Tag Archives: pig guide news

New restaurant opening at The Bird in October: plate by Leon Smith

The Pig is wishing a very warm welcome to what promises to be a very exciting brand new restaurant opening at The Bird (Pulteney Road) on Wednesday 7 October.

plate by Leon Smith focuses on stylish yet simple produce-led dishes wrought from ultra-seasonal, local ingredients on a weekly-changing menu served up in a relaxed, informal environment. Leon returns to the West Country having established his reputation at some of the UK’s finest establishments including Tom Aikens in Chelsea, Wild Honey, Berwick Lodge, The Pony and Trap (one of the few Michelin starred pubs in the UK) and The Royal Oak at Paley Street, where he achieved three AA rosettes.

The Bird’s proprietor Ian Taylor aims to treat guests to a spectacle for the senses from when they first step into the restaurant, and has designed a colourful, playful interior that aims to complement menus that promise to burst with flavour, presented with flair and executed with skill.

New menu items will be added weekly to reflect true seasonality, ensuring local and return diners will always have a new experience to enjoy as produce highlights varying within each month. While Leon’s menu will change constantly, his pride in his suppliers will be perennial; he and his brigade have hand-sourced the very best ingredients from local farmers and fishermen, meeting with each and visiting regularly as part of their determination to create a showcase of food heroes. Beef and lamb is sourced from the team at family-owned Beeswax Dyson (less than five miles away from Leon’s kitchen) while rainbow platefuls of vegetables are grown with care by fifth-generation farmers at Lovejoys.

plate by Leon Smith will be open from Tuesday-Sunday, a fixed price menu will be available daily from 6pm-7pm offering 2/3 courses for £20/£25, and a children’s menu will complement the adult offering offering ‘gastro kids’ the opportunity to enjoy mini-versions of their parent’s choices. Sound tasty? We think so! Reservations are being taken now; call 01225 580438 or click on this link to guarantee your place at the prandial party.

Stage.Jacky pop-up returns to The Peking, Sunday 27 September

Following on the success of the recent Stage.Jacky Tasting Menu event hosted by The Peking Restaurant (Kingsmead Square) last month (read our full review here), superchef Jacky Chan will be returning to the Peking kitchen to do it all over again on Sunday 27 September.

Tickets for this exclusive event cost just £65pp for a 5-course Tasting Menu and there are two sittings to choose from (6pm and 8pm.) However…. as space is limited to a maximum of 10 covers per sitting, this event is expected to sell out fast – last time around, the evening sitting sold out in just two hours; you have been warned! So, if you don’t want to miss out on what The Pig Guide can personally guaranteed is a uniquely fascinating experience, give Peking owner Jun a call on 01225 466377 today.

Exciting news from The Methuen Arms

There are some exciting changes afoot at the award-winning Methuen Arms in Corsham, Wiltshire. Much as we’re be sorry to see superchef Leigh Evans fly the nest, we’re super-excited about the arrival of new Head Chef Kevin Chandler who joins the MA on Leigh’s recommendation and brings a wealth of culinary experience with him.

Having trained with the acclaimed Galvin brothers at Galvin Bistrot de Luxe and worked at London’s Maze Gordon Ramsay and Petrus (now Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley), Kevin went on to work with Rick Stein in Marlborough before enjoying a stint at The Pear Tree, Whiteley. “I’m incredibly excited about joining the team at The Methuen Arms,” says Kevin. “I’m a chef who is very much led by passion and I just love to cook. Our guests will be at the heart of everything we do – they can expect the same amazing quality that’s synonymous with The Methuen Arms, but with a few new show stoppers along the way. I take inspiration from the incredible local produce we’re lucky to have access to, so whether it’s a comforting Sunday lunch or the very best fish and chips you’ve ever had, each dish will be a celebration of that produce, locally grown or sourced from our very own allotment outside the kitchen window.”

And the exciting Methuen Arms news doesn’t end there! Hannah Liquorish is poised to bring fresh ideas and her own, inimitable hands-on management style to her role as new General Manager. “I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in and getting to know all the locals I’ve heard such a lot about,” says Hannah. “The Methuen Arms has a great reputation for warm, quality hospitality and that’s what I’m all about. These are exciting times for the whole team and I can’t wait to play my part.”

