The Royal Crescent Hotel and Spa

Thrilling taste sensations served in a supremely elegant, utterly seductive atmosphere

Thrilling taste sensations served in a supremely elegant, utterly seductive atmosphere

Rich in fascinating history and esteemed cultural heritage, renowned across the globe for iconic architectural status, and subtly exuding the kind of elegant, discreetly luxurious red carpet glamour rarely experienced outside of a handful of London’s grand old dames of the 5-star hotel scene, the Royal Crescent Hotel and Spa is one of Bath’s best kept secrets. “Secret?”, we hear you splutter. “The RCH is hardly a secret!”. But splutter ye not, and think again: in a similar fashion to many of the locations on the Bath tourist trail, many Bathonians think they know all about the hotel at the epicentre of the city’s most famous thoroughfare when in fact, we’d wager that few have actually set foot on the cool, smooth marble tiles of the hotel’s reception area in many a long year (if at all) due to misconceived perceptions regarding what kind of experience awaits you should you sally forth.

For a start, neither the hotel’s Montagu Bar nor the Dower House Restaurant – which are reached via a short stroll through the hotel’s achingly pretty private garden – are ‘residents only’ chill out zones; both offer a very warm, cordial welcome to all (although it has to be said, you’d look a bit out of place if you didn’t take the opportunity to dress up pretty in preparation for your foray). On from that – and busting yet another RCH myth from the get-go – we’re most definitely on affordable treat territory here. Okay, so you may pay a little bit more for a G&T followed by dinner than you might expect to pay in the pub around the corner. But the pub around the corner is unlikely to gently wrap you up in the vibe-equivalent of a soft, luxurious cashmere wrap from the moment you arrive and then serve you a dinner you’re unlikely to forget for a very, very long time – surely such a prospect is worth blowing a little bit more than your usual merrymaking budget for, every once in a while?

Meanwhile, many folk believe that many hotel restaurant kitchens even of a highly-esteemed ilk such as this one are, by their very nature, generally largely influenced by factors solely related to catering for the demands of hotel guests, round-the-clock menus and big events. For sure, the RCH juggles all these factors (and the various other demands that come with maintaining the hotel’s status as a multi-award winning destination) on an ongoing basis. But the RCH’s Dower House Restaurant, however, is about as far from being merely a convenient in-house hotel kitchen as the Royal Crescent itself is from being just another row of terraced houses.

The RCH Executive Chef is the exceedingly talented David Campbell: a master of the art of exquisitely presented, exciting menus that put the quintessential flavours of any given British food season in the spotlight courtesy of some of the cleverest, most imaginative combinations I’ve encountered in a long, long time. From mingling earthy beetroot with sharp, cool yoghurt, a teasing blast of fresh citrus and uniquely aromatic fennel at the very start of our most recent Tasting Menu foray to presenting us with a heavenly bittersweet mango mousse with creamy coconut sorbet at the finishing line, David and his team never dropped a ‘wow’ factor beat.

Twixt overture and finale, there was duck liver torchon served with a crisp duck parfait cigar; huge, fat, juicy blackberries; dusky smoked grouse; silky poached pear… and gingerbread (yes!). There were scallops on the menu, too: big, plump, glistening ones, roasted and teamed with the most tomato-y tomatoes ever in both whole and consommé format, accompanied by delicate, buttery little morsels of smoked eel, creamy avocado and a flutter of lesser-spotted fresh marjoram leaves that brought a fresh, floral aspect to an already highly-spirited party. But for me, it was the peppercorn-spiced Creedy Carver duck breast that proved to be the highlight of the whole, splendid feast, featuring properly pink, superbly soft, delicately gamey flesh resting on a pillow of peanut paste and uniquely umami tahini, topped with a tangle of coleslaw infused with all manner of Asian flavours… I’m trying my best, but I just can’t put into words just how amazing this dish is. But then again – honestly, really – all the dishes we tasted were fabulous, which means that David Campbell is a bit of a genius.

But if you want David’s dishes to taste even better (I know, I know, I’m going totally OTT but this experience deserves it), put yourself in the capable hands of the RCH’s charismatic Head Sommelier Jean-Marc Leitao, because what he doesn’t know about the perfect wine match isn’t worth knowing (we had, for example, an astounding 2013 Baigorri Rioja Crianza with that duck, a stunning Château Garonnelles Sauternes – yes, a Sauternes – with the duck liver, and a Nederburg Chenin Blanc with both the luscious peach melba that I’d almost forgotten to sing the praises of and the mango/coconut medley.)

It has to be pointed out at this juncture that this review will be trimmed to a shorter listing as time moves along because, as we’ve established, David’s menus move with the seasons – you can always check what he’s up to right now, though, by clicking right here. We will not, however, be trimming any of the superlatives nor cutting back on just how highly we recommend the Royal Crescent Hotel experience to all those who seek thrilling taste sensations served in a supremely elegant, utterly seductive atmosphere by people who really, really know how to turn eating out into an extraordinarily distinctive, sensual, memorable occasion… and we make no secret, best kept or otherwise, about what we think about that.

The small print: The Dower House at the Royal Crescent Hotel is open to the public for breakfast, all-day dining, afternoon tea and, of course, dinner – for full details (including prices, further information on the Montagu Bar and private dining options, too) see here.

Facilities

  • wheelchair access Wheelchair access
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  • Wifi Free wifi available

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The Royal Crescent Hotel and Spa

Royal Cres, Bath BA1 2LS, UK

Opening hours
Visit the Royal Crescent Hotel website for opening hours and reservation information.

Address

16 Royal Crescent Bath BA1 2LS

Getting here

The Hotel is situated in the centre of one of Europe’s most splendid 18th Century architectural masterpieces – the Royal Crescent in Bath. Should you arrive by car, you will be greeted by a member of the Concierge team who will ensure valet parking during your stay. The Hotel offers complimentary parking to our resident guests. A personalised Chauffeur Transfer Service with air-conditioned cars is available for transfers, tours and visits to places of interest. The hotel is a short (10 minute) walk from the city centre and Bath Spa railway station. Bath’s many museums, antique dealers, theatre and shopping opportunities are all on the doorstep. Meanwhile the Hotel provides the ideal base from which to explore nearby places of interest such as the Cotswolds, Wells, Stonehenge, Cheddar Gorge, Longleat House, Prior Park, Lacock and Dyrham Park, to name but a few.

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