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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

Our Lockdown Life: Larkhall Butchers

As part of an ongoing Pig Guide series publishing the thoughts, concerns and plans of local hospitality businesses during the lockdown, we’re putting Peter Milton – proprietor of Larkhall Butchers – in the spotlight.

My concerns about supply actually started weeks before the lockdown, around the first week of March. At this point we could see that disruptions were inevitable and we started to plan ahead accordingly. I devoted a little time to thinking a few moves ahead at this point and broke down possible outcomes into phases, based on the ‘Italian model’ a phrase I found myself overusing. Of course, I didn’t realise just how extensive the disruption would become.

As the days moved on, it became apparent that restaurants, cafes and hotels would have to close. These businesses make up around half of my business, and there’s still great uncertainty as to what will and won’t be recoverable. Obviously, I have large worries hanging over my head, but I’ve had to focus on the continuation of my business as best as I can.

There was also the added complication that I already had huge amounts of stock of niche items destined for restaurants. Many things could be broken down and used for other things – sausage, mince, etc but there’s a limited market for people who want to buy pigeon! I was able to freeze some stock, but I donated the rest. We felt that, with all the panic buying that went on at the start of the lockdown, there may have been a shortage of food going to groups that rely on donations (although I’m pleased to say I was informed by Julian House that I was wrong!)

With the shortfall of stock in the supermarkets, the pressure was put onto us to fill the gap in the market. I cannot fault the supermarkets for dealing with their own impossible battles too – there’s no easy way of changing whole operating procedures overnight for companies that big, and this is something that we’ve had to do multiple times a week.

With the catering side of my business missing, I was confident that the increased shop trade would initially keep us all busy and counterbalance some of our losses. It swiftly became apparent, though, that the increasing social distancing advice meant that the shop trade would start to steadily decrease.

My business already operated a small home delivery service, as did the Larkhall Farm Shop, just across the road from us. The joint delivery service that had begun as an idea between us some six months or so previously with a plan to gradually include other traders in the village became the obvious solution to the larger issue we faced. So, instead of waiting to iron out all the details we decided to run with it and fix the smaller details as we went. This allowed us not only to set up the hugely popular Larkhall Delivered service but meant that, by the time lockdown was in full effect, we had already ironed out many of the faults in the service and provided an option for people who could otherwise not receive food whilst socially isolating – bear in mind too that supermarket home delivery services had a three-week waiting list by this stage. By the end of March we saw a turning point where home deliveries outgrew shop walk-ins, but we had our busiest Easter period to date!

With the massive numbers we were now processing between us and the sheer time and space needed to produce over a thousand orders a week, there was obviously a huge amount of pressure on; fortunately, I have an amazing team who stepped up to the challenge. The first few weeks in particular were the hardest – I’d made the conscious decision not to have a cut-off point on the numbers of orders per day and to maintain a next day delivery service, albeit adapted to certain areas of the city on certain days to make it more feasible for our distribution.

Due to so many businesses closing down, there were large numbers of professionals who had been ‘let go’ who were able to help us – and we in turn helped them by providing a somewhat stable income. We also had a huge amount of volunteer helpers coming forward; this was fantastic to see, but I favoured using paid employees who really needed the income wherever possible. Being in a position to help, and not being a charity ourselves, I felt it our duty to do what we could to help the local community and the economy a losing battle perhaps, but every pebble makes a ripple.

Fast forward a few weeks and we have an army of trained staff helping us supply the city of Bath. I have a team of chefs who work late into the evening preparing orders for the next day, not to mention the Uber drivers, hairdressers, estate agents and others who help with the logistics of the operation. My original butchery team follows on from the chef’s shift beginning at midnight, meaning that the shop runs all but 24 hours a day to keep up with demand. Spreading the shifts like this has the advantage of giving us more space to work in at any given time. There is, of course, the worry that were someone in the shop were to get the virus, or even symptoms of it, everyone would have to self-isolate and the shop could grind to a halt. By splitting the workforce down and minimising contact between shifts we’ve been able to minimise this risk and create the ability to isolate just one team at a time, effectively turning each shift into a ‘household unit’ within the workplace.

I think that my team will agree with me in saying that, although we’re tired, stressed and sometimes feel like we can’t go on, the essential work we’re doing makes it all worthwhile. Being able to see the direct results of helping people who have been struggling to get essentials, speaking with people who are over the moon with having us there to help… my job fulfilment has never been higher. We’ve been thrust into a position of enormous responsibility and we’re trying our hardest to make this ordeal easier for everyone. I like to think that we’ve all risen to the challenge, but only time will tell.

Peter Milton, April 2020

Our Lockdown Life: Chapter One pub, Bath

In the first of a Pig Guide series publishing the thoughts, concerns and plans of local hospitality businesses during the lockdown, we’re putting Emma and Michael Heap – who refurbed, rebranded and relaunched Chapter One pub (London Road) in 2016 – in the spotlight.

As a wet-led (non-food) pub, our main concern is that we have no idea what the government’s plan is for exiting lockdown; if it’s as chaotic at the end as it was at the beginning, we’re in for an even bumpier 2020 than we could ever have imagined.

Within five days, we went from ‘we might have to close for a little bit at some point’ to people being told to avoid pubs, theatres, etc… and then being instructed to close that night. As it happened, we’d already made the decision to close so our timing was spot on – but to shutter a business in five days is extremely problematic. But, like everybody else, we did it, and so far, we’ve managed to get by.

The next hurdle we have to face is the possibility of even more chaos on the easing of lockdown conditions; it’s almost impossible to make any strategic decisions, there are too many variables. While we understand that there are many unknowns for the government too, they’re employed to be the leaders, so they need to show leadership. A firm, staged plan is needed so at least if, for example, you’re a business that’s allowed to reopen during stage three, you know you need to be ready to reopen six weeks after stage one is completed – and of course, they’re all totally random numbers as we don’t know any more about any of this than anybody else does. All we do know is that as a wet-led pub we’ll be one of the last businesses able to re-open,

So far we’ve chosen not to offer any kind of retail service as there were others in the local market already filling that need and we wanted to use the time to work on some other projects. However, we’re still having to work on contingency plans because if we’re still closed in six months we’ll desperately need a form of income.