Bringing in a new dedicated Head Chef allows us to really focus on taking our food offering to the next level,” says Jayson Perfect, Group Managing Director Pubs & Inns, Liberation Group. “Kevin has a fantastic background and we’re all really looking forward to him making his mark at The Methuen. Meanwhile Steph – our Assistant Manager – and the rest of the front of house team have all really stepped up recently, and we wanted to bring Hannah on board as General Manager to offer some leadership and expertise to make sure we continue to put our customers first in all of our thinking. This is an exciting time for The Methuen Arms!”

And so say all of us!

The Mint Room extends EOTHO deal throughout September

The Mint Room – described, in our very own words (!), as “competent, confident, audaciously inspirational masters of the art of modern Indian cookery” – have, of their own volition, extended the Eat Out To Help Out scheme every Monday-Thursday throughout September, offering diners 50% off all food (including the fabulous Tour of India Tasting Menu) to a maximum of £10pp.

While we’re on Mint Room territory, forget ye not that the restaurant’s super-smart, uber-glam, semi-alfresco Piper-Heidsieck rooftop Champagne bar offers yet another twist to the singularly unique Mint Room experience, making it the perfect, elegant hotspot in which to make the very most of September’s Met Office-predicted Indian summer.

The Oyster Shell ‘On The Road’ – coming to a village near you!

The Oyster Shell‘s On The Road food truck is back out of hibernation and ready to hit the road again, taking their award-winning fish and chips (and langoustines, and sausages, and bubble and squeak Scotch eggs, and more…) to villages around Bath from Monday 1 September. Form an orderly queue in Freshford Village Hall car park every Monday from 1 September, Bishop Sutton AFF car park every Wednesday from 2 September and Welton Rovers FC carpark in Midsomer Norton from Friday 4 September. The van will be open for business on site at each location between 4.30pm-8.30pm, and you can pre-order and choose your preferred collection slot ahead of time here… or simply rock up and order on the day. Enjoy!

Big deals to celebrate the Butcombe Food & Beer festival throughout September

Party on down at a Butcombe pub every Monday-Thursday throughout September and reap big rewards: Burger & Beer for a tenner on Mondays, Pie & Beer for a tenner on Tuesdays, 25% off all food all day for Butcombe Loyalty Club members on Wednesdays, and a £10 ‘Catch of the Day’ from the Brixham Fish Market specials board on Thursdays.

Butcombe pubs: where’s that too, then? In Bath/neaby environs, we’re talking the Pig and Fiddle (Saracen Street), The Methuen Arms (just up t’road, in Corsham) and the glorious Quarrymans Arms on Box Hill… but there are several more too, not too far away. But hey, forget ye not: booking essential; plunder the full list of Butcombe pubs here

Why is The Pig Guide partying this week? Read on…

The Eat Out To Help Out scheme is getting us out-and-about for discount dining in Bath’s best pubs and restaurants every Monday-Wednesday from now until the end of August

What started off as a one-off ‘guest’ chat with Somer Valley FM host/Station Manager Richard Burgess has turned into a regular gig (“the highlight of my week,” eh, Rich?)… and we have some very exciting pipeline plans to unveil shortly

We’ve got tickets for the tantalising, chef-led Peking pop-up on Sunday 23 August!

There’s a Poetry Trail in the Royal Crescent Hotel’s beautiful, scented, historic garden – a complimentary experience for residents and non-residents alike from now until Wednesday 30 September; linger long for alfresco refreshments after you’ve completed the trail and receive 10% off your order

We’re ‘in talks’ with the lovely Pixie App folk about a very exciting Pixie/Pig collaboration

Work is well underway on brand new Bath Pub Co hostelry The Moorfields on Third Avenue (near Moorland Road)

No. 15 Great Pulteney (“an experience for all the senses”) is back open for business – hoorah!

The Thai Hut (Green Park Station) has launched a brand new e-bike home delivery service

Homewood (see pic) have unveiled their brand new Olio terrace and pizzeria, overlooking the hotel, spa and restaurant’s magnificent, manicured, mesmerising gardens – if you’re looking for a reason to go (tastefully!) wild in the country, this is it!

