The Scallop Shell Bath - Catch of the day bath

Bath, Somerset: best independent places to eat and drink | 2017

From matcha granola to agnoletti with smoked Winchester cheese and craft cocktails, olive’s travel editor (and local girl) Rhiannon Batten unearths a bumper crop of independent places to eat, drink, shop and sleep across this Somerset city

Check out our travel expert’s guide to Bath’s best independent places to eat and drink in 2017. You will find everything from the top places to get your artisan coffee fix and gluten free cakes, to some of the best places to eat and drink the night away.

Advertisement

COOL BEANS

You’re not going to go short of a caffeine kick in Bath. This pint-sized city is generously served by artisan coffee shops, the best of them including Society Café’s two local outlets, Colonna & Smalls, tiny Mokoko just opposite the railway station and Cascara, which also does a highly Instagrammable line in gluten-free and vegan cakes.

The Foodie Bugle homewares shop, just behind the Abbey, also extends to a café serving exquisite freshly roasted coffees from local supplier Easy Jose and delicious cakes baked locally by Katherine Faraway and delivered to the shop in a vintage pram.

Society Cafe
Society Café, Bath

A CUP OF TEA

If tea is more your, er, cup of tea, you’re also well catered for in Bath. The Tea House Emporium is great for stocking up on loose-leaf teas, as well as pots, tins and infusers, while Comins Tea House is a serene spot to while away an hour or two making your way through its extensive menu of single estate teas or to fill up on cleverly paired food (Sri Lankan hoppers, matcha granola or gyoza anyone?). It also runs regular tea-themed suppers and tastings (read our full review here).

comins tea house in bath
Comins Tea House, Bath

BAKERIES

Bath’s most famous bakeries are arguably the city’s two Bertinet Bakery sites (a third outlet is also attached to the Bertinet Kitchen cookery school in Bath). They’re known for their traditionally made breads – sourdoughs, ciabattas, baguettes and foccacias – but if you want a sugar hit look out for their superior twist on a Bath bun, essentially a sugar-topped sweet roll.

Also good for a posh Bath bun, as well as all manner of other baked goods, is The Thoughtful Bread Company, a sustainably minded bakery and bakery school that focuses on seasonal, hand-crafted breads and cakes. It has been known to barter its bread for homegrown or locally foraged ingredients brought in by regulars and is brilliantly imaginative (one of its signature inventions is a little egg box filled with tiny flavoured breads and dipping oils flavoured with wild garlic and the like).

the thoughtful bread company
The Thoughtful Bread Company, Bath

OUT TO LUNCH

If you’re lucky enough to find a seat at Sam’s Kitchen Deli, grab it. The small but well crafted menu here changes daily but salads, quiches and cakes are what it does best. It’s also a handy location, away from the central hullabaloo and within easy striking distance of Walcot Street’s raft of indie stores (including Didi Cakes, Meticulous Ink, The Fig Store, Katherine Fraser, Melanie Giles and the Fine Cheese Company).

Hunter & Sons in maze-like Milsom Place, is also worth seeking out for brunch or lunch. It’s known for its coffees and craft beers but also does small plate lunches (fried chicken with fermented cabbage, ox heart dripping toast, pork loin with spring greens…) and there are plans for an evening menu.

Hunter and sons
Hunter & Sons, Bath

VEGAN & VEGGIE EATS

Near-neighbour Bristol has long been prime territory for veggie eats but Bath is catching up. If meat isn’t your bag, head to Beyond The Kale for juices, salads, smoothie bowls, beet burgers and Bath Culture House kombucha, The Green Rocket Café for cashew and coconut curries, chickpea and cider stews and salads, Chapel Arts Centre Café for flatbread and salad platters or Chai Walla for veggie Indian street food served from a hole-in-the-wall.

There are also plenty of meat-free options for eating out in the evening, including Sol Kitchen Supperclub. A real highlight for local veggies, however, is Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen, which serves high-end menus in a sleek, modern space; if the agnoletti with smoked Winchester cheese, king oyster mushroom and layered celeriac and monksbeard is listed, order it. We’ve also had one of our all-time top three desserts here – forced rhubarb with almond amaretto cream, fennel sorbet and almond crumb.

And if you want to learn how to cook your own dinner, sign up for a course at Demuths, a specialist vegetarian and vegan cookery school just around the corner.

acorn restaurant- rhubarb dessert
Acorn restaurant, Bath

FAMILY DINING

We’re not fans of children’s food shaped into faces but Dough manages to side-step the silliness while adding just the right amount of cute by shaping subtle bunny ears onto its (otherwise simple margherita) children’s pizzas (read our full review here).

Other places worth checking out with children include The Scallop Shell (see below) and Yak Yeti Yak, the city’s long-standing Nepalese restaurant, with its cushioned seating area, benign staff and mildy spiced, fun-to-dip momos.

Or head out to Hartley Farm, between Bath and Bradford on Avon, and fill up on eggs benedict, pulled lamb flatbreads or a Sunday roast before browsing the shelves of its farm shop – or letting the children loose in the play area.

