Tag Archives: SouthGate

Update review: Tapas Revolution, SouthGate

A shiny new branch of chef Omar Allibhoy’s Spanish-themed restaurant and bar chain Tapas Revolution opened in SouthGate in June of last year. Nine months on and its become a firm favourite on the Bath ‘small plates’ map – no mean feat now that large plates are in danger of becoming a lesser-spotted, bygone days concept.

Set slap-bang in the heart of the city’s most thoroughly modern shopping/merrymaking complex, the Tapas Revolution, erm, revolutionaries cleverly avoided attempting to recreate some kind of faux ‘old’ Barcelona stage set as the backdrop to the new restaurant, opting instead to make the very most of having a brand new space in which to create a spacious, buzzing, contemporary bar and dining room, welcoming at all times of the day from breakfast to post-sunset (there’s a neat little covered/heated alfresco zone out front, too.) And the plan served them well; the whole experience feels as fresh and vibrant as it did when it first opened, but now has a familiarity about it that makes regulars feel totally at home.

The all-important food could be described as a celebration of Spain on several plates, whether you want a little dish of Almendras de Mallorca to accompany a glass of Cava at the end of a busy working day or a full-on banquetear of as many dishes as you choose to make room for. For guidance, however, the menu suggests 3-4 plates per person, and as the staff here are so friendly, open and downright enthusiastic about the food that they serve, why would we beg to differ with their recommendation?

In true Spanish tapas bar style, your selection typically arrives when its ready, with one, then two, then suddenly four, then more, appearing on your table in turn, eventually creating a colourful, harmonious chorus of flavours, aromas and textures.

From previous visits, we knew our selection had to include the utterly divine Torreznos con Mojo Dulce again, because this incredibly glamorous-looking dish brings neat cubes of crispy/silky, succulent pork belly together in a sweet/spicy sauce thrumming with cinnamon – a memorable combination indeed. We also chose to revisit the Berenjenes Fritas (tantalisingly moreish crispy aubergine fingers bathed in a honey and thyme glaze); the silky-smooth Jamón Ibérico (which can only be described is an other-worldly ham-world experience) and the plump, indulgent Croquetas de Jamón: piping hot morsels of béchamel /ham deliciousness that we simply can’t get enough of. But there are a handful of new dishes on the menu too, which is why we instigated our most recent investigation.

One newbie that’s set to become a popular Tapas Revolution classic has to be the Suquet de Pescado – a cod stew that brings fat, fresh fish, potatoes, saffron and almonds (very Spanish, that almond thing) together in perfect harmony. While it’s a great shame, to us, that paella-to-share is no longer an option, this classic Spanish dish can still be enjoyed in small plate portion that actually isn’t that small at all. Beautifully seasoned and featuring a generous smattering of top-notch chicken nuggets in amongst perfectly al dente, saffron-infused rice, it’s proper paella – if you love it like we do, simply double-up on this dish and ditch the bread? Having said that, the Pan Mallorquin – another new arrival: chargrilled bread slathered in soft chorizo, gratineed with Manchego and drizzled with honey – most definitely shouldn’t be overlooked in any circumstances.

And neither, in fact, should Tapas Revolution. Aclamaciones, Omar!

SouthGate review: Giraffe World Kitchen

I first visited Giraffe World Kitchen – the bright, split-level Greenwich Village-style diner specialising in an eclectic range of globally-inspired grub – within it’s first month of opening, almost 8 years ago now. Back then, it really was the kind of restaurant experience that Bath had never really seen: buzzy but relaxing, fast and leisurely, family-friendly and yet somehow very grown up; it was, to misquote a very successful advertising campaign for another company, “your experience, your way.”

And time, it seems, has not wearied Giraffe. Despite the fact that a deluge of equally popular chains and franchises have sprung up dangerously close to this distinctive diner’s territory in and around SouthGate since it opened, it still remains to be as hugely popular and consistently satisfying as it was when it first poked its neck into Bath.