Reasons to be cheerful right here, right now

We couldn’t be more thrilled that the long-established Peking Restaurant (Kingsmead Square) is back open for takeaway collection; we’ve sorely missed our regular Peking fix! And forget ye not that a 15% discount on menu prices applies on all takeaway orders.

While we’re really sorry to see Phat Yaks (Kingsmead Square) close its doors for good, we’re really looking forward to seeing the results of the refit/refurb that’s been going on at PY mothership Yak Yeti Yak during lockdown – all will be revealed on Tuesday 21 July when the restaurant reopens its doors to the public with a brand new website to flaunt too. It’s also well worth flagging up here that the YYY team recently delivered their 1000th meal – yup, we said 1000th meal – to frontline keyworkers at the RUH Bath; amazing work indeed.

Yay, Corkage (Chapel Row) is popping those corks again and reopening their doors to their fans. But be warned: booking is more essential than ever before as social distancing guidelines = reduced capacity, so clickety-click double quick. Top tip: fancy Brunch & Bubbles on a Sunday? You know where to go!

We’ve been banging on about this on Twitter, in our Bath Echo column and in our most recent guest spot chat with Somer Valley FM host Richard Burgess on his Monday afternoon Drivetime show. But if you need to keep up at the back, Bath Pub Company MD Joe Cussens’ brilliant short video detailing exactly how his pubs’ reopening plans will work, filmed at the Hare and Hounds, offers a clear explanation/textbook blueprint of the ‘new normal’ code of conduct. Good work, Joe!

Why would anybody buy their daily bread (and related bakery treats, plus all kinds of enticing everything else) from anywhere else but the Thoughtful Bakery? Order online for delivery or collection (see website for the full lowdown) or pop into the bakery’s Barton Street HQ for the socially-distanced ‘live’ experience

We’re SO looking forward to splashing around at The Scallop Shell (Monmouth Street) this week when it reopens for full, sit-in business (adhering to full new normal guidelines, of course) – book your table today. Okay, so the takeaway service is off the menu again, but SS sister venture The Oyster Shell (Moorland Road) has extended its opening hours to take up the slack – dive in, Piggies!

We’re fascinated by brand new pop-up venture Jikoni – “an adventure in food from Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Tanzania”, no less – now offering takeaway and home delivery to Bath addresses every Friday and Saturday evening (pre-orders only) – ffi, call 07446 150017 or follow Jikoni on Twitter @EastJikoni

Any more for any more? Let me know!

melissa@thepigguide.com

Poems in the Garden at the Royal Crescent Hotel and Spa

Those who have been keeping up at the back will already be aware that the Royal Crescent Hotel and Spa is reopening on Friday 10 July.

We’re eagerly anticipating celebrating the return of one of Bath’s most iconic hospitality venues to the Heritage City scene by taking a thoroughly elegant stroll through the hotel’s beautiful, scented garden past the century-old trees, perfectly preened rose bushes and historic architecture in the company of none other than Byron, Tennyson and many more beloved English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish poets whose works have been positioned at key points around the gardens for us to peruse at our leisure. The hotel’s Head Gardener John Bennett (who has been a member of The Royal Crescent Hotel team for over thirteen years) will be on hand to answer any questions that visitors may have about the flora and fauna, and if you fancy a spot of squirrel-spotting too, you’ve definitely come to the right place!

The hotel’s Poems in the Garden trail is a complimentary experience for residents and non-residents alike between Friday 10 July and Wednesday 30 September; linger long for alfresco refreshments after you’ve completed the trail and receive 10% off your order – now that’s what we call poetry in motion.

The Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel reopens on Friday 31 July

The Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel will be reopening on Friday 31 July, with measures to ensure the safety and wellbeing of guests and employees in place and introducing a new menu, new weekend yoga sessions (open to both guests and non-guests) and a sparkling selection of reopening offers, one of which allows guests to take the waters in the privacy of their own rooms.

One of the first world-class spas to open in the UK and setting the bar in Britain’s wellness world, The Gainsborough Bath Spa is the only hotel in the country to offer its visitors the opportunity to experience Bath’s natural thermal waters. Standing as a modern icon of luxury wellness, the hotel is the ideal place to escape with total peace of mind.

