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 2018. 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.
Best cafés and coffee shops in Bath
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 and tiny Mokoko just opposite the railway station (and its bigger branch by the Abbey).
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 reviewof Comins Tea House here).
Best bakeries in Bath
For a sit-down afternoon tea with all the trimmings, our top pick in the city is the decadent Bath Priory Hotel, especially in the summer when you can sit out on the terrace enjoying smoked salmon finger sandwiches, lemon drizzle cakes and raspberry tarts overlooking one of the best gardens in Bath. If your budget doesn’t stretch that far, head along Walcot Street to Didi Cakes and pick up something from its vast range of cupcakes (peanut butter, Black Forest and passionfruit cheesecake among them), a slice of vegan banana bread or a pear and almond tart to take away and eat in nearby Hedgemead Park.
For more conventional baked goods, 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).
Best simple contemporary restaurants in Bath
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 Scallop Shell – a simple seafood restaurant serving up its sustainable catch in various guises, including classic fish and chips (for our full review of Scallop Shell clickhere) – or Jars Meze for simple, home-cooked Greek food, served from the soul.
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 (that crown looks set to be challenged by the recently opened Packhorse Inn, a community-run pub on the southern slopes of the city with a fabulously set beer garden and a menu overseen by Rob Clayton, of the city’s popular Clayton’s Kitchen restaurant). 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).
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. In Larkhall, a 20-minute walk from the city centre, out along London Road (or take a scenic, off-road detour along the canal towpath), there’s a dedicated vegan restaurant, Nourish. 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.
Best family friendly restaurants in Bath
We’re not fans of children’s food shaped into faces but Doughmanages 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 of Dough 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. The latter has also set up a street food twist on Nepalese food, Phat Yaks, serving hot pots, pakoras, salads, curries and wraps.
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 Gelatoopened 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.
Best bars in Bath
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 – now with two locations in the city – 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 of Corkage 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).
And don’t miss Pintxo, a Basque-style tapas bar with a pretty garden and a dedicated sherry menu.
Tucked away in Milsom Place, Le Vignoble, a chic new wine bar is a colourful spot to gen up on your grape knowledge. Make the most of eight state-of-the-art Enomatic wine machines, home to 32 changing wines available by the taster, glass or bottle.
With empty bottle lights dangling above your head, it’s the ideal place to sip through your favourite vinous regions. A Sex, Drugs & Rock ’n’ Roll riesling didn’t disappoint with its famously dry mineral finish, while a salty Azorean white had us challenged and delighted in equal measure.
There’s plenty of local gin, craft beer and cider, too – and the staff are super-knowledgeable. There’s also tasty tapas to help soak up the booze, the highlight of which was the toasted Bertinet sourdough topped with 15-month- aged comté, warm honey, apricots and pistachios.
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.
On the third Sunday of the month between March and October there’s also the Independent Bath Market for high quality baked goods, cheeses, charcuterie, preserves and pickles.
Best place to stay in Bath for foodies
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.
Where to eat near Bath
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.