pan-roasted monkfish fillet with earthy new potatoes, huge, moist Brixham mussels, clams that still softly whispered tales of the sea, a complex roasted red pepper and chilli oil, samphire and a curry sauce that (and please read this as the compliment that it’s fully intended to be) tasted like the chip shop curry sauce of your foodie dreams; overall, an outstanding dish that looked as good as it tasted.

For Mr Pig, a massive rib eye steak that cut like butter and tasted like the real, proper beef that it is (ah, the combination of Larkhall Butchers and a proper chef never let a carnivore down) with big fat chips, confit portobello mushroom and peppercorn sauce. Even our side dish of roasted tenderstem broccoli deserves a special mention for being a proper portion of glorious green stuff sprinkled with toasted almonds.

And after all that, we had dessert… and you should too, especially if the Strawberry and Almond Tart with crème fraîche sorbet (oh, and basil, and more macerated strawberries, and meringue shards) is on the menu, and/or the Pina Colada: not the cocktail, kids, but a sublime coconut and buttermilk panna cotta with spiced rum pineapple salsa, lime gel and coconut sorbet.

In years to come, local legend may flex and bend the history behind TOWN+HOUSE; I can see those websites now: “… opened in 2020, to mark the Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee”, etc. Of course, that ain’t the truth. The truth is, if you wish it could be Sunday (almost) every day, this glorious modern-day, very hospitable hostelry is your spiritual home.

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