We took to a table near the back of the restaurant beyond the very inviting bar, because I can never resist those utterly reassuring (think about it) views past the pass, into the kitchen. The mezzanine level is, however, an equally tempting option, offering a bird’s eye view of proceedings from lots of low-lit, snuggle-up banquettes and lots of groovy, moody modern artwork on the walls. Anyway… as we perused the menu, something very special about the overall Giraffe experience became patently clear. Not only do the genuinely friendly staff know details regarding every single corner of the far-flung menu, but they happily volunteer really helpful, ‘insider’ information as you embark on your decision-making voyage. While we got on with the task in hand, the bar folk effortlessly, cheerfully created a bespoke daiquiri (in keeping with the party-on vibe, cocktails go large here) to Mr Pig’s specific requirements. As we ordered, our smiley server let us know that the chicken in one of our starter choices was made from thigh meat, so likely to be dark pink in the middle, while yet another recommended a beef patty supplement to go with Mr Pig’s choice of burger as the brisket comes pulled and he wanted something to get his teeth into (Mr Pig, it seemed, had his attention-grabbing fussy kid hat on for this particular jaunt.) In short, you can tell that the shiny happy people who work here clearly love what they do and go the extra mile to maintain the lovely environment they do it in, too. Refreshing? Most definitely. And so it came to pass that we started our Giraffe feast on a very happy note, because the surroundings really are comfortably lively, and the vibrant food satisfyingly gratifying too.

In keeping with current flexible menu trends, Giraffe offer deals on their World Tapas selection (3 for £14.95; 5 for £24.95). We opted for 3 to share in place of formal starters (as we’ve established, this is not a ‘formal’ kinda place): crispy salt and pepper squid with a sticky chilli jam; Asian fried chicken served with a honey and soy dip; duck Gua Bao buns. And oh, our selection proved to be a very cheerful little flavour-party indeed – moist squid morsels wrapped in a properly crispy jackets; tender chicken infused with intrinsic Far Eastern flavours; supremely comforting little pillows of steamed dough wrapped around piquant shreds of duck.

On from this, I opted for a Spicy Rice Bowl with a king prawn supplement because, to my mind, we don’t get enough opportunity to eat Korean-inspired food in our neck of the woods – and this zingingly fresh incarnation of the genre (think, origins of bibimbap, but not as fiery, nor as oily) most certainly didn’t disappoint: a huge, steaming bowl of soft brown rice muddled up with loads of sugar snap peas, crispy onions, red pepper strips and plump, juicy prawns, infused with soy sauce and topped, in true Korean fashion, with a fried egg. Mr Pig, meanwhile, most surely satisfied his meaty urges for the foreseeable future with a massive Texan BBQ Brisket Burger drenched with smoked cheddar cheese and smoky chipotle, accompanied by fab fries, positively salacious ‘slaw and perfect pickles, and supplemented (as per our recommendation) with an extra beef patty. Even after all this indulgence, he couldn’t resist an ice cream sundae at the finishing line (salted caramel ice cream; loads of sauce; caramel popcorn; like, OMG! Sundaes were most definitely not this salacious when I was a kid.) So then I forced us to have Espresso Martinis too, because I am not a kid anymore… and they were very, very good indeed.

And indeed, so too is Giraffe very good indeed; stick your neck out next time you’re strolling around SouthGate.

The small print: breakfast is served every day, and includes £5 Happy Brekkie options all week until noon, NY Deli sandwiches, pancake stacks and loads of healthy options, while brunch is long’n’lazy: dishes such as steak’n’eggs and Huevos Rancheros are served all the through until 5pm. Elsewhere, huge, imaginative fresh salads snuggle up very comfortably alongside all manner of dishes to suit all appetites, including excellent vegetarian/vegan options, with gluten free options scattered hither and thither through the whole range. Expect to pay between circa £8-£16 for a main course, and bear in mind that portions are generous, to say the least. The Kids Menu brings a main course, a dessert and a drink to the table all day, every day for £6, or free (yes, free!) when their accompanying adult orders a full-price adult main course at the weekend. The cocktail menu is massive and includes 2-4-1 deals, and wine/beer fans most certainly won’t be disappointed either. Wallet-friendly deals and promotions on both food and drink about – sign up for the Giraffe Club newsletter via the website and/or keep an eye on the posters displayed in the restaurant. Or ask your server! As we’ve established, they’re very happy to help.

Christmas comes to SouthGate

Christmas has come to SouthGate… in a suitably spectacular fashion.

This very evening (Thursday 16 November) there’ll be free candy canes and mulled wine, a Big Lights Switch On and guaranteed snow – yes, snow! – to herald the arrival of Christmas at Bath’s most all-inclusive shopping and merrymaking zone. But the fun only starts here!

Regardless of the weather forecast, snow will fall every hour on St Lawrence Street North and South for the duration of the festive season, while breathtakingly pretty icicle chandeliers light our way along and through all SouthGate routes (and, of course, around a veritable forest of very well-dressed trees.). Heck, there’s even a Kissmas selfie love seat to keep the snappers happy!