Yoga classes will be held at 10am every Saturday and Sunday in The Chapel (complimentary for guests; £12 for non-guests.)

For details of The Gainsborough Bath Spa’s Get Together Offer, click on this link. For details of The Gainsborough Bath Spa Spa Room and Suite Offer which allows guests to take the waters in the privacy of their own luxurious rooms plus all kinds of other wonderful treats, click here. To unlock YTL’s Private Offer of 20% discount via all direct booking channels, click here.

Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa reopening on Monday 10 July

Now here’s something to really celebrate: the Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa is reopening its doors on Monday 10 July.

The RCH team has been working hard to implement new policies and procedures to further enhance their already stringent health and safety standards (read the full details here) and will continue to closely monitor Government guidance on an ongoing basis. In the meantime, click here to view a range of tasty new offers…. and let’s all raise a glass to the imminent reopening of one of Bath’s most iconic hospitality venues – cheers, Piggies! 

The Pig Guide: where we’re at

Around 10 weeks ago (March 22, to be precise) I published a Pig Guide news story that, looking back on it now, was actually a cry for help for me, for you, for all of us who where were suddenly watching the world around us shift and change in a way that none of us had ever seen it shift and change before. Pretty much anything else on the agenda for the ‘normal life’ that we all so blithely took for granted had literally locked down, literally overnight. How would we cope? What was going to happen next? What shall we do?

Scroll forward 10 weeks…

While our everyday lives are still about as far removed from life as we knew it at, say, the beginning of this year, a new kind of rhythm and energy gradually began to replace the ominous feelings of downbeat dread that dominated those dreadful days at the end of March. Community spirit, perseverance, support, determination and kindness came to the fore and, in my little world, a whole new modus operandi was launched.

The Pig Guide’s Lockdown Larder – which started life as a tiny little bulletin aimed to support six local businesses who simply refused to lock up shop – grew, throughout April, to become the regularly updated 5,000 word behemoth that it is today, viewed and shared by almost 26,000 people to date. The Our Lockdown Life series was a natural spin-off from the Lockdown Larder; the personal stories shared by five local businesses (Thoughtful Bakery, Larkhall Butchers, Yak Yeti Yak, and both The Grapes and Chapter One pubs) served as an inspiration for individuals and other local businesses alike, and again attracted thousands upon thousands of click-throughs that sent the stats for this little local business into a tailspin. Meanwhile, at the personal PG HQ cliff face…

With so much time on our hands and no restaurant bookings to punctuate the week, dinner time became even more of an event than ever before. As food sources became increasingly problematic, I became a mistress of the art of the ‘foraged feast’ (I wrote a little feature for The Bath Magazine on this subject towards the end of March – you can read it here, if you’re interested.) And then, as grocery delivery services became more and more established and supplies began to stabilise, I attempted to replicate familiar restaurant experiences at home (“This evening, Mr Pig, we are dining Marlborough Tavern/Clayton’s Kitchen/Yum Yum Thai/Chez Dominique style, etc etc”) to varying degrees of success… or otherwise.

Fortunately, a handful of pro kitchens came to the rescue – in click’n’collect/home delivery format at least. Over the past few weeks, we’ve chowed down and tucked in to a fabulous Tasting Menu (the Tour of India feast, no less) from The Mint Room, glorious fish and chips from The Scallop Shell, Jimmy Muffins from Eveleigh’s Cafe, pizza from The Pizza Bike, Nepalese curry and momos from Yak Yeti Yak and a ready-to-go Sunday roast from Homewood. And while not eating…

I took care of my 91-year-old dad and delighted my agent by writing almost all of a short story collection (45,000 words to date.) I found ways to cope and deal with a family tragedy at a distance; I found other ways to help others cope and deal with similar experiences. I celebrated my birthday in fine, lockdown style… but still haven’t mastered the arts of yoga, sourdough or cleaning the bathroom. And despite grim thoughts I may have harboured to the contrary, The Pig Guide remained open all hours; as the weeks rolled along, it became clear that we wouldn’t be closing our doors anytime soon.

