Country Living Lansdown Grove
the whole habitat begs to be explored; the restaurant must be experienced at your earliest opportunity
There’s something very exciting happening on Bath’s northerly slopes right now.
The Lansdown Grove Hotel – which had, in recent years, been allowed to become a bit, erm, overlooked in terms of TLC – was recently taken over by brand new owners who have lovingly restored it to a handsome beacon of multi-faceted charms.
Now rebranded as the Country Living Lansdown Grove, this beautiful building today makes the very most of both its 18th century roots and its place in Bath’s contemporary history courtesy of an extensive, intelligent makeover that’s transformed it into a super-stylish, super-welcoming hotel oasis complete with an inviting bar and chill-out zone, gorgeous gardens, fabulous cityscape views… and a restaurant that flaunts a chandelier/candlelit main dining room, complemented and supplemented by an airy conservatory that brings the outside in (and vice versa.) And as if the environment, vibe and location alone aren’t enough to make you take to the (nearby, gentle) hills right now, the goings-on in the restaurant kitchen will make you want to don the trainers and sprint to make a booking.
In the Country Living Lansdown Grove restaurant, superchef Martin Baker has found the home he so richly deserves – and both the hotel and we Bathonians alike are very lucky to be able to call him ours. Martin has a unique way of bringing traditional, classic and contemporary foundations together in tantalisingly imaginative but always wholly accessible dishes wrought from locally-sourced, seasonal produce. I’ve been following Martin with keen interest (stalking would be too strong a word for it) on Twitter (@antongeorgebake) for many years now, leaping about with excitement every time he showcases a new dish. What an utter delight it was, then, that – following a glass of fizz in the hotel’s Library area, adjacent to the bar (it would have been rude to say no) – I got to taste Martin’s images made flesh… and the real life results exceeded my grand expectations.
At a very well-dressed table in the main dining room (gotta lurve that chandelier), we started our journey around Martin’s a la carte selection with two plates that lit the touch light on the foodie fireworks to follow. The incredibly moreish, deeply umami popcorn cockles could best be described as the grown up version of savoury popcorn, lifted from the standard popped corn realm by (a) having actual cockles at the heart of every pop, and (b) being accompanied by distinctively sweet/sharp tarragon-infused vinegar, scallop roe and lightly creamy lime hollandaise. The sardines on griddled soda bread, meanwhile, was the kind of dish one ‘discovers’ in a tiny little quayside cafe in San Pietro: whole, fat, super-fresh sardines – juicy, plump and moist beneath the perfectly-charred skin – resting on a generous pillow of fruity pasatta, the plate dotted hither and thither with proper basil pesto and sprinkled with pine kernels; thank you, Martin, for creating new foodie memories that I won’t forget for a very long time.
My main course too had me fondly recalling Mediterranean foodie discoveries from days gone by. The soft, sweet, supremely tender spring lamb rump roast, teamed with a velvety roast root vegetable cassoulet enlivened by just the right amount of fragrant, aromatic rosemary and anchored by earthy coarse grain mustard, reminded me of the very first time I ate actual, real French food in an actual, real French bistro (in Carcassonne circa 1987, if you’re interested) but tasted even better for the fact that I was eating it in beautiful surroundings on (pretty much) my very own doorstep, and the lamb was sourced just up t’road (Jamie’s Farm)… and it was the kind of dish that you just don’t see very often on Bath-centric menus, probably because few Bath-centric chefs can turn a combination that’s ostensibly so hearty and traditional into a plate of modern, memorable food that’s so, so supremely elegant. The main course fish dish on the other side of the table was equally stunning: delicate, smooth-textured sea trout with sweet seared scallops, vibrant asparagus and mineral-rich wild nettle gnocchi – a glamorous fish supper indeed.
On to dessert, and back down to earth in Bath UK I came for the occasion… although it has to be said that my Apricot Tarte Tatin was ‘classic French’ enough to give Raymond Blanc a run for his money. The sweet, silky English rhubarb party that was the rhubarb cheesecake, rhubarb compote, rhubarb ice cream and rhubarb crisp medley, however, was proudly, firmly, resolutely a pristine taste of British spring on a dessert plate: utterly, totally heavenly… and guaranteed to drag even the most avid rhubarb-averse off the path of rheum rhabarbarum revulsion.
Okay, so it has to be said that there are several restaurants serving up wonderful experiences in country house hotels both in and around Bath at the moment. But the Country Living Lansdown Grove has bought a blast of fresh air to the scene by artfully adding a whole new dimension to the genre. Not only does the whole habitat in general just beg to be explored, but the restaurant has to – must be, in fact – experienced at your earliest opportunity. Martin is a Big Name Bath Chef in waiting; you owe it to him, this exquisitely-revamped hotel and, not least of all, yourself to wait no more to acquaint yourself with the glorious goings-on on Bath’s northerly slopes.
- Wheelchair access ,
- Free wifi available ,
- Gluten free options ,
- Baby changing facilities
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