Meanwhile, the restaurants and bars in and around SouthGate are hosting myriad party menus this party season. Having checked out the Christmas Menus and events at the Cosy Club, Graze, Comptoir Libanais, Absurd Bird and Giraffe (in fact, we’re off to review Giraffe any moment now, so keep an eye out for the results), we’re wondering how many Christmas feasts it’s okay to indulge in between now and December 25th itself. And while we’re contemplating such a possibility we’ll be chilling out at Frosty’s Bar, which has popped up at the epicentre of the SouthGate action offering an alfresco seating area complete with cosy blankets and serving mulled wine, festive cocktails, soothing hot chocolate, freshly-baked mince pies and many more seasonal treats.

Lights, cameras, action: the SouthGate Christmas scene is most definitely set – and we’re all invited to the party.

Review: Cosy Club

A friend of mine who recently relocated to Bath from Liverpool made a very interesting observation t’other day. “Whenever you ask somebody in Bath where a restaurant or bar or shop is, they immediately tell you what the place you’re looking for used to be,” he said. And I thought about this for a while. And then I realised, yes, I do that myself. “Where’s the Ooh La La bar?” “Oh, you know, it’s where the Oh Please No bar used to be.” But what with being a tiny city built on history’n’all and stuffed with graded, listed buildings, there’s not really that much scope for major change. Well at least there wasn’t, until SouthGate (which replaced a very ugly 1960/70s-style shopping precinct, which itself was built on an area formerly known as The Ham – I see what my mate means now) opened for business eight years ago, and has since introduced a total of around 20 new restaurants and/or bars to Bath, with several big name new arrivals to the complex attracting a flurry of spotlight attention in recent months alone.

But time, as we’re all too well aware, has a habit of rolling along at a sometimes scary pace; last week’s new kid on the block quickly becomes old news, often balancing precariously on the verge that threatens certain establishments with “the place that used to be” status almost within a matter of months. Some merrymaking ventures, however, cleverly manage to move with the times while wearing their ‘institution’ status as a badge of honour – and in SouthGate terms, the Bath branch of Cosy Club is indeed a Grand Dame of the complex, having opened it’s doors six years ago as part of the first phase of the redevelopment.

Although Cosy Club has recently unveiled a bit of a facelift, the general ‘theme’ hasn’t, fortunately, been muddled about with at all. If you’ve still yet to cosy-up, the way in (an unobtrusive corner doorway opposite the main entrance to Debenhams) gives little away about the stylishly sprawling cafe/bar/dining room that dominates the floor space above the shops that line SouthGate Street’s ground floor: a brazenly eclectic mix-up awaits you, blending Art Deco (plush, jewel-coloured fabrics; ornate fixtures and fittings; theatrical motifs; etc) with reclaimed furniture that spans several decades, vintage family photographs, classic Brideshead-era country house/library paraphernalia and all manner of skittish knick-knackery to great effect, resulting in a kinda joyful, contemporary Gin Palace modus operandi that really shouldn’t work, but definitely really does. Meanwhile, a spacious semi-alfresco balcony offers views across the SouthGate horizon (but smokers, take note: this is a strictly smoke-free zone) – blimey, one can kick back in all manner of ways here! The lovely staff and the big, bold menus offer similarly all-encompassing cheer too; once seated at my table with a gin and tonic to hand (the drinks/cocktail menu is expansive, to say the least), food options cover breakfast/brunch, lunch’n’stuff and everything else you might possibly be in the mood for as the day rolls along.

We rolled along to Cosy Club for dinner, to feast from recently-introduced summer menu dishes that snuggle up alongside the kitchen’s perennial faves such as a selection of very highly regarded burgers and plenty of light bite options including imaginative fresh salads. We shared three tapas dishes to start: heavenly goats’ cheese and spinach croquettes (whether croquettes or croquettas, these salacious little deep fried balls of sumptuousness are my new schmoo, and Cosy Club’s incarnation most certainly didn’t let me down), wickedly scrumptious barbecue-glazed pork belly squares and light, panko-crumbed buttermilk fried chicken with an incredibly moreish chipotle mayo – tick, tick, tick.

For the main(s) event, I eventually chose roasted lamb t-bone chops over crayfish pappardelle – not an easy choice to make, but one which I was richly rewarded for as the lamb (soft, pink, perfect) was marinaded in basil and garlic, with mint adding an extra bonus overture to sautéed potatoes, green beans, spinach and balsamic tomatoes, resulting in a tastefully heady symphony of flavour. Mr Pig, meanwhile, chose the slow-braised beef brisket that pretty much had his name written all over it, not least of all because this velvety, uber-carniverous treat came in a brioche bun, drenched with a harmoniously potent stilton and truffle mayo and supported (like it needed supporting) by crispy fried onions, salady bits and superb chips.