A whole host of businesses we supported and promoted on The Pig Guide Twitter feed and in the Lockdown Larder pledged to sign up for annual membership on fully reopening – a heartwarming bonus that we never once asked for, but gave us further impetus to keep calm and carry on.

Our ongoing collaboration with the Bath Echo went from strength to strength as our regular weekly Pig Guide column – in online, subscription newsletter and, as of a couple of weeks ago, back in print again (good work, guys!) – further expanded our reach.

Ellie – proprietor of The Grapes on Westgate Street – instigated a virtual pub quiz, hosted by MC extraordinaire Matt Donovan (many of you will know him as the supervisor at The Raven), raising much-needed cash for Thoughtful Bakery’s COVID-19 fund and featuring a Food and Drink round hosted by this little piggie (if you want to join the fun, it takes place every Monday evening at 8pm – DM @TheGrapesBath on Twitter to pay the £1 entry fee and collect your Zoom sign-in link.)

Lovely Somer Valley FM presenter Richard Burgess offered me a regular slot on his Drivetime show (every Monday between 4-6pm) – as anybody who knows me personally can probably imagine, I keep Richard talking for far longer than he originally envisaged; who knows where this will lead?

And it’s clear that there’s more – not less – to come. The tiny green shoots of recovery are sprouting fast (some say too fast, but only time will tell) as, following in the footsteps of takeaway outlets, coffee shops, ice cream parlours open air markets/farm shops and delis are slowly but surely (and safely) opening their doors, and the once-deserted highways, byways and thoroughfares in and around the city centre are poised to welcome fresh footfall.

So: we’re all where we’re at, and the world did – and does, and will continue – to turn. Hang on in there, Piggies! And remember…

  • Shop local: support as many local businesses as you can, as often as you can

  • Keep yourself updated on all the relevant information

  • Be kind, stay safe, look after yourself and other – we’re all in this together.

Bath Ales to host Virtual Beer Tasting, Wednesday 27 May

Bath Ales’ Head Brewer Georgina Young is hosting a virtual ‘Meet the Brewer’ and guided tasting event live on the Bath Ales Facebook page on Wednesday 27th May at 7pm.

During the session, Georgina will be talking beer lovers through the flavour profiles and brewing processes of four different beers: Gem Amber Ale, Wild Hare Pale Ale, Lansdown IPA, and Darkside Stout. She’ll also answer any questions about Bath Ales (which happens to be celebrating its 25th anniversary this year; now that’s a party we don’t want to miss!) and share her top tips for flavour matching with beer and food.

Now more than ever, it’s important for the beer fans to stay connected – and what better way to do that than an interactive virtual tasting?” says Georgina. “It may not be quite the same as a visit to your local, but until it’s safe to reopen pubs, we can still socialise from our sofas with a bottle in hand!”

For those who want to sip along (and really, why woudn’t you?), Bath Ales beers are available to order online here. Lansdown and Wild Hare are all available in Waitrose stores nationwide, and Gem and Lansdown are also available in Tesco stores across the UK.

Cheers, Piggies!

Our Lockdown Life: The Grapes

In an ongoing Pig Guide series publishing the thoughts, concerns and plans of local hospitality businesses during the lockdown, we’re putting Ellie Leiper – co-owner of the The Grapes – in the spotlight.

What a strange old time we’re all having! I had to think long and hard about writing this article as other businesses in this series have been so inspirational. I have to admit that at times, it’s really hard.

Up until the last couple of days it’s felt a bit like the most surreal, endless holiday on earth, but inevitably tinged with fear and sadness for the almost unspeakable volumes of people who have lost their lives already and the devastation this causes for those left behind.

This time last year we got the keys to The Grapes. Having been engaged with the landlords for a good nine months to get to that stage, we were mentally strung out already… and then the real work started. What with jumping straight from being a builder to getting the business on its feet and then this, it’s been quite an intense year.

The fact we’ve been in lockdown for six weeks already is staggering and in some way feels like an age. What feels even more strange is that it was only two months ago we headed to The Assembly Rooms for the annual Bath Life Awards, to come back to a bustling bar in the throes of a lively Irish Folk Session with the coveted prize of Best Bar. The weekend before we had our best Saturday ever. Within a week, news from Italy and France had us washing our hands constantly, leaving all toilet doors open to limit people touching surfaces and asking customers to either wash their hands or use sanitiser before ordering.

