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johann lafer at the gainsborough: restaurant review

We head west to just-opened luxury hotel, The Gainsborough in Bath, to try out European-Malaysian fusion dishes designed by Michelin-starred Austrian chef Johann Lafer, including Cornish lobster with yuzu, and Wiltshire lamb with a Szechuan pepper crust.

in a nutshell

A new hotel restaurant with high culinary ambitions and an east-meets-South West menu in the honey-stone heart of Georgian Bath.

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who’s cooking?

Johann Lafer has extended his name and his philosophy of blending Asian flavours with local (in this case English) ingredients to the menu, but not his physical presence. Instead his protégée, fellow Austrian Georg Schneeberger, is manning the kitchen as head chef. Lafer’s fusion concept has deep roots; the Germany-based chef has enjoyed a long culinary collaboration with Wai Look Chow, the Malaysian corporate executive chef for the hotel’s umbrella company, YTL.


must orders

Schneeberger has an impressive knowledge of the local food landscape, with some of the southwest’s best artisan suppliers in evidence on the menu (fish merchants Wing of St Mawes among them). Dishes are executed exceptionally well with a starter of half a Cornish lobster with grilled watermelon, quinoa and yuzu and a main of perfectly pink roasted rack of Wiltshire lamb with a Szechuan pepper crust, asparagus, celeriac and blood orange definite highlights. Cheese lovers won’t want to miss the selection of West Country favourites supplied by aptly named local company Pong. Our top picks? Nettle-wrapped Cornish Yarg, Farleigh Wallop goat’s cheese with thyme and Bath Blue.


what I’ll order next time

An exquisite summer tarte dessert – a dainty crown of meringue, raspberries and frozen lime yoghurt.


what’s the room like?

A trio of spaces, two wings lead off a masculine main area lit by rather industrial-looking lights and dressed with regimented rows of wenge-style tables and tan and black chairs (avoid the ones that look uncomfortably like bar stools). The most atmospheric area is the wing that’s tucked behind a glossy floor-to-ceiling wine cabinet, where chalky blue walls, a dramatic black fireplace and circular tables with swoop-armed tan leather chairs add a bit more glamour.


misfire

The service still has a few teething problems; despite visiting on a quiet midweek evening we were served a starter we hadn’t ordered, and later a pot of green tea when we’d asked for fresh mint.


what we liked

That service. It may not have been perfect but the staff were polite and friendly, without fail. And the sommelier’s slightly off-piste food pairing recommendation of a good value Carménère was spot on.


fun fact

This may be the UK’s first hotel to enjoy natural thermal waters but while you might want to wallow in them in the adjacent spa, you wouldn’t want to drink them. Instead the mineral water of choice here is Whitehole Springs’ Tufa Pure from the nearby Mendip Hills.


price range

High, even for this chi chi city: starters from £11.50 to £21, mains from £24 to £30, desserts £10.50.


details

The Gainsborough Bath Spa, Beau Street, Bath, BA1 1QY; thegainsboroughbathspa.co.uk


By Rhiannon Batten

First published August 2015


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