I think we’re in the same boat as everyone else, really – trying to stay busy and not worry about the things outside of our control. While we’re being very careful with our limited funds, we’re trying to support local businesses wherever we can and celebrate the creativity and community spirit that’s sprung up in the crisis. We’re also having our first break of longer than a few days since we got the keys to this place in December 2015, so there have been some lazy afternoons and epic cooking sessions. We have a lot of concerns about friends and family getting sick, the economic and sociocultural fallout of this pandemic, whether the government will forge ahead with their Brexit timeline potentially compounding those issues… and if anyone in charge knows what they’re doing. But in spite of all that, we’re okay for now; we’re focusing on a future when we can hang out with our customers again, shout to the world about amazing independently produced booze and pat ALL the doggos!”

Emma and Michael Heap, April 2020

Lockdown Larder! The essential guide to food and drink shopping in Bath

Food first (for Restaurant Services and Drinks Deliveries, scroll down the page):

Dairy, pantry and larder essentials, ready meals and, of course, the most fabulous bread and associated sweet treat delights for miles around. Where are we? Thoughtful Bakery, of course, where the click and collect/home delivery door is very much open for business. But here’s the real food for thought: the bakery’s COVID- 19 Front Liner Donation Fund is doing amazing things for the NHS Key Workers who are doing amazing things for us at this difficult time – who wouldn’t want to contribute to that?

Top notch, marvellous meat alongside fish, dairy produce and pantry goodies: go forth and shop IRL at Larkhall Butchers (paying full respect to social distancing rules, of course) or, if you’re in dire need of delivery, order over the phone from a business that’s keeping calm and carrying on in order to keep Bath sane.

The Newton Farm fairies are offering a home delivery service for those over 70 or those who are self-isolating as they (or someone they live with) fall in to the vulnerable category, plus those who are self-isolating as a household and NHS frontline workers. If you fall in to any of these categories, here’s the really extensive product list including all manner of groceries, fresh produce, meat, sweet treats, Bertinet bread and ready meals for one, and here’s the full lowdown on how to order.

The Bath and NE Somerset Third Sector Group 3SG has bought a host of local partners, charities, residents, students and businesses together to create a Compassionate Community to support everybody during difficult times. On the food front (just one element of the incredible work that 3SG is doing), the team have collaborated with the Sustainable Food Partnership to generate a regularly-updated list of local providers offering food services to people across Bath and north east Somerset – click here for the full lowdown.

Ooh la la! Bertinet Bakery bread (including those legendary sourdough loaves), croissants, pain au chocolat, cookies, pretzels (yes, pretzels!) and more, all in easy reach via this link. Minimum order £10, free doorstep delivery.

Long-established family-run wholesaler to the catering industry Arthur David (I LOVE the company’s backstory!) is offering home delivery of all kinds of everything to domestic customers in the BA and BS postcode area. To call the product list extensive would be an understatement – if you can’t find what you need here, you simply don’t need it. Order before 2pm for next day delivery; order after 2pm and select a delivery date up to 7 days in advance.

Steaks, burgers, sausages, mince, eggs, bread, vegetables and much, much much more; those darling Darling Deli darlings are fighting your “what to eat now/next” corner in fine style. Call 01225 835118 for full details including opening hours (yes, you can shop responsibly IRL here) and delivery/collect options.

Avellinos Italian Deli is a little oasis of Italian sunshine, on the Cleveland Place/London Road corner. There’s an abundance of pasta, passata and tinned tomatoes lining the shelves, alongside pestos, jams, oils, Italian eggs, Italian sausages, ’00’ flour by the scoop and much more. Gloves and hand gel are available for every customer (no more than two at a time)… and every customer needs to leave with at least one Italian pastry (top tip: if there’s Cannoli going begging, grab one pronto!) Call 01225 470194 for opening hours.

The Wellocks at Home online grocery delivery service is going the extra mile to make both the current situation and our future brighter by helping our local pubs or restaurants maintain a level of income in these testing times. Choose your grocery box (Fruit, Pantry, Salad, etc), add anything you need from the Essential selection, treat yourself to a little bit of Luxury (ooh, Black Cow Vintage Cheddar, please!) and collect your hoard the next day from your nearest click and collect point(*). Where’s ours? The lovely Longs Arms in South Wraxall, where chef/proprietor Rob Allcock also happens to be baking delectable (of course!) daily bread, buns, etc for lucky locals at the South Wraxall Bakery. (*)home delivery service also available.

Support 35 small local businesses and keep your own at-home supplies of top notch, local artisan produce (cheese, pickles, tea, oils, choccies, liqueurs and much, much more – cruise the full, flamboyant array here) buoyant or send a luxurious (and practical!) Taste of Bath hamper to a friend in need, anywhere in the UK. Free local delivery.

The Kingsmead Square Stall is still open for business, with the usual fruit and veg supplemented by eggs, pasta, etc. Current opening hours are Monday, Friday and Saturday only (8am-2pm) but proprietor Daniel Weisberg is happy to take click and collect/next day delivery orders via text on 07872 574513. Meanwhile, New Stokes (Moorland Road) are offering a next day delivery service (minimum order £20; £3 delivery charge) – and, as legions of Stokes supporters are aware, there’s a heck of a lot more than fruit and veg available; email bath@newstokes.co.uk or call 07838 943056 for details.

The Circus Restaurant on Brock Street are working in partnership with the Bath Veg Box Project to deliver vibrant assortments of fresh fruit and vegetables (£16 per box, see pic) and/or a selection of locally-sourced essentials including dairy produce, bread, eggs, meat, frozen Circus Restaurant meals (the latter for collection only) and the restaurant’s own-label red, white and rose wine (yay!) for delivery/click and collect. Read all about the service here or drop by the restaurant in person between 10am-12noon Monday-Saturday.

Frozen cookie dough from the fabulous No 3 Cafe gals, ready to bake, delivered directly to your door: 2 for £10 to BA1 and BA2, including delivery – message @SarararaCoffee on Twitter to grab yours today.

