THE BLOG

A Long Weekend in Bath

22/07/2014 15:46 BST | Updated 20/09/2014 10:59 BST

It's one of the most elegant towns in England and visitors from all over the world flock here to visit the baths, developed by the Romans.

Roman Baths

Photo: Rebecca Williams

In the Middle Ages, it was the centre for the wool industry and during the 18th century, Bath was the place to go for the ball season, gambling and subscription concerts taken by some of the leading musicians of the age.

The River

Photo: Rebecca Williams

Those who settled here spent their cash on grand buildings, employing architects whose work dominates the crescents and squares today.

Plaque

Photo: Rebecca Williams

Bath Crescent

Photo: Rebecca Williams

Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the only city in the UK to have the status.  Since 1987, Bath is listed as a cultural site with outstanding universal value and cultural significance.  Tourists also visit to bathe in the natural thermal waters which bubble up from the City's bowels. The Thermae Day Spa is where you'll experience thermal treatments and it's here they have four baths at the best bathing temperature of about 33.5°C (92°F).

World Heritage sign

Photo: Rebecca Williams

Bath is just an hour and a half away from London Paddington and is a great city to explore on foot but if you'd rather take a taxi, there are plenty of those too.

Bath Spa Railway Station

Photo: Rebecca Williams

I stayed at the Royal Crescent Hotel at Number 16 Royal Crescent, a beautiful hotel filled with Regency-period furniture and oil paintings.  The Crescent is among the greatest examples of Georgian architecture and is a Grade I listed building, created by the architect John Wood The Younger.

Royal Crescent

Photo: Rebecca Williams

16 Royal Crescent

Photo: Rebecca Williams

It's one of the many hotels in the Relais & Chateaux collection which is celebrating its 60th anniversary right now.

I was in Room 16, on the second floor, accessed by a leather-studded lift

Leather studded lift

Photo: Rebecca Williams

or the sweeping staircase.

Staircase

Photo: Rebecca Williams

I'm met with a welcome note from Sharon Love the General Manager who has been in charge here for 15 years.

Welcome note

Photo: Rebecca Williams

It's a large room with a Japanese theme and a bathroom big enough to hold your own Regency ball. My view is the splendid purple-infused heather-filled gardens.

Japanese theme bedroom

Photo: Rebecca Williams

Japanese themed furnishings

Photo: Rebecca Williams

There's a roll-top bath, power shower

Bathroom Royal Crescent

Photo: Rebecca Williams

bedroom slippers, fluffy robes and Penhaligon toiletries.  Free wireless internet access is available free of charge in all the rooms and public areas throughout the Hotel.

I unpacked, visited the Concierge Team for a map and wandered through Bath taking in the sights and sounds.  There are plenty of independent restaurants and delicatessen here and the city claims to have hosted the first-ever farmers market in the UK.

No trip to Bath is complete without trying a local product, whether it's a bun from Sally Lunn's or a pint from Bath Ales. The Graze Bar is a Brewery and Chophouse and is found right next to Bath Spa Railway Station in the new Vaults development.

Graze, Bath Ales, Bath

Photo: Rebecca Williams

If bread is your weakness, the French Chef and Baker Richard Bertinet has a cookery school and a couple of shops here in Bath and having pressed my nose against this window, his croissants looked to-die-for.  Book his cookery courses early, to avoid disappointment, they really do fill very quickly - I long to take part in one.

Richard Bertinet shop

Photo: Rebecca Williams

The Tasting Room has a fabulous choice of spirits and wines and upstairs there's an opportunity to take your purchase upstairs, pay a small corkage and take advantage of the delicious food on offer.

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Photo: Rebecca Williams

Bath is already famous for its health-giving properties and now its known for its gin.  The Canary Gin Bar on Queen Street has created Bath Gin - a blend of 10 botanicals - created in Bath, distilled in London.

Canary Gin Bar

Photo: Rebecca Williams

Canary Gin Bar

Photo: Rebecca Williams

Bath Gin martinis

Photo: Rebecca Williams

I forgot to mention, and this is a faux pas on my part, that Jane Austen set two of her six published novels in Bath - Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, and she lived here from 1801 to 1806 and there are reminders she was a resident all over the City.  If you're a real fan then you should head to the Jane Austen Centre at 40 Gay Street, between Queen Square and the Circus.

Jane Austen lived here

Photo: Rebecca Williams

Jane enjoyed promenading on Royal Crescent after church every Sunday and mentions The Crescent in Chapter 9 of Northanger Abbey.

As I wandered back to the Hotel, I sat in the private gardens and watched the world go by before I went inside and got changed for dinner.  The Hotel serves lunch, dinner and afternoon tea.

Royal Crescent Private Gardens

Photo: Rebecca Williams

Immaculately manicured gardens lead to the Dower House restaurant and Bath House Spa.

Lavender, Royal Crescent Hotel

Photo: Rebecca Williams

I sat in the garden, which was bathed in beautiful sunlight and was offered an aperitif so began the evening with a Bath Gin martini with a twist, delivered a trio of tasty canapés.

