March 10 2020

Review: Dan Moon at the Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel

Bad news dominates the headlines, the weather outside is frightful and, as I step out of my front door to make a dash to my cab, I plod straight into a muddy puddle and spend my journey into town fruitlessly attempting to dry my feet off with an ancient supermarket receipt. But ten minutes later, and…. there’s a kind of hush, all over the world, tonight.

Gleaming marble; perfumed air; a sparkling chandelier. Super-friendly staff in stylish, pristine uniforms who treat you like an old friend and make you feel beyond welcome. I’m escorted down the corridor towards the bar, my coat whisked from my shoulders in one swift, beautifully-choreographed move as I go (I’d love to say “as I glide” here but unfortunately, I’ve never mastered the art of any kind of perambulation but plodding) and before I know it, I’m sinking into a plush leather chair and sinking a glass of fizz, the weather, the news and the muddy boots all paling into insignificance as the Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel works its magic.

And that magic, seductive though it may be in the bar alone, really comes to the fore in head chef Dan Moon’s eponymous playground, aka the Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel’s restaurant: a seductively sophisticated dining room complete with an impressive ‘wine wall’ at the epicentre of proceedings, serviced by people who make you feel as though they’re on hand to look after you and only you.

And yet, despite the surroundings and the vibe and the overall red carpet buzz, what we’re about to receive here is about as far removed from the ‘frills, fireworks and frippery’ route that defines contemporary notions of modern fine dining as you can get. Dan’s dishes may showcase the kind of pioneering cooking techniques and theatrical presentation that reflect his position as a trailblazer on the modern British culinary scene, but his passion for locally sourced, seasonal ingredients shines through. Meanwhile, he cleverly avoids that over-cheffy habit of straying away from the realms of common sense as big flavours, expertly teamed with supporting sides that play as important a role as the spotlight elements do, are pushed to the fore. How? Like this:

Chicken Tea, that refers us from the get-go to Dan’s fondness for Asian inspirations, and at once soothes and refreshes, tingles and tantalises.

A compact but sturdy disc of sweet, smoky, super-moist Smoked Ham Hock topped with decadent, creamy swirls of Foie Royale (please note, Foie Royale is NOT Foie Gras – click on this link before trolling me, please) and broad beans and beautiful, beautiful dinky, edible flowers, all of which combine to elevate an erstwhile gastropub staple (that’ll be the SHM, not the FY) to stellar, super-sensual heights.

A fat, juicy king prawn nestled in between a duo of shimmering, almost opalescent South Coast Scallops nestling on top of a silky, yuzu-infused crab risotto that I could have feasted on by the bucketload and still have begged for more.

A neat wedge of succulent, deeply gamey Roast Creedy Carver Duck – very ‘grown up’ in terms of flavour depth-charge – teamed with a lighthearted, almost skittish Confit Duck Spring Roll, rich, rich plum and subtly nutty sesame guaranteeing Asian-inspired, umami-laden tastebud sensations on every forkful.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta, fresh and light but all the more complex for that freshness and lightness, with silky, tangy Yorkshire rhubarb, playful honeycomb and nutty little morsels of granola adding texture at every turn.

The price for this supremely satisfying feast? £65pp for the whole 5-course shebang (and Dan’s handmade breads, served with bespoke butters, which deserve acclaim in their own right), with the optional wine flight a bargain at £35pp.

Bad news dominates the headlines, the weather outside is frightful and muddy puddles are never, ever going to be your suede boots’ best friend. Dan Moon at the Gainsborough Bath Spa, however, can soothe your psyche in one fell swoop; shine on, Mr Moon – shine on.

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Categorised in: Bath