Pack up your troubles and go shopping at The Packhorse! Orders for collection taken by telephone ONLY (01225 830300) by 1pm two days in advance of three collection cycles (Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 12noon-2pm.) The menu ranges from food staples and basic essentials to bottled and draught beer/cider (bring your own 2-pint container if you’re opting for draught), wine and fizz, taking in BBQ boxes, meat and poultry and vibrant fresh vegetable/fruit hampers along the way. If you could bring your own boxes/bags, that would be massively helpful, as would pre-planning for a regular weekly order. Delivery service available to self-isolating households via the pub’s volunteer Packeroo team, within a one mile radius of Southstoke.

While we’re all doing what we can to get by, bear this in mind: Bath Foodbank Centres are closed until further notice, but e-vouchers are allowing people in need to have food parcels delivered to their homes via a contact-free delivery service. The service is currently in dire need of cereal, baked beans, tinned tomatoes/vegetables/meat/fish/soup/fruit/rice pudding, packet soup, pasta and jars of pasta sauce, UHT milk, long life juice, chocolate and biscuits, instant mash, coffee, hand wash, soap and shower gel. View a regularly-updated list of food collection point locations here or make an online cash donation here.

Restaurant/eat in:

Age UK B&NES are offering a lunchtime delivery of a hot meal for people living in B&NES direct to the person’s door, seven days per week. A main course and a dessert costs just £6.50; click on this link for the daily menu. Specific dietary requirements can be accommodated, including low sugar, gluten free, and textured meals for those who find it difficult to swallow. To order, email communitymeals@ageukwiltshire.org.uk or call 01793 687017.

Hooray, hoorah and YAY – fish (or pies, or sausages, or the legendary bubble and squeak Scotch egg?) and chips from The Oyster Shell are back on the menu! Limited home delivery slots for between Thursday-Saturday 4pm-9pm are up for grabs NOW, via the app or online here (where you can also browse the full menu.) It’s so good to have you back, guys!

The Scallop Shell has reopened for click’n’collect/delivery services (pre-order only) – find everything you need to know about this indispensable service here (top tip: if you get your timing right, there’s Dorset Lobster on the menu…)

The Smallest Pizzeria in the World” is back for big business in the back garden of The Bell (Walcot Street)! The Pizza Bike will open for collection and delivery every Thursday, Friday and Saturday between 4pm-9pm. Browse the full menu here, text/WhatsApp your order and collection time of choice to 07415 474298, wait for your confirmation and payment link… and you’re off! Prefer home delivery? Find The Pizza Bike on Deliveroo and order via the app. Prefer making pizza at home? Fresh pizza dough also available for collection. Please note: the pub itself remains to be closed and there is no access to the garden or toilets.

Eveleigh’s of Bath are poised to deliver your choice from a fabulous range of Gourmet Ready Meals, directly to your doorstep: buy five, and Eveleigh’s will donate and deliver one of their vital Care Packages to an RUH Key Worker. Want to know more about those Eveleigh’s Care Packages? Click on this link, spread the word, and please, donate today.

The terrific Homewood team are volunteering their time every Saturday to rustle up a feast featuring real ale battered haddock, chunky chips, garden mushy peas and tartare sauce ready to collect from their glorious pastoral paradise hotel near Freshford. To order, call 01225 723731 by 4pm on Friday and choose a collection slot between 6-8pm on Saturday. And get this: all profits – yup, all profits – will go directly to the RUH Forever Friends Appeal; now that’s what we call a fabulous fish supper. KLAXON! Every Thursday night is Burger Night! But this is no ordinary burger; think Stokes Marsh Farm steak burger, red onion BBQ salsa, crisp pancetta, Bath Blue Cheese, tempura onion rings and pimento salt fries all for just £13, with a panko melting halloumi burger with picked red pepper and courgette relish for the veggies. Orders (for collection from Homewood between 5-7pm on Thursday) must be placed by Twitter DM (@homewoodbath) or by emailing ed@homewoodbath.co.uk by 4pm on Wednesday. Next stop (phew!): enjoy a 2-course Taste of Homewood Sunday roast (grown ups £20pp; children’s portion £11pp) precooked, packaged up and ready to reheat at home, with a neat reheating video included alongside instructions in the box. On the menu? Stokes Marsh Farm beef with fabulous trimmings including cauliflower and leek gratin, honey-roast carrots, greens, jus and those all-important roasties/yorkies; butternut squash Wellington replacing the beef for those who prefer a veggie option; sticky toffee pudding with caramel sauce and custard for pud… and a bottle of wine add-on available for just £12. Orders (for collection from Homewood between 9am-12noon on Sunday) must be placed by Twitter DM (@homewoodbath) or by emailing ed@homewoodbath.co.uk by 4pm on Friday. And here’s the real deal: ALL profits from both Burger Night and Sunday roasts will be donated to The Holburne Museum and Bath Festivals. We-heart-Homewood! KLAXON! New click’n’collect Afternoon Tea takeaway tea available Monday-Friday. Full Afternoon Tea £20pp; Cream Tea just £10 – email ed@homewoodbath.co.uk no later than 4pm the day before to place your order.

Grazing platters, piadina, a dedicated bruschetta menu, sweet treats and, of course, perfect stonebaked pizza in abundance – The Claremont (Larkhall-ish, off London/St Saviour’s Road) is a veritable oasis of la dolce vita. View the enticing menu (and inform yourself re the meaning of piadina) here, then go forth and place your order for either collection or free home delivery Tuesday-Sunday.

Everybody’s talking about Yak Yeti Yak’s brand new ready meals/meal kit home delivery service – and it’s easy to see why. Order before 5pm for next-day delivery (4pm-7pm) of Nepalese ready meals such as Chicken or Pork Bhutuwa Curry plus optional side dishes including pakoras, dal, chutneys and rice. Meanwhile, YYY Meal Kits include everything you need to make dishes such as Shekuwa Kebabs, Chicken Chilli and the restaurant’s legendary Momos. There’s a Drinks menu too, hoorah! And just to make this news even tastier: £1 from every delivery will be split between helping to subsidise meals for Key Workers at the RUH and the YYY Foundation.