Royal Crescent Hotel, gardens

Photo: Rebecca Williams

If sitting outside isn't your thing, there's the bar which is open from 10am each day, serving champagne, cocktails and an all-day dining menu.

Bath Gin martini

Photo: Rebecca Williams

Royal Crescent Hotel Garden

Photo: Rebecca Williams

The pillow soft leek and potato filling was rolled in crisp crumbs and served with a delicately flavoured truffle mayonnaise, lightly pickled crudités with a whipped taramasalata which burst in the mouth and the homemade nuts and spicy broad beans worked perfectly well with my dry gin.

Croquettes

Photo: Rebecca Williams

Taramasalata

Photo: Rebecca Williams

Pickled vegetables

Photo: Rebecca Williams

David Campbell is the head chef at the Dower House Restaurant which boasts three AA rosettes under his leadership.  The a la carte menu is varied and you can expect to pay £15 for a starter, £26 for a main and £12 for dessert.  I was keen to try the 'Taste of the Crescent' menu which Anthony Rizzo the Restaurant Manager positively encouraged.

Lavender, Royal Crescent Hotel, Bath

Photo: Rebecca Williams

The Dower House

Photo: Rebecca Williams

The Dower House Restaurant

Photo: Rebecca Williams

I did want a few glasses of wine that would match the food and so had a chat with the Head Sommelier, Jean-Marc Leitao who suggested three great wines.  I started with a glass of Domaine Font-Mars Picpoul de Penet (which literally translates into stings-the-lips, because of the high acidity content) it smells of white peach on the nose and was a great glass of crisp white.

Picpoul wine

Photo: Rebecca Williams

The soundtrack to my almost three-hour dinner included tunes from Neil Young to Sade with a bit of David Gray in between, but mostly the best sound was of different accents and a great atmosphere.

Three flavours of in-house bread include Irish soda, sourdough and a leek-studded white.  The Irish soda bread was sweet and delicious slathered in the butter.

David does impress with his skill but more importantly delivers on taste, I experience theatre, smoke, sous vide and the luxury of truffle.  Each plate is a work-of-art with impressive textures and colour but takes you on a food journey of the unexpected - the PRJ for a start (more on that later). Each plate is an example of classic cuisines with a contemporary edge.

To begin a small glass jar arrives which fills me with dread - Jason Atherton did this years ago, a beautifully sourced jar on a pretty plate filled with food. I worry about restaurants who fill recycled French yogurt jars these days as they rarely deliver.

Tomato starter

Photo: Rebecca Williams

Tomato starter

Photo: Rebecca Williams

However this shows off the layering work (of which I am a fan) and thankfully delivered in the taste department.  A marvellously light, tomato consommé had been loosely set to give a jelly base, layered with a punchy basil creme and finished with crisp croutons and a fennel and pepper salad.

Next up a mushroom tea was poured from a cafetiere into a bowl of tasty Thyme gnocchi, offset by a sweet yet slightly bitter Artichoke and finished off with shaved parmesan. The flavours were so clean and fresh with snipped fresh Thyme and Chive offering punch.

Mushroom tea

Photo: Rebecca Williams

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Photo: Rebecca Williams

Next up a glass of very lightly oaked Chardonnay from Mendoza with hints of orchard fruits.

For me the trout dish was way too smokey - any subtle flavours were blown by the amount of smoke pumped into the cloche which was a real shame as the dish was beautifully conceived. Samphire, nasturtium leaves, caviar and cucumber jelly flooded with fresh cucumber consommé.

Smoke-filled cloche

Photo: Rebecca Williams

Trout

Photo: Rebecca Williams

The Egg dish was absolutely beyond incredible.  A duck egg had been sous-vide at 63 for about 40/45 minutes to produce a perfect poached egg. That, when cut spread over Iberico ham, and swiped with the duck-fat-soaked and then fried 'soldier' was fabulous.  The softness of the Girolles mushroom, the subtle crunch of the asparagus, the pungency of the shaved truffle and the crunch of toasted Nigella seeds was brilliant.

Egg dish 1

Photo: Rebecca Williams

Egg dish 2

Photo: Rebecca Williams

Egg dish 3

Photo: Rebecca Williams

I finished my Chardonnay in time for the Bordeaux for the lamb course. A spring lamb-loin cooked pink with various components - braised neck, shoulder and sweetbread filled the plate with steamed broccoli, cooked spelt and toasted spelt grain with an anchovy sauce (hidden by an edible Geranium leaf).  What an absolutely delightful dish, another work of art and a deconstructed dish that delivered in every department.

Lamb dish

Photo: Rebecca Williams

Lamb dish

Photo: Rebecca Williams

The goat's cheese dish was another absolute winner for me - delicately spiced with mace and served with sweet scorched peaches, crunchy and sweet pickled onions with rosemary and gingerbread crisp and whole toasted hazelnuts.  A plate of total joy.  All the flavours worked and all the sensations excited.

