January 18 2014

Review: The Chequers, Bath

Restaurant reviews tend to follow a certain defined, expected format detailing where the restaurant in the spotlight is, who cooked the food, how much it cost and what the writer thought of each dish they ate, leaving the reader to decide whether or not it’s the kind of eating out experience they too would like to sample. But sometimes, formats have to be thrown out of the window – and when they are, the resulting restaurant reviews are, perhaps, the ones that are the most interesting to both write and (hopefully!) read. So here we go.

Okay, I’m not about to go totally post-modern: I can tell you that we’re at the perennially-popular, (fairly) long-established, smart but welcoming gastropub hotspot The Chequers, where the food is cooked by head chef Leigh Evans (pictured) and the bill won’t break the bank because the menu is very realistically priced and includes lots of wallet-friendly every day treats such as burgers and fish and chips (albeit exceedingly upmarket versions of those familiar classics) costing around £10-15. Many Bathonians think they’re familiar with The Chequers – but do we really, really know what Leigh Evans can do?

Now this is the point where we’re going to go a bit meta. I’m not going to list the individual dishes I recently sampled at The Chequers, bang on about what they were served with and tell you what went best with what because I believe that some chefs deserve more respect than that – and Leigh Evans is one such chef.

Leigh creates the kind of menu that reminds me why I first started writing about food almost a dozen years ago. He can, for example, offer you the earthiest, most characterful incarnation of a Scotch Egg – a starter that’s trending across Bath right now – that you’ll come across elsewhere in the city. He makes spelt bread that he serves with cheese and pickle butter and it’s a combination that could, with a glass of good wine, be a memorable stand-alone supper in it’s own right. He serves big fat scallops on moist, glutinous wedges of properly salty bacon instead of fiddling around with slivers of pancetta and blobs of pea-coloured mush. He can rustle up a hake fillet so sweet, moist and silky that it’ll make you wonder why you ever thought of living on anything else but fish (until you remember that very few people can cook fish this good). But hang on… he can also present you with meat at it’s powerfully bold best: scarlet-fleshed pigeon; seductively velvety venison; rich boeuf bourguignon in a pastry case so short, delicate and flaky it almost brings tears to your eyes. He can put together combinations of big, bold flavours that either politely complement or cleverly contrast with each component on the plate, some elements of which might only be the subtlest drop of puree, or a smooth smear of sauce, or a tiny jug of glossy gravy, but absolutely none of which isn’t there for a very good purpose. And just when you think that a sugar rush would be enough to push you over the edge of the taste experience spectrum completely, a globe of muscovado ice cream accompanying one of the two desserts that we sampled (both of which, by the way, delivered Wow! factor in spades, but I’ve never been very good at waxing lyrical over sweet stuff) has you thinking that you could live on this and this alone for the rest of the month and still couldn’t get enough of it.

I trust I’ve made myself clear regarding what I think of Leigh Evans extraordinary skills. Now go forth and check him out for yourself. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Categorised in: News