What is The Gainsborough’s USP?
The Gainsborough Bath Spa is one of the city’s newest five-star hotels and the only one with a spa that has natural thermal water on-tap.
And the general vibe?
The spa is the hotel’s big selling point; much quieter than Thermae Bath Spa opposite, though be warned that hotel guests only have limited access to its steam rooms and pools unless they book a treatment. Bedrooms are smart and comfortable but they can feel a little dark; we like 301 where windows on two sides let in plenty of light, as well as rooftop views over Bath’s honey-stone buildings.
What’s the food like?
Johann Lafer at The Gainsborough houses a trio of spaces, with two wings leading off a masculine main area dressed with rows of wenge-style tables. For more atmosphere, book a table behind the glossy floor-to-ceiling wine cabinet, where chalky blue walls, a dramatic black fireplace and circular tables add glamour.
The menu’s east-meets-Southwest fusion dishes have been designed by Michelin-starred Austrian chef Johann Lafer and are meticulously executed by his protégée, Georg Schneeberger. Highlights include roast rack of Wiltshire lamb with a Szechuan pepper crust.
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.
Where can I eat and drink nearby?
Festive menus can be underwhelming if you’re veggie, but not at Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen. Meat-free food here means exquisite cooking and presentation – think seared braised fennel with pistachio pâté, chickpeas in a smoked tomato sauce, green olives and a saffron lemon gel – and there’s always a well-crafted house cocktail (plum Bellini anyone?) on offer.
What can I do while I’m there?
Go before Christmas and you’ll be able to enjoy one of England’s prettiest Christmas markets while you’re in town. Dominated by the city’s floodlit Abbey, its stalls are housed in a cluster of wooden cabins, and 70% of the foods and crafts on sale are locally made. Look out for Tea People’s single-estate teas, Somerset pomona, Bath gin and pungent Wyfe of Bath cheese.
Get insider tips on the independent food and drink scene from travel editor Rhiannon
olive magazine podcast ep46 – Shopping for Thai ingredients and exploring Bath