February 1 2014

Review: The Bath Brew House

It’s no secret that The Pig loves a good burger: a luscious, moist, fat patty of real meat wedged into a real bread bun and accessorised by all the little extra flourishes (cheese, ketchup, pickles, bacon if you must….) that make the experience so good. But if somebody had told me that I’d one day be sitting in The Metropolitan on James Street West indulging my carnivorous passion, I’d have calmly stepped away from that person and vowed to avoid them for the rest of my days. But the Metropolitan is no longer, thank goodness, the grubby, soulless, desperado bar it once was: it’s recently been lovingly refurbished by the same team behind The Cork and turned into a very up-to-date chill-out zone indeed, complete with its own on-site brewery, a lovely beer garden and several distinctly welcoming merrymaking areas cleverly designed to suit all-comers, whether you’re winding down, smooching up or partying on. It’s all very smart and fresh, but at the same time it feels familiar, and long-established, and properly friendly – the polar opposite, in fact, to the sad old Met. Meanwhile…

The Bath Brew House kitchen is a gleaming, open-plan affair that, depending on where you choose to chow down, is either just along from the main bar or marks the entrance to a spacious dining area, in itself quirkily furnished and artfully dotted hither and thither with all manner of eye-catching vintage-inspired flourishes and staffed by a genuinely friendly team who make you feel at home from the off. The kitchen is chef Gareth Burgess’s domain, and if you want to know anything about the ethos and principals behind his menu, go and say hello to him – he’s more than happy to tell you all about the USP he’s keen to flaunt, which goes something like this: “Good wholesome food. Beer food. Sharing food. Family food. Classic big American, arrogant barbecue food with a twist (the Flighty BBQ, if you will). We use real ale instead of bourbon, smoke with applewood instead of mesquite, source free range Rad stock chickens instead of Duracell hens…” And while this is a Pig review you’re reading here and not actually Gareth’s, this is one instance where I choose to use the chef’s words and not my own to summaries the overall vibe because he did it so well.

I knew Gareth walked it like he talked it right from the start of our feast, when a home-smoked fish pate the like of which I last tasted on a bench outside of a seafood hut down Dorset way came to our table: boldly, bravely smoky, and laden with respectful integrity to the main ingredients at the heart of the matter. Mr Pig, meanwhile, melted into his starter as quickly as the yolk of his Scotch egg flooded out of it’s succulent bacon (yes, bacon) mince crust – one forkful, and I’d lost him for the rest of the meal, as he followed up with a “Monster” Porterhouse steak whose arrogant charms I couldn’t possibly compete with (if you’ve never heard a man whisper sweet nothings to a steak before, you need to dine with Mr Pig). So I was left to enjoy my Brew House Burger in silence, which is probably just as well as this is one serious burger affair indeed. Remember those opening lines about just how good a real burger can be? Well they were inspired by the burger I was presented with here: a raucously meaty feast in a soft, sweet brioche bun, draped with plump rashers of perfectly salty bacon and slices of oozing Monterey Jack (hooray!) cheese. Yes, there were fab fries at the party too. Yes, there was an incredibly moreish garlic mayonnaise that I can thank for the speed at which all face-to-face meetings the following day were conducted. And yes, there were puddings to peruse. But after my BBH blowout, I could only manage a tiny spoonful of Mr Pig’s Wintery Bath Mess, which came served in a jar and featured cinnamon, Amaretti biscuits and clotted cream in one glorious melange of glorious goo.

I like what’s going on at the Bath Brew House very much indeed. I like the vibe, I like the staff, and I really, really like Gareth’s grub. It isn’t fine dining (as I think you might have guessed), but it’s fine by me, any day of the week. I’m not a fan of beer or ale, but the house wine is smashing. I’m not a fan of big-screen sports, but that’ll never bother me because that stuff all goes on in the separate Tank Room, thus not interfering with the serious business of eating and drinking in relative peace. I’m not always such a fan of meaty treats, but the vegetarian options here are tasteful, and imaginative, and offer broad appeal too. I’m not a fan of big, overblown prices, but you won’t come across any here.

I was never a fan of The Metropolitan, but I really like what’s replaced it. 

***Image courtesy of Robert Gale, Travels With Beer – really sorry about the hiccup, Robert! Please accept my sincere apology 

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