Missing your Mint Room fine dining fix? Miss no more! Place your home delivery order by calling the restaurant direct (Bath: 01225 446656; Bristol: 0117 329 1300). The Mint Room team are currently delivering complimentary meals to staff at RUH Bath and Julian House as well, so every time you treat yourself, you’re spicing up the life of an indispensable Key Worker too.

Bath Ales battered haddock, chunky chips, garden mushy peas and tartare sauce for just £10, ready to collect every Friday evening from The Bird (Pulteney Road.) To order, call 01225 697441 by 4pm on Thursday and choose a collection slot between 5.30-7.30pm on Friday. Meanwhile, just two days later… The Bird’s Sunday roast is ready to roll! Stokes Marsh Farm beef with fabulous trimmings including cauliflower and leek gratin, honey-roast carrots, greens, jus and those all-important roasties/yorkies; butternut squash Wellington replacing the beef for those who prefer a veggie option; sticky toffee pudding with caramel sauce and custard for pud… and a bottle of wine add-on available for just £12. The whole shebang (grown ups £20pp; children’s portion £11pp) is precooked, packaged up and ready to reheat at home, with a neat reheating video included alongside instructions in the box. Orders (for collection from The Bird between 9am-12noon on Sunday) must be placed by Twitter DM (@thebirdbath_), emailing chris@thebirdbath.co.uk or calling 01225 697441 by 4pm on Friday. All profits from both tasty bundles will be donated to The Holburne Museum and Bath Festivals appeals. Hoorah!

Simi’s Kitchen is hosting a virtual Supper Club for up to 25 people every Friday evening – the sociable part (via Zoom) is optional; the eating isn’t! In preparation for the feast, Simi will visit her organic allotment every Tuesday to see what’s ripe and ready before posting menu details on her website or via email. Pay for your £25pp feast (gift vouchers available) by 7pm on Wednesday, then Simi will either delivery the whole menu direct to your door or you can collect it from SK HQ at 10 Great Pulteney Street from 2pm on Friday. Heat the dishes up in your own home, then tuck in with as much privacy or connection as you choose. The party starts with a brief Zoom meeting at 6.30pm when Simi introduces herself, talks us through the dishes and ‘meets’ the diners. Party ON, piggies!

Didi Cakes (Walcot Street) is back open for business! If you thought that Cupcake Heaven didn’t exist, you haven’t browsed this menu. Wanna supersize that? The big cakes are something to celebrate too. Pick up and delivery of pre-orders only; contact by email (contact@didicakesbath.com) or via the website, as the phone isn’t monitored.

Okay, so you can’t make chill out on the gorgeous alfresco patio while puffing on a shisha at the mo. But The Terrace (Argyle Street) is very much open for new normal business as usual, delivering an enticing selection of dishes from classic fish and chips to perfect pizzas by way of superb steaks, boisterous burgers, Medi-themed grazing platters and rollickin’ Sunday roasts including a Yorkshire Pudding Bowl option. See the full menu here (and note the comment regarding customisation!) then pre-order any day of the week for delivery every Friday-Sunday, 12noon-10pm. Any questions? Call/text 07702 495252, leave a message here or email theterracebath@icloud.com

Larkhall-based lovelies Ma Cuisine produce healthy French gourmet frozen meals, all available for doorstep delivery. Browse a range of over 80 classic dishes including meat, game, seafood, vegetarian, gluten and dairy free options alongside cakes, desserts and a selection of French and European wines. Deli counter favourites are cooked daily in the Ma Cuisine kitchen, including classic French quiches, croque monsieur and wild garlic pesto. For children or those with small appetites, there’s a range of mini versions of classic dishes too. Order online here or call 01225 312959 before 1pm for free next working day delivery to the Bath area. No minimum order.

The Rising Sun (Grove Street) is open for ‘new normal’ business, offering a takeaway/delivery service of their popular, top notch pub classics including fish and chips, sausage and mash, veggie chilli, cottage and fish pies and fully-loaded jacket potatoes every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evening from 5.30-8pm. Peruse the full menu here, or call 01225 425918. 

Enjoy a taste of organic prandial paradise Castle Farm (Midford) in Garden Box,  Bake Bag or Curry Box (yay!) form, available for contact-free collection or home delivery for those who cannot leave their homes.

MeatBusters (Lower Bristol Road) can deliver their boisterous, award winning burgers directly to your door between 4.30-9pm every Friday and Saturday and 4-9pm on Sundays. Browse the menu here, then call 01225 313030 to place your order. Minimum order £15; free delivery.

If you’re missing your regular Dough Pizza fix, your problems (on that score, at least!) are over: the cheerful, contemporary trattoria that proves that not all pizzas are equal are back on Deliveroo.

Ding dong! Fish and Chips, Scampi, Veggie Burgers, Chicken Goujons, Pie and Mash… The Ring O’Bells (Widcombe) takeaway menu offers broad a-peal to all – and get this: real ales and cider are also available for just £2 pint, served through the open window. Bring your own container if possible, and away you go! Monday-Thursday 1-2pm, Friday-Saturday 1pm-2pm; email enquiries@ringobellsbath.com

The heart of Indian cuisine reimagined in the heart of Bath”… that’s the Mantra, erm, mantra. Want to taste the results? View the full menu here and order online/call 01225 446322 for delivery between 5pm-10.30pm (minimum order £15)

Bath Fish and Chips (Terrace Walk, Bog Island) have reopened for click’n’collection or home delivery services Tuesday-Saturday 4.30-9pm; call 01225 975967 to order. 