The paranoia set in very quickly and by the time the PM ordered lockdown we’d already decided to close as we couldn’t in all conscience open the bar over the weekend when more people would potentially be in close proximity to each other. It was a relief….not least for our hands which where red raw, flaking and painful from all the washing, wiping down and disinfecting we were all doing.

That last week was very emotional. Knowing that we were going to have to shutter the business we had only just started was visceral and when customers started to come in to put ‘money behind the bar’ for when we reopened, it had us in bits. Our first priority though, was to our staff. We’d started financial planning for lockdown three weeks earlier and it was with relief that we were able to close the doors knowing we could continue to pay staff for what we hoped would be a couple of months of lockdown.

The first couple of days were a mad flurry of cleaning, sorting and basically turning a commercial premises into a home, organising where food was going to come from and when. I was completely manic if I’m honest. I started out by announcing we were going to put on a virtual pub quiz and thought that work restoring a staircase would start within a day or two – you know, to make the best use of ‘time’. Yet time is our greatest commodity at the moment and, after a few days of freaking out everyone close to me with my level of mania, I crashed.

We’ve cooked a lot, and slept a lot. The new normal means instead of weekly yoga, Pilates and life drawing classes and the fabulous Budō Bā up in Pococks Living Room, the family now has somewhere to hang out [see pic]. I do yoga most days and seem to spend forever cleaning and washing up, but in amongst the rollover of Groundhog Days there’s a change coming – our energy is slowly creeping back and we’re getting our heads around the increasing possibility of being closed until winter.

One of the strangest things about our ‘new normal’ is city centre living. Without the tourists, there aren’t many people around. We’ve never heard Thursday’s Clap for the NHS because there’s no real community, no front or back gardens neighbouring onto each other, no sounds of nearby trumpet players or cellists to ‘cheer everyone else up’. Sometimes it just feels like us and the seagulls, though I hear even they seem to be moving to the suburbs in search of food as there’s nothing for them in town.

Bath has been a busy meeting place for centuries. There’s an enormous sense of weird privilege that comes with having such an historical city, to all intents and purposes, to ourselves. In the most part, the only experience we have of it at the moment is in noise reduction as we rarely venture out, but the photos on social media of all the empty streets and blossom has been a real joy and reawakened my love of plants – there are seeds and cuttings now occupying the majority of our windowsills.

We’re incredibly lucky regarding food and in some ways, our local small and indie producers have become part of our very much reduced community. From having hundreds of people to see each week, our daily lives consist of spending time up on the roof, occasionally making forays to get our weekly bread from The Thoughtful Bakery or to visit Dan at the fruit and veg stall on Kingsmead Square. Meat comes courtesy of the fabulous folk over at Larkhall Butchers and occasionally, we get in the car to get eggs from MacDonalds Farm or head over to White Row Farm Shop for ingredients for an ever more inventive list of recipes, with a stop off at Avellino’s on the way back.

In the middle of all this routine, excitement is making a comeback. We’ve been lucky with the government support to maintain the small savings we made thanks to the Christmas Market. Our suppliers are up to date, the staff have all been retained – man, I miss them so much! But that’s a whole other story.

The news last week of the governments 100%-backed Bounce Back Loan scheme has us making some exciting plans, though the rug got pulled out somewhat yesterday when we spoke to the accountant. He has ample anecdotal evidence that the banks have not been at all supportive of pub businesses on the previous 80% CBILS scheme, and has warned that this may still be the case even with the 100%.

In an ideal world though, we’d use a loan to bring forward our plans to increase the floor capacity of the pub by restoring and fitting out the cellars. It’s the ideal time to make dust and noise at the moment, but even in the worst-case scenario, if we didn’t get the loan, we can keep ourselves busy by stripping all the old walls back to bare rubble and limewashing throughout, which is a pig of a job and 95% of what needs to be done. It’s just a shame the other 5% is where the costs come in as well as making the space legal, useable and absolutely freaking awesome. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Either way, this pandemic isn’t going to beat us. We might need to put something on the website in a couple of months time encouraging some of our loyal customers to support us in the interim by putting a ‘drink behind the bar’ or buy one of the custom t-shirts I’m planning with newly-purchased lino printing materials (eek, exciting!) But either way, we will be opening those doors again in the future and welcoming you back because this is not only our business but our home. Failure is not an option.

