beautifully-presented, heavenly combinations; flamboyant without being faddish
As this smart little gastropub thrives under the illustrious ownership of The Bath Pub Company, we know for sure that we’re in for a good time here; indeed, the setting bodes well from the moment we step through the door and, straight away, digest the calm, understated design-led flourishes that liven up the stylish, relaxed surroundings. Yup, The Chequers is most definitely an ‘all good’ experience. What lifts this well-heeled bar and dining room up, up and away from gastropub experiences in the near vicinity, however, is Alex Betts, the head chef who took to the hob around April of last year.
Subtly introducing a gentle metamorphosis to a kitchen that has long since enjoyed an outstanding reputation for foodie fabulosity, Alex’s menus flaunt the very best of the best seasonal produce he can get his hands on. While the ‘Classics’ menu selection cheerfully promotes upper-crust pub fare (real burgers; proper fish and chips; superb steaks; etc) seductive little hints of Alex’s cooking style and personality subtly dance around the recently-introduced, daily-changing lunchtime menu (Monday-Saturday, 2/3 courses £19/£23.50) – there are few, if any, places in Bath where you can find this standard of food served at this price at this hour of the day.
At dinner time, Alex turns the skills’n’inspiration volume up yet another notch. You can of course still go Classic – but why would you when a time-of-writing combination of, for example, monkfish with Serrano, king oyster mushroom and Pommes Mousseline is calling you from the a la carte? It’s the sort of dish you’d expect to find served in the sort of place where you’d pay circa £18 for an aperitif before you’ve even been offered the menu… and yet, here it is, in a lovely, laid-back pub dining room, presented as an every day treat that you don’t have to squeeze into a little black dress to enjoy. But if you want the full-on, up-close-and-personal introduction to Alex, then the Tasting Menu is where the magic really happens.
Book in advance any Monday-Friday evening and, for £55 (upgradeable to include an optional wine flight which really shouldn’t be overlooked for an additional £25), you get seven utterly magical courses that we absolutely guarantee you’ll remember for a very long time to come. What we remember most about our most recent foray (apart from the hangover the next day; we went a bit crazy with the fabulous wine list) includes breast of wood pigeon, served pate-soft and almost ruby red, with super-umami miso, creamy/nutty almond, tender piccolo parsnip and unthickened but distinctly non-fatty jus roti – this hitherto avid pigeon-pessimist happily ate one’s words about never playing with game. Next up, sweet, shimmering, pearlescent cod, herb-crusted and served with chorizo, black beans and an elegantly refined bouride. Then there was the most divine lamb combo ever: sweet loin and earthy, fatty belly – a taste of both a British springtime and your guiltiest, lusciously abundant, carnivorous pleasure on one plate. Of the two desserts, it was the salted caramel fondant that put milk and white chocolate (yes, Alex?) centre stage instead of allowing dark chocolate to dominate that I most enjoyed melting into – but, like, OMG, there was nothing not to like about any of what we ate; I’m even still waxing lyrical about a dinky little shallot ring garnish that I couldn’t help but request another little portion of.
So, is Alex Betts my latest Bath chef crush? Ah, we know how I flit and flirt around between the Men in Whites. What I can confirm is that, as I predicted around a year ago, this relative new kid on the Bath chef block is most definitely set to be the recipient of a plethora of national destination diner accolades for offering beautifully-presented, heavenly combinations that are flamboyant without being faddish, bang on-trend but most definitely not bombastic, playfully challenging but reassuringly accessible. But most importantly, the whole array is firmly anchored by the distinctly down-to-earth triumvirate that puts quality seasonal ingredients, perfectly-balanced flavours and properly satisfying, memorable grub at the forefront of proceedings at all times.
As we established at the start of this review, The Chequers’ glorious upper-crust versions of pub grub are as highly recommended as the waltz around the Tasting Menu is while Sunday roasts are a glorious extravaganza in their own right, making refuelling here far from being an occasional treat – it just so happens that you can live it up in fine (dining) style or hole up in distinctly downhome territory all under one stylish, welcoming roof whenever the mood strikes. Superb.
- Wheelchair access ,
- Free wifi available ,
- Dog friendly ,
- Gluten free options ,
- Baby changing facilities
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