Looking for restaurants in Bath? Want to know where to eat in the historical spa town? Our travel expert and Somerset local Rhiannon Batten shares her insider tips for the best restaurants in Bath, along with where to find the best coffee, bakeries and gin bars.
olive’s top must-visits for foodies in Bath
The Scallop Shell
This simple seafood restaurant is unpretentious and artily rough around the edges – tick your menu requests on a paper menu and hand it to the jolly manager in her local beer and ale-lined cubbyhole. Starters are unfussy plates of the freshest shellfish available on the day, while the mains range from hake in crisp batter to grilled skate, all with proper ‘chippie’ chips and homemade tartare sauce served in a pretty scallop shell. If you’re staying in the west of the city look out, too, for The Oyster Shell, the restaurant’s younger sibling based on Moorland Road.
Colonna and Small’s
Head to this contemporary coffee shop and roaster for a serious espresso. The brews, all double shots, change weekly, there are tasting notes for each one (including how the flavour changes when adding milk), and the in-house baristas are all experts. The Gigesa Grade 1 Washed, an Ethiopian coffee with promise of peachy sweetness, hints of melon and bergamot.
This Basque-style tapas bar with a pretty garden and a dedicated sherry menu is tucked away in Bath’s theatre district. Order sharing plates of pan con tomate y jamón along with tinned sardines served with bread and aioli before moving onto albóndigas (meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce), gambas al ajillo and fried padrón peppers. A succinct dessert menu offers warm chocolate and almond cake as well as vanilla ice cream, both of which can be ordered individually or together, with a shot of Pedro Ximenez sherry on the side.
Choose your sherry of choice from the dedicated menu and make the most of any sunshine in the leafy sherry garden out back.
The Canary Gin Bar
Don’t miss this dedicated gin bar, which offers up to 200 gins to choose from. Try the new Bath Gin (£7) – it’s flavoured with 10 botanicals including burnt orange peel and cardamom, and Thornbury’s 6 O’Clock, mixers included.
After moving from Vietnam to England at a young age with her family, Noya Pawlyn has become one of the most loved foodies in Bath and has recently transformed her popular Vietnamese supper club into a restaurant.
As well as serving informal but hearty sharing dinners in the evening, Noya’s Kitchen also opens for lunch, Tuesday to Saturday, offering a thali-style menu, presented as a tray os small dishes that diners eat clockwise, starting with an appetiser such as fresh summer rolls with punchy dipping sauce or a squidgy pork bun, followed by small portions of Noya’s favourite Vietnamese stews and broths, and finally a miniature dessert.
Comins Tea House
This contemporary 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.
Bristol’s artisan gelato shop has a second brand in Bath, serving seasonal gelatos and Swoon on a Sticks (think artisan Magnum). 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.
This small but thoughtfully formed bakery precision-sources everything from the grains to the (wild) yeast.
As well as a brisk trade in loaves to take away (on our visit there was a choice of sourdough or a vast prune and buttered oat number) and a counter heaving with fresh-from-the-oven Eccles cakes and cinnamon buns, the bakery is stocked with provisions like fruit and veg, cheese and dairy, Cacklebean eggs, Pump Street chocolate and bags of Workshop Coffee.
Takeaway lunches are also available between 11am and 2pm.
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 these great restaurants.
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).
Try this light and bright contemporary restaurant for simple, home-cooked Greek food, served from the soul.
A tiny, corner tapas bar with charming, Spanish staff, Olé is tucked in above Paxton & Whitfield cheesemongers in Bath.
Settle in with a tabla mixta – jamon de bellota, spicy chorizo rounds, soft salami, pink slices of tender cured pork loin, triangles of manchego and goats’ cheese, the obligatory quince paste and bread sticks. Then turn it up a notch with fiery paprika-dusted slices of pulpo a la gallega (Galician octopus), tempura-battered, deep-fried aubergine sticks drizzled with dark honey from Malaga, and ensalada de tomato (the ripest raf tomatoes with aggressive minced raw garlic, earthy dried oregano, and the best Spanish olive oil).
Don’t forget drinks as the booze is just as well-considered: think dry manzanilla sherries, white tempranillo riojas and Spanish craft beers (try El Boqueron, made from seawater). Book a table or turn up late (it’s one of the few places in Bath where you can grab a table after 9pm) and eat and drink until you (nearly) fall off the barstools.
Hare & Hounds
This stone-built, dog-friendly inn is only a mile from Bath city centre, but nevertheless the Hare & Hounds is surrounded by beautiful countryside and extensive gardens. From the terrace, there are sweeping 10-mile views across the city towards Solsbury Hill, an Iron Age hill fort immortalised in song by Peter Gabriel. Perhaps the best views in the city (along with those of the Packhorse Inn, a community-run pub on the southern slopes of the city with a fabulously set beer garden).
The Hare & Hounds garden comes into its own in the summer, with its large lawn, picnic benches and children’s play area. It all makes for a lovely spot to enjoy a pint of Somerset-brewed Butcombe ale and simple dishes such as beer-battered fish and chips, or mash and beef braised in red wine.
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.
There are two elements that set Mokoko apart. One is the coffee, which is all single origin and roasted in-house (as well as the usual flat whites and cappuccinos you can choose between aeropress, chemex and syphon filter coffees). The other is its cakes, which are freshly baked at the Bristol bakery, change regularly and usually include a vegan choice or two. Current picks include the cherry cheesecake cruffin and banana and peanut butter cake.
Tea House Emporium
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.