So, did we do dessert? Really, honestly, no we didn’t – portions go large here, and we were fully sated to the max. But time, as we established way back at the start of this review, does indeed roll along. And so, I’ll be heading back to get cosy and pig out on a Cosy Sundae or one of the pud sharing plates for two (care to join me?) sometime very soon.

Want directions to Cosy Club? It’s where Cosy Club has always been – and hopefully will remain to be so for a very long time to come.

Review: Smashburger, SouthGate

I feel as though we’re a couple of kids on a first date,” Mr Pig declared as we settled into a booth inside the latest arrival on the Bath burger block. And I got his point, for Smashburger does indeed offer a youthful, first date environment reminiscent of date scenes in the best of the 1980s-era American films, complete with a soundtrack – on the evening we visited, at least – supporting such a vibe. So we rolled back the years and made ourselves comfortable in our cosy booth (red leather banquettes; chrome fixtures and fittings), and prepared for a flirtatious trip back to the future courtesy of the new version of an age-old genre.

While Smashburger may indeed have considered classic American diner characteristics for design inspiration, it’s bang-on-trend in terms of the contemporary casual dining experience in the UK, easily fitting in (and complementing) the latest batch of chains and franchises that have recently opened in Bath’s glossiest Shrine to Mammon. We could have sat at high stools at bars at the centre of the action, or against the window facing the main drag thoroughfare (and, rather ironically, A N Other burger outlet across the way). There’s a huge drinks machine in the corner (the Unlimited Coca-Cola® Freestyle, no less: a self-service, touch-screen fountain offering 100s of soft drink options), posters and smart graffiti against bare brick walls promoting the Smashburger USP (‘smashed, seared, seasoned’; ‘100% fresh British Beef’; etc) and doubling-up as artwork, and a gleaming open kitchen towards the rear. Within that kitchen, this ever-expanding chain that originated in the USA a decade ago claims to have transformed the erstwhile humble burger concept into an explosive taste experience by ‘smashing’ it: fresh beef is hand-formed into a meatball before being smashed onto a hot buttered grill, the theory being that this is the ultimate method of creating the juiciest burger you’ve ever encountered.

And the process seems to work very well – our burgers (we mix’n’matched a Truffle Mushroom Swiss and a Bacon Cheeseburger, chosen from a long, enticing list that includes chicken, massive salads, decent veggie and bespoke, create-your-own options too) oozed intrinsic beefy juiciness in a way that burgers ordered in pubs or restaurants who don’t specialise in burgers but include them on their menu just never can seem to do – impressive. Impressive too was the generous infusion of truffle in the mayonnaise on the Mushroom Swiss, and the perfectly sweet/smoky balance that Applewood smoked bacon and American cheese bought to the Bacon Cheeseburger party – it’s clear that somebody, somewhere, has considered both the Smashburger options and the quality all of the ingredients highlighted within those options very, very carefully indeed.

We shared sides of Haystack Onions (light and delicate, far removed from those big clumsy onion ring ‘tyres’ we’ve become so used to), and Smashfries – which come seasoned with rosemary and garlic – too. Meanwhile, there’s local craft beer, Goose Island IPA, throughly decent Sauvignon/Pinot Grigio and even Prosecco on the drinks list (although I have it on good authority that a Hand-Spun Shake is the only way to go for the full Smashburger experience), and doughnuts and churros alongside Häagen-Dazs on the dessert list for those of us who can handle such an indulgence after a burger blowout (unusually for The Pig Guide, we couldn’t manage to even peruse the options).

So is Smashburger smashing? Yes, I believe so. It may be pricier than it’s genre stablemates (expect to pay around £35 for a similar feast to ours, which included large burgers rather than regular, sides, a glass of wine and a couple of beers), but it offers a substantially higher-quality fast food/casual dining experience than the (dare I say it?) increasingly dated, familiar high street burger chains.

That first date feeling, meanwhile, comes as standard.

