August 7 2017

Review: Framptons

Years and years and years ago (14, to be precise), I was banned from a branch of a French restaurant chain that once inhabited the space that’s recently been taken over by a much more tasteful enterprise indeed. Had I behaved disgracefully? Had I attempted to steal something? Had I assaulted a member of staff? Nay, nay and thrice nay. My “crime” (for this is what on of the chain’s head honchos framed it as, in a letter to the editor of the magazine I worked for, back then) was to very politely point out to a member of staff that a steak that I’d ordered to be cooked medium rare arrived at my table chargrilled.

The irony behind the flurry that ensued was that I could have been much, much pickier about the dire experience overall than I’d been about my shoe leather steak, not least of all on grounds of sartorial good taste: the former Grand Parade inhabitants had pretty much wiped out all traces of the style, history and character of one of Bath’s most fascinating landmark buildings entirely. The owners that came long next didn’t do much to rectify the situation either. The new owners, however – well, they’ve worked wonders.

Framptons Cafe, Bar and Kitchen – the brainchild of Tom, Ed and Sam, who formerly all served in the British Army and now head up an independently-owned chain of three restaurants – has breathed new life into their elegant new home by respectfully paying homage to the building’s history while also cleverly managing to offer a casually glam vibe that puts me in mind of the kinda cool brasserie-bar you come across on and around New York’s Union Square. The first room is dominated by funky, chunky bar decorated with Victorian library paraphernalia – an appropriate backdrop, then, for a cocky cocktail (which Framptons do very well indeed). Meanwhile, the caged-off dining area that divides up the second room may at first seem a little incongruous against all the Brit-version Belle Époque that surrounds it (high ceilings; ornate cornicing; rich paintwork), but it’s definitely a talking point. And anyway, a spectacular chandelier adds a flourish that lifts a quirky design concept away from the obvious locker room analogy and into cool contemporary territory within seconds of taking to your table.

Once at that table (we sat by the window, overlooking a stunning view of the weir) the menus rock to a familiarly modern beat from breakfast/brunch (Pan Haggerty? Yes please!) through lighthearted lunch and on to post-sunset suppers, at which time superb steaks (if you really want to replicate the NY vibe, go for the Flat Iron) go large alongside an exceedingly well-considered, people-pleasing selection that ranges from fish and chips to more foodie-fabulous creations such as poussin with broth, and quinoa salad. Our Pig party of three – yes, we took a gooseberry with us this time around – pretty much covered all bases on the evening visited, beginning with a trio of starters (crispy squid; ham hock terrine; scallops with pork belly and watermelon) that were all as fresh, pretty and delightful as their descriptions suggest before moving on to crispy-skinned pork belly with apple and onion velouté (described by our rogue date-night gatecrasher as “superb”), a subtly sensational pesto, asparagus and broad bean risotto topped with an oozing, melty disc of goats’ cheese, and a salaciously juicy ribeye steak that kept Mr Pig sated to the point of “do not even make eye contact with me until the plate is clean” satisfaction. Puds are good too: both the Somerset Eton Mess (described by RDNG as “heavenly,” a word which really does translate as a super-compliment given that it was uttered by a self-proclaimed macho man) and the crème brûlée are highly recommended, while the Affogato works perfectly as a sophisticated “I’m not actually having dessert” dessert/coffee substitute. Service throughout was absolutely lovely – friendly, well-informed people who make you feel like a brand new old friend from the moment you say hello.

We predict that, unlike its less congenial predecessors on the same site, Framptons will make a very popular home for itself in Bath, reinvigorating the all-too-often overlooked Grand Parade area in grand style, adding an appealing new dimension to the city’s coolest hotspot dining options… and home to a bar that I very much hope not to be barred from propping up anytime soon.

Small print: If you’d like to read more about The Empire’s fascinating history, check out this feature recently published in The Bath Magazine. If you’d like to know more about eating establishments from which I have been banned, drop me a line. If, however, you’re more interested in creating contemporary history all of your own, go to Framptons.

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