For a sit-down afternoon tea with all the trimmings, our top pick in the city is the decadent Bath Priory, 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.
Bakeries in Bath
Great for a posh Bath bun, as well as all manner of other baked goods, this sustainably minded bakery and bakery school 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).
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 bakery is arguably the Bertinet Bakery (which also has a nearby cookery school in Bath). It’s known for its traditionally made breads – sourdoughs, ciabattas, baguettes and focaccias – but if you want a sugar hit, look out for their superior twist on a Bath bun, essentially a sugar-topped sweet roll.
Vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Bath
Near-neighbour Bristol has long been prime territory for veggie eats but Bath is catching up. If meat isn’t your bag, head to The Green Rocket Café for cashew and coconut curries, chickpea and cider stews and salads 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. 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.
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.
Plant-based Bath chef Richard Buckley won the title of veggie pioneer in our first olive Chef Awards.
Family-friendly restaurants in Bath
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 of Dough here).
Other places worth checking out with children include The Scallop Shell (see above) 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.
Bars in Bath
Bath has no shortage of bars. From quintessential dining pubs like The King William to real ale pubs like The Raven and The Bell, microbrewery The Bath Brew House, The Electric Bear Brewing’s tap room, and The Dark Horse craft cocktail bar, whatever your poison you’ll find it in Bath.
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.
Tucked away in Milsom Place, this chic 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.
The Dark Horse
A local and seasonal ethos is the central tenet of cult Bath bar The Dark Horse. It draws a grown-up crowd with its dark basement setting, traditional styling (brawny wooden furniture, button-back sofas and rioja-coloured walls), table service and ultra-local drinks list.
Alongside beers and ciders from the Southwest, and English wines and liqueurs are cocktails made with juices pressed to order and homemade syrups, cordials and bitters (often made not just with seasonal ingredients, but locally foraged ones).
This experimental approach means there are a few misses – we weren’t wild about our Twelfth Night (Tullamore Dew whiskey, Cocchi Torino, Somerset Pomona and coffee) – but the gamble usually pays off. Dear Prudence (Sipsmith gin with strawberry and lavender syrup, fresh lime and orange bitters) was a triumph.
Beckford Bottle Shop
What started as a modest shop in the Wiltshire village of Tisbury has recently grown into a flagship bar, restaurant and wine shop in Bath. Serving inventive small plates, British charcuterie and cheeses, and an enormous range of wines, Beckford Bottle Shop is also a place where people pop in for an informal lunch, a romantic dinner, an evening wine talk, wine and food courses, or private dining. All the wine shop’s bottles can be opened to enjoy with a meal in the restaurant for a simple corkage charge, which gives customers reasonable prices and a wide variety.
Best food shops in Bath
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 for cookware.
If you’re self-catering in Bath, 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 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. You can pick up a wedge of Westcombe Dairy’s tangy Somerset Cheddar or try a pint of Dick Willows’ proper West Country cider (Green Park Station).
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
From £110 per night, including breakfast; check availability at booking.com.
Just a few cobbled steps away from big-hitting local attractions such as Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths, this hotel’s two beautiful bow windows give passers-by a glimpse into this recently revamped and restored townhouse on North Parade Passage.
Rooms are decked out in a palette of chic, neutral greys with colour pop accents – burnt orange in our superior double – on velvet furnishings and thoughtful illustrative artwork. There are a variety of tea and coffee pods for the Magimix drinks machines, as well as homemade shortbread in a Kilner jar for dunking (though UHT milk is a disappointing surprise; there are no in-room fridges).
There’s an unexpectedly cool bar below the hotel for its residents. It makes the most of its medieval structure, with cavernous original fireplaces and stone stairways to nowhere. Decked out in shades of opulent dark blue and emerald, set off with the odd metallic shimmer from gently flickering lanterns and collections of statement mirrors, it feels like the perfect ‘secret’ spot to hunker down after dark.
The Bath Priory
From £155 per night, check availability at booking.com.
At first glance, everything in this honey-stoned country house hotel on the fringes of Bath is pretty much as it’s been for decades, from the ticking clocks and carefully plumped sofas in the library to the starched white tablecloths and synchronised cloche flourishes in the dining room. But appearances can deceive.
In the kitchen, Michael Nizzero’s style is modern classical French (no sous-vide cooking here) but with a delicate touch and clean flavours. His star-studded CV includes not only the three-Michelin-starred Waterside Inn at Bray where he worked alongside Michel and Alain Roux, but the Hostellerie La Briqueterie in France (where he won a star while executive chef) and most recently The Ritz.
Royal Crescent Hotel
From £330 per night, check availability at booking.com.
The epicentre of Bath’s architectural brilliance is the Grade I-listed Royal Crescent, an arc of 30 houses designed by John Wood the Younger, built in the 1770s and, today, one of the greatest Georgian legacies in England. The Royal Crescent Hotel occupies two of these adjoining townhouses.
Each of the plush, individually designed bedrooms and suites has a modern feel while remaining sympathetic to the hotel’s historic character. There’s also a spa and a restaurant here, as well as perfectly preened gardens to enjoy on warmer days. The afternoon tea is the restaurant’s biggest pull, read more here.
Where to eat and stay 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 favourite choices in the area 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, it serves a modern British menu.
Timbrell’s Yard, Bradford on Avon
Doubles from £105 per night, check availability at booking.com
In a 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 gastro pub 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.
Photographs by Rhiannon Batten
Words by Rhiannon Batten and Mark Taylor