In the meantime, let me know @TheBathLandlady or @TheGrapesBath on Twitter or Insta what day you think would be a good day for that Virtual Pub Quiz and let’s make it happen. The Pig Guide is planning to do something special for it too, making it perfect for all you new foodies out there.

Ellie Leiper, April 2020

Our Lockdown Life: Thoughtful Bakery

In an ongoing Pig Guide series publishing the thoughts, concerns and plans of local hospitality businesses during the lockdown, we’re putting Duncan Glendinning – proprietor of the Thoughtful Bakery – in the spotlight.

When the government announced the lockdown I had a tough decision to make: close, like the majority of Bath’s businesses, knowing that staff would have to go on furlough and our future would be very uncertain because of the rent and other bills we would still need to cover while closed… or stay open.

Very quickly, however, I felt the decision was taken out of our hands – bare supermarket shelves and lots of our customers and other Bath residents in a desperate situation at home and with no food meant I felt an obligation to continue to do what we do and help be part of the solution.

With huge thanks to my incredible team in the last two weeks (and an incredible chap called Julian who magicked up a website for us in less than 24 hours) we’ve completely repurposed the business. We’re now taking orders online for either collection at the bakery or home delivery, and the response has been great.

Our cafe seating area is now a stock room. We’re working closer than ever with our suppliers to stock and shift items that might otherwise go to waste, and every day is a new fight for us to keep our offering fresh and competitively priced produce and products. Don’t get me wrong; I would help any of those we are currently competing against for those all-important orders at the drop of a hat if needed, but otherwise it’s business as usual, with a finite customer base and a growing number of businesses offering similar initiatives to us.

But the ‘new normal’ for us has been so very odd – meeting people in a car park for them to collect their orders; spending early mornings freshening up our fruit and veg stocks to keep the standard of our produce high; driving here, there and everywhere to pick up stocks from restaurant kitchens. And just around the corner, every day… our hospitality industry is in tatters. I was shocked at just how many businesses closed their doors and how many of my restaurateur, bar or cafe owners and producer friends had to put their hands up and call time out. It was heart-wrenching to watch most of what made the Bath food and drink indie scene so great bottom out almost overnight. But it speaks volumes that so many of the big guns are prepared to show their vulnerability by expressing their huge concerns over their future; if all those outfits with all their venture-capital backing are worried about weathering this storm, what hope for the future do us indies have?

The high street will be a very different place when all this finally blows over; the costs of this pandemic are almost impossible to tot up. Okay, so wages are covered through the government employee retention scheme but there’s still rent to pay, and landlords are still for the most part very much looking to collect. Then there’s insurance, stock and wastage to think about – all the other costs are mounting up with no footfall, no bums on seats, to help pay for it.

But sometimes, in the most difficult of times, you see the most generous gestures being made and I have seen a huge sense of camaraderie grow immensely since the lockdown.

Those in my crew that have stayed on have been exemplary in ensuring the work in hand gets done: Mike who runs the Savouring Bath tours, Stuart who owns Sunkissed Campers, Mark (head chef of the Pump Rooms) and Nick from Seven Hills Chocolate were quick to step up and have been volunteering their time to deliver to our customers. Eddie from Roundhill Roastery dropped off a filter coffee machine to keep my team and I fuelled, and there’s been so much support from my fellow local business owners keeping us buoyed up through the long, tough days.

We also started our Covid-19 fund at the start of the crisis. To date – thanks to the generous contributions from our customers – we’ve committed to supplying over 400 meals to the RUH’s NHS front line heroes so they don’t have to go to bed on an empty stomach.

I still find myself tearing up when I watch the news and I’m reminded of the huge tragedy and personal losses people up and down the country are facing. But right now, it feels so good to be doing something. As for the future… only time will tell.

Duncan Glendinning, April 2020