Fish and chips, burger and chips and/or spicy pulled lamb kebab pittas and chips (and yes, there is good reason to mention those chips three times) now available to collect from The White Hart (Widcombe) on Saturday evenings. Collection only, between 5.30-8.30pm; email orders to charles@whitehartbath.co.uk

And to drink with that…

Smooth, chocolatey Dark Side; big, bold, hoppy Lansdown; full bodied, malty Gem – don’t miss out on your favourite Bath Ales brews! The Bath Ales’ Brewery Shop (Warmley, twixt Bath and Bristol) is open as a collection point for those who live locally every Monday to Friday between 1-4.30pm. Orders and payments need to be made over the phone in advance of collection; click on this link for full details and information on how to collect you beer safely. Meanwhile, the Bath Ales’ online shop is open for business as usual, offering a UK-wide doorstep delivery service. Klaxon! Fancy buying a pint to thank a key worker or a local hero who has helped in these difficult times? Buy them a Bath Ales pint (which can be redeemed as soon as social distancing restrictions have been lifted and pubs reopen) via Bath Ales’ Cheers to Heroes initiative. For every pint bought, St Austell Brewery’s Charitable Trust – of which Bath Ales is part of the family – will match-donate £4.50 to NHS Charities Together. Ready to say ‘cheers’ to the people who so richly deserve it? Visit Bath Ales’ online shop, add a ‘hero pint’ to your basket and draft a short message for your nominee; the brewery will then email the recipient a single-use voucher with details on how, and where, they can redeem their pint. How fab is that? Another klaxon! Bath Ales’ new, limited edition micro casks containing nine pints – yup, nine pints! – of full-bodied, malty Gem (4.1% abv) is the perfect remedy for those who are missing the taste of draught beer; not quite the same as a visit to the local pub but definitely the next best thing!

Buy online at Great Western Wine! Wine (obvs), spirits, veggie/vegan/low or no alcohol selection, plus great gifts (UK-wide delivery), olive oils and vinegars too. Read GWW’s Covid-19 statement here, and browse their unmissable Splendid Isolation offers here.

Yes you can still hangout at The Hideout! #HideoutatHome cocktails include Old Fashioned, Tequila Time and Storm Shelter, £20 for 200ml or £55 for 700ml – email info@hideoutbath.co.uk by EOD Thursday to pick up at Independent Spirit (who are also operating their own online shop – see more on this below) on Friday. While we’re on the subject of The Hideout… read all about (and donate to) their Crowdfunder appeal here. Supporters have the chance to purchase an “awesome deal” (to redeem, of course, when lockdown ends) from a selection that includes year-long, 20% discounts at the bar, 700ml bottles of signature cocktails, a bespoke Whisky Sipping Seminar, private venue hire complete with an £800 bar tab… and virtual hugs.

Le Vignoble’s Milsom Place merrymaking zone may be temporarily closed, but the team are working hard in their Cornwall warehouse dispatching top notch tipples (wines, spirits, beer, cider, Value Box selections, gifts and accessories – click on this link for the full line-up) to your door. A complementary wine card fully loaded to the value of any shipping costs incurred for delivery to all BA and BS postcodes will be issued to all home delivery customers, ready to fund your visit to Le Vignoble’s Enomatic machines when the sites reopen.

The tap room may be closed to the public but time hasn’t stood still at The Electric Bear Brewing Co, Bath’s very own internationally recognised microbrewery renowned for creating “eclectic, modern, flavourful and award winning beers for the bold and the curious.” What’s on the menu? The home delivery selection is updated on a very regular basis; go forth and peruse here (and, while you’re at it, sign up for updates emailed straight to your inbox every time the bears have news to share.)

The spirit of independence thrives amongst Bath’s merry band of self-reliant entrepreneurs and business folk – but as is so often the case with all troops and battalions, there are a handful of generals who keep morale up. The commanders at the helm of Independent Spirit – the aptly-named, much-loved, booze-related boutique – deserve a medal of distinction now more than ever before, because… they’ve recently launched a brand new, online shop. Hallelujah!!!!

The friendly proprietors of Green Park Station-based oasis of conviviality Wolf Wines can deliver a bespoke selection of natural craft wine directly to your Bath doorstep every Tuesday and Thursday (or Friday, if you’re Bristol-based.) There’s beer and cider on the menu too, and gloves are being worn at Wolf HQ throughout the packaging/delivery process. Free delivery. KLAXON! Wolf Wine’s Green Park Station cabin is now back open for business from 11am-4pm (obviously, social distancing rules apply)

18/36 pints (yup, 36 pints!) of Abbey Ales’ award-winning Bellringer, or Bath’s Best in a Box, or Black Friar in a Box, or Royal Crescent Gin, or… oh, just go forth and shop! Free delivery to addresses within a 10-mile radius of Bath every Monday-Friday.

Yak Yeti Yak can deliver drinks from the restaurant’s bar selection straight to your door, either to supplement their Ready Meal/Meal Kit deliveries or as a stand-alone service. Soft drinks, lager, wonderful wines – it’s all going on! Click here for the full lowdown.

The Ring O’Bells (Widcombe) takeaway menu offers broad a-peal to all – and get this: real ales and cider are also available for just £2 pint, served through the open window. Bring your own container if possible, and away you go! Monday-Thursday 1-2pm, Friday-Saturday 1pm-2pm; email enquiries@ringobellsbath.com

Those Corkage oenophiles know their stuff, right? So take your pick from their stellar wine selection, all available to enjoy at home, secure in the knowledge that quality and satisfaction comes as standard. Free local delivery for 6 bottles or more; click here for delivery details.

Novel Wines: Lockdown deals, amazing selections. Cheers!

OPEN/OPENING SOON!

Lovejoys – a fifth generation, family run wholesaler specialising in the very best south west produce (fruit, vegetables, dairy, bakery, pantry goods and more) – is back open for business… and flaunting a shiny new website to boot! Welcome back, lovely Lovejoys: you have been sorely missed.

The Bath Pizza Co will be open for new normal business (that’ll be takeaway/delivery, then) between 12noon-8pm every Wednesday-Sunday from 3 June.

Rosarios (Northumberland Place) has reopened for take out coffee, cakes, paninis and more from 9am-3pm Monday-Saturday – bellissimo!!!

Coffee-to-go is back on the Mokoko menu (Dorchester Street, SouthGate).

Properly authentic Gelato alongside the most treatsome sweet treets in town: The Real Italian Ice Cream Parlour (York Street) have reopened their social distance door.

Good news from The Good Bear Cafe (Bear Flat): it’s back open for takeaway between 9am-2pm every Monday-Saturday. Coffee, cakes, fresh pastries, sandwiches, Italian charcuterie, freshly prepared ready meals, ice cream, pasta, flour, wine, beer…. it’s all going on!

