Timbrell’s Yard, in Bradford-on-Avon, is part of a quiet revolution luring food-lovers away from tourist-packed Bath to the Georgian spa town’s more peaceful (but equally charming) neighbour.
In a recently converted Grade II-listed building, tucked away by the river near the iconic Town Bridge and Lock Up, Timbrell’s Yard provides the perfect hideout for a gastropub style weekend getaway. With a well-stocked bar buffeted by smartly upholstered sofas and wooden tables, plus a large restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, you need only leave Timbrell’s Yard to stroll up through the town’s honey-stone houses to cafes, shops and delis, or to stride out along the banks of the River Avon into the Wiltshire countryside.
If wet weather interrupts plans, perch on a window seat in one of the hotel’s mezzanine bedrooms and be hypnotised by the river sleepily drifting past in front of Holy Trinity church. These three light and bright rooms are the epitome of Scandi cool – listen to the retro Pure radio while your companion reclines on a contemporary wicker chair plumped up with soft merino wool cushions. These are calming spaces, and a clever transformation of what was previously a gym – Clipper tea and fresh coffee sit in a snug alcove below the light wooden stairs that lead up to the rooms’ mezzanine levels. Pop art and exposed bedside lighting frame large white beds, with huge TVs hooked on the wall opposite for lazy mornings watching TV. Skylights ensure the mezzanine areas are well lit, but electronic blackout blinds do the trick when it’s time for lights out. And local Bramley toiletries add luxury to the black and grey-tiled rain showers in the en-suite bathrooms.
For a retreat that’s a little more luxurious, there are larger, and equally stylish, rooms in the older part of the hotel. Room 106 is our pick, dominated by a super-king Manhattan-style platform bed and furnished with a subtle combination of contemporary grey textiles, unique antique furnishings, exposed beams, white-washed stone walls, wooden paneling and a freestanding roll-top bath (with uninterrupted views of the River Avon).
Thanks to executive chef Tom Blake, previously of River Cottage, and head chef Ricky Ford, previously of Gary Rhodes & The Museum Inn, an expertly prepared dinner awaits you at the bottom of the stairs in Timbrell’s Yard’s main restaurant. Start with a British Bath Gin or a Honeys Midford cider to accompany top notch bar snacks – ham hock bonbons are smoky béchamel croquettes studded with meaty chunks of ham served with a punchy apple slaw, and truffle aioli lifts creamy cauliflower croquettes. Gloucester Old Spot pork scratching wheels dipped into apple sauce add a satisfying crunch to the platter.
Hearty mains include roast breast of chicken on a bed of chorizo and springy Sardinian fregola pasta with grilled Bromham purple sprouting broccoli, and slow-roast Gloucester Old Spot pork belly wrapped in fennel and sea salt crackling with creamy mash, whole roast carrots and slow roast shallots bathed in gravy.
Desserts are just as generous, and we opt for rich chocolate and salt caramel tart – locally produced Cocoa Loco chocolate ganache with a layer of caramel topped with honeycomb and thick Ivy House cream. Go all out and order an extra scoop of house-churned ice cream made with Blackmore Vale milk. If you can find room, spread local West Country cheeses (smoked Dorset red, Bath soft, Westcombe Cheddar) onto homemade crackers and chutney.
Spend the rest of your time exploring local foodie spots – the ancient and wonky Bridge Tearooms is still (just about) standing after serving cream teas since the 17th century, while the town is also home to an independent wine merchant and a specialist cheese shop. Also new within the last year or so is The Bunch of Grapes, a stylish bar, café, shop 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. The wine bar is buzzing.
However, if you’d prefer to simply relax and cut yourself off from the outside world for the weekend, the contemporary yet cosy bar area at Timbrell’s Yard has plenty to lure you back with – prop yourself up on a stylish red leather stool with a local ale, or sink into a sofa next to the fire with a Southampton-roasted Mozzo coffee and the cake of the day.
Written by Alex Crossley
First published March 2016
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