Goat's Cheese

Photo: Rebecca Williams

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Photo: Rebecca Williams

Goat's Cheese

Photo: Rebecca Williams

By 9pm the restaurant was full and the kitchen was running flat-out, although diners didn't wait for food for any length of time.

Another small jar but this time with a peanut butter, raspberry and jelly a beautiful palate cleanser which held a raspberry granita, peanut butter and a crumble on the top. I absolutely loved this and it was a real surprise to see on the menu. Bold and great fun on an American classic.

PBJ jar

Photo: Rebecca Williams

PBJ

Photo: Rebecca Williams

The last course was a great one to finish on.  A disc of rich Crème brûlée was delicately flavoured with lavender and served on top of an Oakchurch strawberry salad, jus, strawberry crisps, curd and lemon balm.

Strawberry & Lavender

Photo: Rebecca Williams

Strawberry & Lavender

Photo: Rebecca Williams

I managed coffee and the amazing petit fours - the passion fruit curd served was full of punchy fruit flavour and had a very moorish taste, I wanted to take a jar home.

Passion Fruit Curd

Photo: Rebecca Williams

Petit Fours

Photo: Rebecca Williams

Be ready for a marathon and not a sprint, this was a leisurely feeding session which began at 8pm and finished at just after 10pm.

After a sound sleep I woke at 9am and wandered down to breakfast with my swimming costume, ready to use the Spa.

Breakfast is on offer in The Dower House

The Dower House Restaurant

Photo: Rebecca Williams

and guests are offered a choice of buffet style or cooked - I'm sure you could enjoy it in the comfort of your room too.  Again, the weather was too glorious to ignore and so I took a seat in the garden, along with other hotel guests.

Breakfast in the garden

Photo: Rebecca Williams

I probably shouldn't have even bothered with breakfast but for the purpose of this review, I forced down the crepes with maple syrup and cinnamon sugar. A great start to the day, helped along with the sun and the heady scent of lavender.

Crepes Royal Crescent Hotel

Photo: Rebecca Williams

Tilly made an appearance, although the other Hotel cat Toby was nowhere to be seen.

Tilly Royal Crescent Hotel

Photo: Rebecca Williams

I get to meet David Campbell and tell him how I loved the food (except for the trout dish). He confesses that the smoke machine wasn't behaving itself and is as upset as I am. A down-to-earth Scot who knows what he wants from his menu. His attention to detail, focus and dedication shines through in our quick chat. He sources some of the best products he can find, whether that's local or not and prides himself in the fact that he spends most of his life in the kitchen during service. Maybe the Hotel could treat him to a day at the spa next door? Great bloke who, like me, loves a herb.

After Breakfast I wandered across the garden to the award-winning Spa

Route to the Spa

Photo: Rebecca Williams

 

Spa reception

Photo: Rebecca Williams

where there's a 12-metre relaxation pool, sauna, steam room and plunge 'tubs'.

Spa

Photo: Rebecca Williams

Plunge tubs

Photo: Rebecca Williams

There's also a very well stocked gym with the latest equipment and treatments on offer between the hours of 10am to 7pm.  The Hotel also organises packages which are worth taking a look at, which include a treatment or two and lunch, so a perfect day out.

Gym 1

Photo: Rebecca Williams

Gym 2

Photo: Rebecca Williams

If being a gym bunny or getting pampered isn't your thing, the Concierge here can organise anything for you from theatre trips, hot air ballooning or a chauffeur tour.  In fact you don't really have to leave the hotel grounds at all if the weather's great.

Woman reading books

Photo: Rebecca Williams

This is about as close I got to the Hotel's launch Lady Sophina, a 1923 Thames River launch moored a short drive away on the Kennet and Avon Canal, at the Dundas Basin.  From April through to October this mahogany and teak boat is yours to hire for an afternoon tea cruise or a champagne cruise, captained by retired naval Commander Blair Murray.

Lady Sophina

Photo: Rebecca Williams

Car parking is available for the duration of your stay, all the Hotel ask is that you hand over your keys (parking is of a premium here) to avoid fines and tow-away charges.

Car parking

Photo: Rebecca Williams

As noon rapidly approached I checked out and had my luggage stored.

I visited Number One Royal Crescent, a neighbour to the hotel and the first house in Bath's Royal Crescent which is now a very popular museum.  Once you've paid for your 'calling card' the Head Housekeeper shows you around the home of Henry Sandford. This is the Head Housekeeper who runs her home very well.  Here I learned about the trials and tribulations of the family who live here - intrigued by the Lady who lived here - from her mouse skin eyebrows to her wig infested with head lice.  This is an intimate peek into the extravagant lifestyles of the age, even the kitchens were opulent, I'd love to show you a picture of the meat-spit powered by a dog running a wheel in two-hour stints, but no photographs are allowed inside Number One.

Head Housekeeper, Number One Royal Crescent

Photo: Rebecca Williams

If you're looking for an excuse to visit Bath, have a look at 'Visit Bath' the tourism site for more in-depth information on the City.

I got my train back to London at around one o'clock and packed quite a bit into an overnight stay. Imagine what you could cover in a long weekend.