Your Swoon Gelato cravings end today! Pop along to their Kingsmead Square parlour any day of the week between 2-9pm and take your pick from a limited but perfectly formed menu of 8 flavours of Gelato or Sorbetti. Contactless payment taken, or click and collect via Giftup (link in bio on website.)

The team behind Dexter’s Coffee Shop (St George’s Place, Bathwick Hill) have been busily forging ahead with their plans during lockdown and announced that a takeaway service from their handsome new HQ will go live within the next few weeks.

 

An open letter from The Pig Guide

Over the past week or so (like many of us, I’m seriously losing track of any sense of timeframe), my Twitter feed has morphed from being a (hopefully) useful, informative method of sharing Bath-centric food and drink business-related news stories, gossip and general lighthearted silliness into something else entirely: it’s become a bulletin board for those very same businesses – now struggling to stay afloat in a very different climate altogether – to post their vital updates on, confident in the knowledge that those updates will be shared with Pig Guide followers because, right now, this is the best I can do: I’ve got a resource at my fingertips, so let’s all use it.

On one level, The Pig Guide is a business venture. But it’s a teeny, tiny little business venture, about as far removed from a faceless commercial operation as it gets: Nigel and Jason, the other two members of our tiny team, are my long-term friends, and the editorial/social media stuff is just me, at my kitchen table, doing something that I love to do. Behind that cute little pink, curly-tailed logo, I’m also a freelance writer, writing mainly about food, and theatre, and interesting people who are visiting Bath.

Many Pig Guide ‘people’ – the business owners, chefs, hospitality staff and Twitter followers, from the ones who have been with The Pig Guide from the start (over eight years ago now) to the ones who have only recently got on board – are my personal contacts, my buddies, my mates. I mean it from the bottom of my heart when I say that watching so many of these people – friends who have worked for years and years building up their businesses, and nurturing those businesses, and properly caring for and about the people they employ, and the people who support them – sharing bulletins saying that their businesses are now closed for the foreseeable future affects me deeply, too, on many levels; they’ve all been a big part of my social and working life for more years than I care to consider, and I’m watching much of the work that I do slowly but surely closing down too. But will The Pig Guide close down? Most definitely not.

One of the bittersweet vagaries bought about by the current situation is that now, for many of us, Twitter is the extent of any face-to-face contact we’re going to have for a while to come, The Pig Guide’s social media community has become closer and more relevant than ever before, sharing messages of support and offers of help both on and away from my public timeline (big thanks to everybody, by the way, who responded so generously to my plea for help with my 91-year-old dad’s dwindling supply of Heinz Big Soup) – and none of that is going to stop anytime soon. But there’s more – much more – that The Pig Guide can do. While I’m not exactly sure what that ‘more’ will be yet, I’m looking at ways to expand our contacts, and develop our services… and have a bit of fun (remember that?) too. So…

  • I’d really like to get a full, ‘formal’, regularly-updated site/bulletin/directory together, to focus on news, updates, etc from local food/drink businesses and act as a forum to offer community and B2B support. To move this particular plan forward, I’m contacting a local publisher with a collaboration plan, and several freelance food journalists are already poised to input; watch this space.

  • An online pub quiz, in collaboration with The Grapes, is in the pipeline; I’m wondering if virtual wine tastings, cook-ins, etc, might be a go-er too?

  • The Pig Guide’s Tabletalk section accepts news stories and features from folk who have news to share and/or something to say – so use it! After all, we’ve all got a bit more writing/reading time on our hands at the mo…

  • There must – and will – be other things we can do, together. If you have any ideas, get in touch and run them by me; I’d really love to hear from you – you’ll find my email address at the end of this bulletin.

Anyhoo… what I thought was going to be a short, snappy bulletin has turned into something else entirely. But ain’t the just the modus operandi of the world, right now?But before I finally shut up for a while, I have to reiterate all the stuff we already know for sure:

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

  • STOP panic buying, and urge others to do the same.

  • Follow the rules (you know what they are, so far) and keep yourself updated on all the relevant information

  • Look after yourself and others.

  • Be kind. Hang on in there. We’re all in this together.

melissa@thepigguide.com

Gainsborough Bath Spa Head Chef Dan Moon crowned Best Chef At The Food Reader Awards 2020

Celebrations are going on at Pig Guide HQ and the Gainsborough Bath Spa, who have just announced that their Head Chef Dan Moon has been crowned the winner of the Best Chef Category at the 2020 Food Reader Awards.

The Food Reader Awards crowns the best of the region’s chefs, restaurants and retailers based on the foodie insights and votes from readers. After amassing over 100,000 votes for this year’s awards, the winners were announced on February 12 at  a ceremony at Darts Farm, Devon. Having seen off stiff competition from Nicholas Hack (The Cadeleigh Arms), Oliver Certain (The Swan Bampton) and Philip Verden (Lord Poulett Arms), Dan was announced as the winner of his category – and really, you can’t beat Best Chef, can you?

I’m honoured, shocked and incredibly excited to have taken home the Best Chef award this year,” says Dan (who heads up his own eponymous restaurant at the Gainsborough.) “It’s always great to be recognised among a line up of fantastic talent from across the region, and to know that these awards are voted for by the public is even better. I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to vote and show their support; 2020 is set to be an amazing year with lots coming up for our guests to enjoy”… including some very exciting news regarding a forthcoming Supper Club collaboration between The Pig Guide and the man himself.

But for now: enjoy the moment, Dan! You’ve grabbed yourself a well-deserved accolade indeed.

Bath Racecourse launches enticing new menus

Planning a day at the races? Step away from the hot dogs! Bath Racecourse Executive Head Chef Jonathan Williams is encouraging guests choosing to dine at the track’s Royal Crescent Restaurant to “experience something different.”

At a recent menu launch, Jonathan revealed a range of exciting, unique dishes including Parsnip Crème Brûlée, Persian-spiced rump of lamb and Pecan Nut Pie with caramel syrup, whipped bacon and maple ‘pancake’ batter; this chef is, it seems, quite the master of the art of putting fascinating twists on classic flavours.I’m really keen for people to come to the Royal Crescent Restaurant and try something new, something different, something they haven’t had before,” Jonathan said, at the launch. “Creating a menu at a racecourse is very different compared to a standard restaurant; we need to be able to served up to 200 covers at each fixture and all within a two-hour window before the racing starts. I’m proud that the Royal Crescent restaurant is à la carte – we don’t do pre-orders, and all the food is all freshly prepared and cooked to order… no mean feat given the time frame we have to work within!”

