The hotel restaurant Bath Priory has impressed me with its beautiful 18th century mansion, its classical Georgian drawing room and its fantastic service that will make anyone feel like royalty. It was the perfect getaway from the often stressful London.
My dining partner and I inevitably had high expectations of the Bath Priory based on its origin from the two Michelin starred chef Micheal Caine (headchef at Gigleigh Park), and the talented head chef Sam Moody. Everything was streamlined and professional. Starting with the reservation email that recommended us to arrive 30 minutes early for our aperitifs, to our host patiently waiting at the entrance of the hotel to greet us, it was beyond my expectations.
Arriving 30 minutes early was certainly a great suggestion. We were greeted into the beautiful drawing room for some champagny and canapes. It was one of the most relaxing places, with ceiling high doors that open to the peaceful garden and old fashioned sitting chairs that are so comfortable you could easily fall asleep in. Dotting the walls were proud classical paintings that projecting a library theme. This place would be the ideal spot for a cosy afternoon tea while reading a book, or simply to daydream in the peaceful garden.
Our host presented the menu for the evening in an almost French like accent, introducing the £95 tasting menu and the £69.50 three course a la carte. Sipping through our rose Champagne, we agreed to piece together two three-course menus rather than lazily going with the tasting menu.
The restaurant was structured into five rooms with each containing no more than six tables. Not only did this structure tone down the noise level, it also allowed guests to have a decent space for themselves. Ideal for special occasions when you don’t want to share those intimate conversations with everyone in the room. The deliberate attempt to create a fine dining atmosphere has certainly worked well with culinary paintings scattered on the dining room walls. It was if all the chefs portrayed have become legends in our history.
The bread was baked in a very unusual way, all I could taste was the extra puffed crust. I was puzzled over where the soft filling had gone and couldn’t decide whether I like it or not. I did feel bad for our waitress for the extra crust crumbs to clean.
Starter 1: terrine of duck liver, apricot and caraway chutney, almond salad
The duck liver texture was perfect, smooth and creamy. On the downside, it was too sweet for my liking. With more sweetness coming from the apricot chutney, the bread and almond salad just couldn’t offset this high level of sweetness.
Starter 2: seared Brixham scallops, caramelised shallots, chicken wings, lemon confit
This starter was better than mine with a great balance of flavours from the sweet shallots, the fresh scallops and the lemon confit. Chicken wings were a bit unusual to have with scallops, the combination wasn’t amazing but separately nothing could be faulted.
Main course 1: Truffle butter poached turbot, beef cheek, duxelle, cepe veloute
I was initially quite dubious about this dish, the combination of beef cheek and truffle butter turbot nearly scared me off. Sadly the beef cheeks and turbot didn’t taste amazing together like I imagined. Separately. each element was cooked perfectly. Turbot was seasoned well and spot on for tenderness and the beef cheeks simply slipped off when I attempted to cut it open. The combination of duxelle and cepe veloute added a moist texture that balanced the stronger flavours of beef cheek and turbot. A likeable dish, but not amazing.
Main course 2: Plate of Tamworth pork (crispy rillette, confit belly, braised shoulder, roast fillet), butternut squash, caramlised apple, paprika jus
The dish was disappointing to the extent I can almost forget how good the service was. While glad it wasn’t my main course, the tiny bite I stole was enough to overpower my palate for anything else. The combination of the fatty and meaty layer was way out of balance with that wobbly skin on the top. Apart from the taste, fats running on the plate couldn’t be more unappetising, including that glaze of oil shining on top of pork pieces. Such a shame because the description looked amazing with each cut of the pork cooked in different methods of roast, braised, confit and fry. Compared to the amazing pork we had at Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons, it just didn’t deliver.
Dessert: warm cinnamon poached pear, caramelised pear and raisin fritter, vanilla ice cream
We decided to share a dessert after the extra fatty pork. Pear was the only non-greasy dessert we could bear after the intensely fatty pork. Fortunately, the warm pear was refreshing without extra high sugar content. Caramelised pear and raisin fritter had a great balance between cinnamon and caramel, again not too sweet.
Overall, I loved every corner of the Bath Priory, especially the regal service. Sadly the food didn’t live up to equal standards, especially the pork. I also found it hard to memorise the details of each dish because it wasn’t special or amazing. Compared to its direct rival Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons at Oxford, which hosted some of the best food I’ve tried in my life, the Bath Priory still has some way to go to achieve the same status.