The subtly glamorous Hotel Indigo didn’t enjoy the best start in Bath. Having spent around five years hidden away behind construction company curtains, the development of the massive South Parade site (which incorporated a row of 18th century Georgian townhouses including both the former Pratt’s and Halcyon Hotels) endured all manner of delays and the hotel’s grand opening date was pushed back and back, eventually settling on a Big Reveal in spring 2020… and we all know what happened in spring 2020, don’t we?
But in the autumn of the same year, there was finally cause for celebration on the ancient, scrubbed up flagstones that line one of Bath’s most handsome thoroughfares: the Hotel Indigo opened its doors, revealing an impeccably refurbished, ambitious complex bringing 166 luxurious boutique hotel rooms and various elegant chill out zones (including a whole ‘private house’ for private hire) together in one captivating smorgasbord of delights, with the stylishly quirky, independently-owned Elder Restaurant at the epicentre of proceedings.
The Elder’s roots in Bath may have only been established just over a year ago but it already feels like a longstanding, vintage institution infused with refined, dignified, mature glamour: one part contemporary gentlemen’s club, one part upmarket hunting lodge, all parts accessible brasserie-style elegance, with window tables offering street views and booths (gotta love a booth!) adding intimate dinner a deux opportunities.
Elder menus are conceptualised by wild food and game aficionado Mike Robinson who works in close collaboration with Head Chef Gavin Edney to curate a neat array that showcases the very, very best locally sourced, seasonal, sustainable produce. Game is at the top of the Elder menu (which explains the hunting lodge décor) but the meat at the heart of the matter in terms of inspiration, execution and presentation is far more Michelin-standard than the hunt-themed ethos suggests. If, however, meat is off the menu for you or a fellow diner, neither vegetarians nor vegans are overlooked – to the contrary, in fact; on the evening we visited, I was sorely tempted to try the meat-free Pithivier for my main course. However…
After pre-dinner tipples in the bar (the cocktail list is excellent here, and the overall vibe and surroundings – think, velvet curtains and soft, soft furnishings; highly polished tables; superb service – suitably seductive), our dinner began with an unbidden treat of a rustic, treacly, oven-fresh mini-loaf to tear, share and dip into dinky little mugs of steaming Bullshot Tea: an intensely-flavoured, spirit-lifting, meaty consommé rich in game stock… and, perhaps, sherry?
Given the fact that we’re right in the middle of the British game season (and, of course, The Elder’s related USP), following such an opener up with two fish-based starters felt somehow inappropriate. But when a menu adheres to such a neat formation, you kinda expect that whichever dish you choose is going to be a superstar… and those expectations were exceeded here. Having said that, I still didn’t expect my featherlight whipped Chicken Liver Parfait to pack such an intense, incredible flavour punch, at once delicate and deeply rich, served not with bread but on a bed of crunchy granola that added texture and bite, with balsamic and quince working all kind of extra-added sorcery: to summarise, this starter was simply divine. For Mr Pig, a tartare of meaty South Coast bream teamed with smoked eel, cod roe and apple and topped with fascinating squid ink crackers pretty enough to wear as a race day fascinator but even more fascinating to crunch on.
I continued following the coastal path for mains with a salaciously plump tail of Looe Harbour monkfish anointed with a deeply umami miso glaze that turned my fish dish into a kind of pescatarian toffee apple, teamed with similarly sweet/savoury black cabbage, earthy mushrooms and a gloriously mineral-laden hit of buttered dashi. Mr Pig, meanwhile, swooned into his sweet, tender Wild Fallow Deer with creamed cabbage, nutty pumpkin and the classic Fallow Deer accompaniment that is the glossy, luxurious sauce Grand Veneur.
Based on the evidence so far, I found myself expounding on a theory that Robinson and Edney’s menus represent the meeting point on the bridge where Escoffier-inspired haute cuisine meets contemporary cosmopolitan expectations, firmly putting The Elder at the top of the Foodie Fabulosity charts in Bath. But of course, I had to confirm my theory over dessert, and both the Valrhona Chocolate Marquise – the intensity of the cacao-laden dark, dark chocolate hit lifted by the bittersweet blood orange – and the Prune and Custard Tart accompanied by a Prune D’Agen and Cardamom Ice Cream that put a sophisticated spin on an erstwhile comforting classic and turned it in an adult-only treat offered me all the confirmation of my fanciful hypothesis that I needed.
And so, the velvet curtain was set to close on our Elder experience. But before we leave, a word on wine…
The wine list here is as carefully curated as the beautifully balanced menu, pushing accessibly-priced lesser-spotted varietals to the fore. If you’re lucky enough have waiter Nick at your service on your Elder excursion, ask for – and take – his advice; not only does he know his wine, but his inspired descriptions are an absolute joy to listen to. Cheers!