But it’s not only restaurant guests who get to sample Jonathan’s food. Hospitality clients can select gourmet summer buffets for informal entertaining or a more formal sit-down meal, while racegoers in the exclusive Roof Garden have the option to choose from a menu of Arabic khobez flatbreads loaded with harissa spiced lamb, ras el hanout braised brisket, lemon chicken and chickpea falafel.

If you’re keen to sample Jonathan’s menus, choose from 22 horse racing fixtures scheduled for 2020 at the Lansdown venue. Tickets to dine in the Royal Crescent Restaurant start from £75.00 per person to include all of the racing action, a reserved table for the entire fixture, a three-course meal and programme.

For more information and to book a table, click on this link.

The Bath Pub Company calls time at The Chequers

The Bath Pub Company has announced it has turned down the offer of a new lease at The Chequers (Rivers Street, Bath) and plans to cease trading there from Monday 27 January 2020.

Our lease is up for renewal and, following a review of the business, we’ve concluded that the size and location of The Chequers site doesn’t fit with our plans for future growth of the company,” says Bath Pub Company Managing Director Joe Cussens. “So, after 10 great years, we’ve taken the decision to cease trading at The Chequers later this month.” Joe went on to say: “We’ve enjoyed some great times over the years at The Chequers, some of the highlights being winning a Bath Life Award, Bath Good Food Awards, Trencherman’s Awards and receiving a glowing review from Giles Coran in The Times. And 2019 has seen our best year ever for customer satisfaction, so it’s great to be going out on a high.”

Sad though the news is, Joe was also keen to share a reason to be cheerful: “The sadness of losing this much-loved site is being offset by the excitement at the prospect of opening a new site in the spring; plans for this development are at an advanced stage and we hope to make a formal announcement in the near future.”

Meanwhile, the company has started consultations with staff and expects to be able to offer most – if not all of them – positions within the BPC’s other pubs: The Marlborough Tavern, The Hare and Hounds and The Locksbrook Inn.

I’d like to thank all our customers for their support over the years – and of course, all the wonderful, talented people who have worked with us here,” says Joe. “It’ll be sad to say goodbye to The Chequers, but we’re looking forward to using these last few weeks as a chance to say goodbye to our customers and treating them to some fantastic Chequers hospitality one last time.”

Thai January at Giggling Squid: mood-boosting food

Giggling Squid has made the prospect of a no-cheer start to the year virtually redundant by introducing Thai January: a marvellously merry (yet super-healthy!) mood-boosting experience offering something for everybody across an array of vibrant menus.

Research commissioned by the Thai restaurant group revealed that almost 1 in 3 Brits (29%) say they’re least likely to smile in January, and almost half (48%) say they feel their mood is lower in January than any other month. On the up side, half of their survey’s respondents put spending time with family at the top of their mood-booster charts, closely followed by laughing (50%) and kind gestures (40%). So…

Giggling Squid’s entire ethos is centred on guests leaving their restaurants feeling both physically and emotionally fulfilled, covering all bases from carefully-considered interiors and genuinely welcoming atmosphere to the shared generosity of spirit that lies behind every guest experience. The menus, meanwhile, feature an array of delicious dishes crafted from produce specifically chosen for quality and flavour, while an array of mood-boosting, vitamin- and mineral-laden ingredients including seafood, chicken, chillies, chocolate, coconut and pineapple – all of which offer particularly positive mind, body and soul benefits – go large across all dishes. An abundance of vegetarian, gluten- and dairy-free options further up the inclusivity ante, and brand new vegan dishes including Lotus Spoons, Butternut Boat and Ruby Noodle Pad Kimao (beetroot noodles! YAY!) make the vegan experience positively voracious.

Are you in the mood to get happy? You know where to go!

The Dark Horse launches new seasonal cocktail menu… inspired by witchcraft

Already known and loved around these yer parts (and beyond!) for beautifully-crafted cocktails served in a uniquely characterful, seductively charming environment, The Dark Horse has recently added an even more bewitching spin to the multiple charms on offer.

A new menu of 12 carefully curated winter cocktails take their inspiration from herbs and plants used in traditional witchcraft (yes, witchcraft) and focuses on locally sourced, seasonal ingredients including handmade syrups, cordials and shrubs made from locally grown ingredients and regionally produced spirits including a quince liqueur, a spiced apple shrub, a shrub made from locally foraged rowan berries, a rowan berry infused vodka and a pear and hazelnut syrup. Due to the limited availability of local fresh fruit during the winter months, The Dark Horse team has utilised two different types of tea to create handmade syrups: a roibos tea syrup and a chai tea syrup, both featuring on the menu.

We’ve been working hard behind the scenes to create what we believe to be an interesting, intriguing and unusual selection of new cocktails, considering every detail from ingredients to glassware to even the type of ice, to make the very best experience both in taste and appearance,” says Dark Horse head honcho Louis Lewis-Smith. “Our cocktails and other drinks focus on fresh and local ingredients and suppliers, particularly independents from Bath and the city’s surrounding areas. All our juices are fresh pressed to order, our syrups, shrubs and cordials are all made on site, and our bar food selection is sourced from the West Country’s finest producers. We’re looking forward to welcoming guests to have a first taste and finding out which cocktails are going to become this season’s favourites.”

Let us now wave our own magic wand and offer you a preview of the top three brand new tipples that currently have us spellbound…

The spicy, refreshing Devil’s Mark, named after the mark that would apparently appear on a witch’s skin after a pact had been made with the devil: Beefeater gin, Yellow Chartreuse, house-made apple & black pepper shrub, fresh ginger, honey, lemonade, angostura bitters, served in a highball.

The light, fresh, lower ABV Jackdaw: Wild Turkey Bourbon, Strykk ‘Not Rum’, house-made pear and hazelnut syrup, house-made chai syrup fresh lemon and angostura bitters, served in a rocks glass over a block of ice.

