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 2019. 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.
Looking for restaurants in Bath? Want to know where to eat in the historical spa town? Our travel expert and Bath 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.
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 these great restaurants
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.
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.
The place to satisfy carnivorous cravings is The Chequers. Owned by the team behind two other well regarded Bath pubs, the Marlborough Tavern and the Hare & Hounds, this double AA-roseette-winning gastropub offers popular Sunday roasts, 35-day dry-aged rib-eye steaks and superb burgers. It’s also a convivial place to sit and enjoy a pint of Bath Gem ale (50 Rivers Street).
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).
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 above Paxton & Whitfield cheesemongers in Bath (a larger restaurant has also opened round the corner).
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.
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.
Colonna and Small’s
Head to Colonna & Small’s 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 (6 Chapel Row).
Which coffee to order: The Gigesa Grade 1 Washed, an Ethiopian coffee with promise of peachy sweetness, hints of melon and bergamot.
With two branches in Bath (a smaller one opposite the bus and rail stations mainly used by take-out customers, and a larger one beside the Abbey that also serves salad and quiche-style lunches) and a bakery cum coffee shop that also does breakfast bowls and lunches at Bristol’s Wapping Wharf.
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.
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
Best afternoon tea in Bath – Bath Priory Hotel
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.
The Thoughtful Bread Company
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 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 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.
Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen
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. The house cocktails are always imaginative, too. Rhubarb vanilla martini, anyone?
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.
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 bars. 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, and The Dark Horse craft cocktail bar, whatever your poison you’ll find it in Bath. Don’t miss Pintxo, a Basque-style tapas bar with a pretty garden and a dedicated sherry menu. Three new(ish) spots deserve special mention, however, as they’re offering something genuinely different.
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.
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.
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).
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.
There’s an unexpectedly cool bar below the Eight hotel. 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 make a beeline for after dark. Drinks take the form of a thoughtfully curated wine list – France and Italy feature highly and there’s a good selection by the glass – as well as classic cocktails and a variety of bottled beers, ales, ciders and spirits. We pop down for a nightcap – Jura single malt and amaretto on the rocks – but it’s easily the sort of place you could spend a few hours; you can eat down there too, if you prefer.
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.
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
Berdoulat & Breakfast
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.
With eight unique bedrooms and eight seasonal dishes on the menu, it’s a neat premise. Just a few cobbled steps away from big-hitting local attractions such as Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths, the 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). The carpet, however, is super soft, the beds huge and supremely comfy, and bathrooms are compact but well equipped with huge rain showers, full-sized White Company products and motion sensors that trigger low-level lighting if you’re trying to navigate your way to the loo in the middle of the night.
Under head chef Fred, modern French/Italian menus reflect the team’s international heritage. Menus change with the seasons and are surprisingly accessible, with seven of the eight dishes being gluten-free, two vegan and two vegetarian. Dishes include butternut squash risotto with bath blue cheese, confit pork belly and de-boned short rib of beef. The ‘short eats’ bar menu – think chipotle and rosemary warm mixed nuts and deep-fried scampi – is similarly inclined too.
The duo behind Bath’s latest hotel restaurant need little introduction but here’s a foodie refresher. Pierre Koffmann has been on the British restaurant scene for the best part of 40 years. It was at Chelsea-based La Tante Claire that he reached the heady heights of three Michelin stars, a feat his former employee, Marco Pierre White, was to later repeat at his own eponymous restaurant in Hyde Park. Now the much-lauded chefs have rekindled their professional relationship, this time as restaurateurs, in Koffmann & Mr White’s, a pared-back French-English brasserie inside the Abbey Hotel.
Minutes from the city’s train station, the restaurant has a menu of French and English classics, from shepherd’s pie and steak au poivre to sherry trifle and pain perdu. There’s other familiar names to look out for, too – from Bath-based baker Richard Bertinet’s sourdough, to Cotswold adoptee and former Blur bassist Alex James’s cheeseboard. Head to the hotel’s ArtBar for after-dinner drinks.
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.