Ice cream, of course, is another classic route to keeping the kids happy. Swoon Gelato opened in Bristol last year and its seasonal gelatos and Swoon on a Sticks (think artisan Magnum) have gone down so well that it’s just opened a second branch in Bath. Current guest flavours include cremino, a heady whirl of vanilla, chocolate and coffee but regular varieties include that children’s holy trinity of chocolate, strawberry and vanilla.

dough pizza
Dough pizza, Bath
Swoon Gelato
Swoon Gelato, Bath

DRINKING DENS

Bath has no shortage of these. From quintessential dining pubs like The King William and The Chequers to real ale pubs like The Raven and The Bell, microbrewery The Bath Brew House, The Electric Bear Brewing’s tap room, The Canary gin bar and The Dark Horse craft cocktail bar, whatever your poison you’ll find it in Bath. Three new(ish) spots deserve special mention, however, as they’re offering something genuinely different.

First up is Corkage, a wine bar and bottle shop that sells some extraordinary wines by the glass and serves imaginative small plates alongside them (its marinated octopus with smoky, lemon-infused hummus is legendary). It also does pre-bookable wine events and guest chef nights (read our full review here).

Then there’s Chapter One, an indie-owned pub that’s stripped back and slightly out of town but has a welcoming fireside, board games, a range of handmade Scotch eggs and an ever-changing choice of craft bees (it also hosts tap takeovers in partnership with breweries like Kettlesmith, from nearby Bradford on Avon).

Finally, we’re looking forward to trying Pintxo, a new Basque-style tapas bar with a pretty garden and a dedicated sherry menu.

corkage
Corkage, Bath

SIMPLE MODERN DINING

There are grander places to eat in Bath (Menu Gordon Jones, The Olive Tree and The Bath Priory among them) but for a no-fuss supper, try the recently expanded Scallop Shell – a simple seafood restaurant serving up its sustainable catch in various guises, including classic fish and chips (for our full review click here).

For British gastropub-style food The Chequers is a local stalwart while food at The Hare and Hounds, owned by the same company, comes with some of the best views in the city. For a more decadent dinner, book a table at Henry’s and try dishes such as flat-iron steak with polenta, grilled leeks and pickled shallot or blood orange parfait with poached pear and toasted brioche (there’s also a full vegan menu).

Or, book well in advance (there’s often a six-month waiting list) for Noya’s Kitchen, a Vietnamese supperclub that takes place most weekends on the city’s southern slopes.

Scallop Shell

The Scallop Shell - Haddock, chips and tartare sauce
Scallop Shell, Bath

FOODIE SUPPLIES

If you’re self-catering, let someone else do the shopping for you and pre-order a delivery of Bertinet bread, Easy Jose coffee, Ivy House Farm milk and more from Three Bags Full. Or, make a beeline for some of Bath’s best independent food and drink stores – among them The Fine Cheese Co. and Paxton & Whitfield for cheese, and Wolf Wine, The Tasting Room and Independent Spirit for booze.

Bath is also home to various markets, including Bath Farmers Market, which takes place at Green Park Station every Saturday morning and draws some of the region’s best small produce traders.

Whatever you do, make sure you’re in town on the third Sunday of the month if you’re visiting Bath this summer: the new Independent Bath Market  kicks off on 21 May and runs until October. There will be no street food involved, but plenty of baked goods, cheeses, charcuterie, preserves and pickles to pick up.

three bags full delivery service
Three Bags Full, Bath
paxton and whitfield
Paxton & Whitfield, Bath

FOODIE SOUVENIRS

If you’re in search of a crate of local food and drink to take home, the easy way to do it is to get one delivered from Taste of Bath. Or, for non-perishable foodie souvenirs, make your way to Mr B’s Emporium and Topping & Co. for cookbooks, Magalleria for obscure indie food magazines, and Rossiters and Kitchens Cookshop for cookware.

Then finish up at The Foodie Bugle filling any remaining carrying space with chocolates, mustards, vintage jugs, tea towels, wooden spoons, bottle brushes, secondhand cookbooks and myriad other treasures.

Foodie Bugle
Foodie Bugle, Bath. Credit: Jason Ingram

A BED FOR THE NIGHT

Berdoulat & Breakfast is a smart, two-bedroom b&b, set in a Georgian townhouse, and a definite step up in the style stakes. Not only have its photographer-architect owners, Neri and Patrick, revamped the building (originally designed in 1748 by John Wood the Elder, architect of Bath’s grand Circus crescent among other honey stone beauties), they’ve also remodelled the traditional guesthouse breakfast.

Neri was born in Istanbul so, alongside granola or bacon and eggs, you can opt for a Turkish breakfast of orange juice, coffee, pomegranate salad, flaky cheese pastries, figs, honey-drizzled ewe’s cheese and baked eggs with sage.


AND JUST OUT OF TOWN…

The Bunch of Grapes deserves a heads-up here. Although it’s not in Bath but in Bradford-on-Avon, 20 minutes’ drive away (or a 13-minute hop by train) it’s travel editor Rhiannon’s top pick in the area at the moment for a date-night dinner or lunch, drawing an unusually dashing line between decadent and unfussy.

A bar, café and restaurant with a pretty oriel window, an unusual ceramic fireplace and an impressive collection of vintage cocktail glasses, its owners lived in southwest France for several years and they’ve brought with them an expert knowledge of handcrafted wines and wood-oven cooked pissaladieres alongside a small plates menu (think roast aubergine tartine with sweet red pepper and goat curd) and French-influenced Sunday lunches. Check the website for steak nights, guest chef dinners and special seasonal menus.

Bunch of Grapes
Bunch of Grapes, Bradford upon Avon. Credit: Mark Bolton

Advertisement

For more tips on local Bath shops, cafes, bars and restaurants search for #independentbath on Twitter and Instagram