The sexy, super-seductive Amulet (pictured): Rowan berry-infused JJ Whitley vodka, house-made rowan berry shrub, dry vermouth, fresh lemon and demerara – as all good witches know, rowan berries carry an illustrious significance in the world of western witchcraft…

The Dark Horse has, once again, worked mixology magic.

Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel head chef Dan Moon Announced as Grand Finalist for Best Chef in The 2020 Food Reader Awards

We’re absolutely delighted to hear that Dan Moon – head chef at his eponymous, triple AA rosette-awarded restaurant at the Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel, which itself was ranked as the top hotel in the UK by the AA in 2018 – has been shortlisted as a finalist in the Best Chef category in the 2020 Food Reader Awards, which has been crowning the best of the region’s chefs, restaurants, retailers and foodie products since 2012.

I’m thrilled to have been shortlisted as a finalist in the Best Chef category and would like to thank everyone who has shown their support,” says Dan. “It’s fantastic to know that the finalists are decided by the public and that guests who have enjoyed dining with us have taken the time to cast their vote for me. It’s a really strong category this year with some talented chefs from across the South West being recognised.”

The finalists were whittled down from over 100,000 votes cast by the region’s foodie lovers and readers of Food Magazine, and the The Food Reader Awards ceremony takes place at Darts Farm in Devon on February 10 2020. Go grab that gong, Dan!

Fabulous 2-for-1 Festive Lunch experience, Dan Moon at The Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel

It’s back! The glamorous Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel is once again offering a spectacular 2-for-1 deal on fabulous festive lunches this year, representing the perfect respite for those of us who need a luxurious break from the frenzied build-up to Christmas in the city.

Served in his eponymous restaurant, Gainsborough head chef Dan Moon’s elegant menu begins with mulled wine on arrival before embarking on a 4-course voyage of discovery through Smoked Duck Terrine contrasted by textures of onion; Salmon Cannelloni served with horseradish cream, pickled beetroot and caviar; Roast Partridge accompanied by chestnut purée, creamed sprouts and pickled red cabbage… and dark chocolate fondant with orange sorbet, ginger gel and candied orange. Sound good? It’s about to sound even better. This menu is priced at £40pp (a bargain in itself), but the 2-for-1 deal means that two diners can indulge for just £20 each. £20 each! If that’s not a very big deal, we don’t know what is.

This luscious lunchtime offer (served between 12noon-2.30pm every weekday, not available to groups of 8 or more) can be indulged in all the way through to Monday 24 December and, of course, vegetarian/vegan options are available. So do it, Piggies! Call 0800 529 8000 to make your reservation today.

Christmas Vintage Tea Parties at The Grapes, Thursday 28 November-Thursday 12 December

It may be a relative newcomer to the Bath merrymaking scene, but the scrubbed-up old/new proper pub that is The Grapes (Westgate Street) has swiftly earned itself a glowing reputation for bringing a diverse array of dining options, events and general good fun to a hitherto unloved historic hostelry.

The uniquely tantalising Budō thrives in the pub’s upper-level Jacobean dining room every Friday/Saturday evening from 5pm-late, the live music line-up is lively (to say the least!) and – to keep the good times/downtime balance in check – Weekday Wellness events and activities include yoga, pilates and life-drawing classes. In summary, The Grapes is indeed a pub…. but not as we know it. So might we suggest that, this festive season, you make full-on friends with it? Here’s one of the many ways to get that acquaintanceship rockin’:

Hosted by Bath’s very own Secret Tea Party fairies, The Grapes is offering a series of gloriously indulgent, contempo-elegant afternoon teas served in Pocock’s Living Room (yup, that Jacobean dining room.) The array – a selection of finger sandwiches, sweet and savoury fancies and unlimited cups of tea – will be served by staff dressed in full retro-vintage regalia while the soothing sounds of a live Swing band complete the sophisticated, escape-from-it-all experience. Two sittings a day (1.30pm and 4pm) on selected dates between Thursday 28 November-Thursday 12 December guarantee that there’s at least one booking with your name on it; clickety-click right here, right now to get the (tea) party started.

The Wheatsheaf in Combe Hay named as the region’s best dog-friendly pub

The Wheatsheaf in Combe Hay has won the award for being Bristol, Bath and Somerset’s Most Dog Friendly Pub at the recent prestigious Bristol, Bath and Somerset Tourism Awards. Recognised for offering an outstanding dog-friendly welcome to four-legged customers, The Wheatsheaf beat off stiff competition from a total of 2500 pubs, all of whom were nominated by members of the public throughout the summer before being judged by some of the county’s most discerning four-legged friends and their owners from the Tourism Awards.

Margaux, Gloria, Lyla, Lucky and Poppy would like to say what an honour and a privilege it is to receive this esteemed award on behalf of all our humans at The Wheatsheaf Combe Hay, the most doggy-friendly pub in the world!” said the pub’s owner Adele Barton, on receiving the award. We’ d like to thank all our doggy friends, our human family (especially the chefs!) and our human visitors – we love you all!”

This was the first year that the category – sponsored by Devon-based natural pet food makers Forthglade – was featured at the awards, representing an initiative created to encourage local pubs to offer the very best in hound hospitality and help celebrate the pup-friendly pubs that go the extra mile to make dogs truly welcome.

The Wheatsheaf will now be put forward as a finalist for the South West Tourism Awards whose panel selects winners for the regional finals taking place at Exeter Cathedral on Thursday 6 February, where the pub will go (wet?) nose-to-nose with the very best in canine hospitality across Devon, Cornwall and Dorset.

It’s been wonderful teaming up with the South West Tourism Awards to recognise pubs that go the extra mile in really making dogs feel welcome, as it can make a visit for a family so special and memorable,” says Gerard Lovell, Joint MD of Forthglade (and owner of Labrador Bo!) “By going above and beyond to provide clear dog friendly signage, fresh water, dog snacks at the bar and inclusive dog friendly space indoors and outside, it enables residents and visitors alike to spend more time with our beloved pets.”

And we say woof to that!

* to find out more about the Dog Friendly Pub Awards, click on this link.