Tapas Revolution comes to Bath, Thursday 1 June

The newest branch of Omar (who isn’t known as “the Antonio Banderas of Spanish food” for nothing, if you know what I mean) Allibhoy’s fully authentic Spanish restaurant and bar Tapas Revolution officially opens in SouthGate on Thursday 1 June. From albondigas to zarzuela via chorizo, calamares, tortilla, gambas, jamon and churros by way of all kinds of other Iberian delights that make a UK spell check meltdown in revolt, this boy’s terrific tapas is set to tantalise in style. As for the paella: having cooked this traditional family crowd-pleaser that originated in Valencia many centuries ago alongside Omar himself last night, we can vouch for the utterly seductive charms of this particular dish. The paella was pretty tasty too….anyway:

Omar’s menus take inspiration from his family’s recipes that he grew up with and Spain’s culinary culture of sharing, socialising and eating. “Tapas Revolution is based on the lively and bustling tapas bars in Madrid, Barcelona and Seville, and I’m looking forward to bringing my version to Bath,” he says. “Tapas is more than food – it’s part of our everyday culture, and I believe that food and life are always best shared.”

The Tapas Revolution will start early every day in SouthGate, from breakfast (served until 11.30am) all the way through until 11pm every night (10pm Sundays). There’s a spacious bar area to the front of the restaurant which is just as well, as a selection of premium gins and beers exported directly from Spain, Spanish-inspired cocktails (the chilli and ginger cobbler is amazing), proper sangria, top-notch Cava and, of course, plenty of vino all deserve to be thoroughly investigated – bear in mind too that there’ll be half-price jugs of sangria plus 2-for-1 gin’n’tonics/cocktails Sunday-Friday from 4-7pm.

We will, of course, be presenting a full review of the Tapas Revolution experience as soon as the restaurant is fully up-and-running; for now, however, we can’t recommend saying hola to Omar at your earliest opportunity. Olé!

Summer menu at Graze Bath

There’s a kind of hush all over the world, tonight – well, if not the world, then most definitely in and around Bath Spa railway station on the evening we sallied forth to Graze Bath, which was when the station’s platform makeover project was in full swing… which is why there were no trains hurtling past mere metres away from our table for two on the night we went a-grazin’. But hey-ho, normal service has been resumed at the station now – not that it ever paused for a moment at Graze, not even when Bath Ales’ contempo-glam flagship merrymaking venture was acquired by the St Austell Brewery last summer. If it ain’t broke, why fix it? Unlike the railway station platforms, this spacious, super-modern bar, restaurant and micro-brewery – featuring alfresco terraces adjacent to the choo choo action on one side and views over the SouthGate rooftops on t’other – most certainly doesn’t need any kind of tampering with. It’s always refreshing, however, when menus are given a mini-makeover for a brand new season, especially when locally sourced produce is pushed to the fore.

While Graze has (rightfully) earned itself a glowing reputation for carni-centric blowouts and specialises in upper-crust cuts of beef, lamb and pork cooked to your liking in the Josper charcoal oven at the epicentre of a buzzing open kitchen, there are plenty of seasonal treats for those of a less meaty persuasion to enjoy too, as our starters of baked artichoke served in a creamy, indulgent sauce of goats’ cheese and courgettes, delightfully muddled-up with a soft-baked egg plus a second dish of tantalisingly crisp salt’n’pepper squid proved. Veggie and fish-based options are writ large throughout the rest of the menu as well (and we have it on good authority that the classic fish and chips are excellent), and super-sized salads a bit of a speciality. We, however, did indeed go with the farm-to-plate flow for our mains: a salaciously moist lamb burger served with red onion, garlic and mint mayonnaise and moreish triple-cooked chips, and a gert big juicy ribeye steak which we chose to slather with the stilton sauce (from a selection that also includes the lesser-spotted red wine and bone marrow option) and team with a totally treatsome, super-indulgent bowl of brie and fried onion potatoes, which I’d be happy to live on until I could no longer find a waistband that could accommodate the ensuing girth should I actually live up to that vow. On a similar theme… we had a side of macaroni cheese, too. Yes we did. And so should you. But hey, at least we didn’t (couldn’t!) plunder the puddings list after such an overblown blowout; having said that, next time I visit, I’m cutting out the main course entirely and heading straight for the lemon posset and the apricot and almond tart – fruit: it’s good for you, don’cha know?

And overall, Graze is good for Bath, representing a modern take on the Great British menu served up in thoroughly modern surroundings by staff who genuinely get the meaning of service with a smile. Even when there’s a kind of hush on Bath Spa station, Graze is worth shouting about.

The small print: sharing platters from £12-16. Starters circa £6-7.50. Mains from £9/10 up to £55 for chateaubriand to share. Puds £5.50-8. Wine list: extensive, well-considered, from around £18/bottle. Excellent range of craft beers, ales and ciders (obv!).