Looking for restaurants in Bath? Read our review of seasonal restaurant and hotel Eight in Bath, and check out more suggestions for eating in Bath here.
What is Eight’s USP?
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.
The site was formerly home to Tilley’s Bistro and Tilley’s owners, Priya and Ajay Chathley, are now part-owners of Eight In Bath, along with partners in life and business, Nathalie Brown and Fred Lavault, it’s the latter who run the operation day-to-day. Having earned their stripes running restaurants in London and Aix-en-Provence before moving to Bath in 2016, Fred was brought in as head chef of Tilley’s before project managing the Eight build while Nathalie designed the interiors.
And the vibe?
On the night we visit, Eight plays host to a largely young, glamorous and international crowd. Decorated in timeless blue-greys and neutrals, with aged-effect pale green V&A wallpaper, emblazoned with flowering shrubs and trees, and a feature wall of decorative books – a nod to the building’s past as the refectory for the monks of Bath Abbey – the hotel definitely feels like a sophisticated place for grown-ups. The only thing at odds with the cool vibe is the slightly samey jazz soundtrack.
Which room should I book?
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.
The best room in house is the super-spacious deluxe double, with a focal-point free-standing bath that enjoys views out over cobbled streets and a smart TV built into the foot of the bed.
What’s good to drink?
There’s an unexpectedly cool bar below the 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.
And to eat?
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. The ‘short eats’ bar menu – think chipotle and rosemary warm mixed nuts and deep-fried scampi – is similarly inclined too.
We are advised to order two of the medium-sized plates per person, which is probably quite generous if, like us, you eschew advice and start by nibbling on a trio of giant cheese straws with a broad bean and pea dip and go for one of the heavier dishes to start. Stand-outs include a comforting butternut squash risotto, which comes spiked with Bath Blue cheese. Soupy yet with bite, it is dotted with edible flowers and balls of squash, and full of different textures such as crispy sage, pumpkin seeds and crunchy walnuts.
Both the confit pork belly and a de-boned short rib of beef come in towers that collapse pleasingly with the smallest nudge of a fork. The beef, melting and tender, is paired with pickled shallots, creamy parsnip purée, oyster mushrooms, sugar snaps, broad beans, a rich red wine jus and a dusting of horseradish snow. One of the more ingredient-heavy dishes, it showcases Fred’s innate skill in balancing flavour and texture.
Puddings – from a cloud-like trifle full of surprises (think coconut Chantilly and crystallised parma violets) to a creamy mango sorbet with a chilli kick – are definitely not needed but provoke ear-to-ear grins.
What’s the breakfast like?
Served in the light, bright restaurant space, the buffet isn’t huge but covers all the essentials: fruits, yoghurts, homemade granola, cereals, juices, banana bread and cheese. Fred’s in the kitchen at breakfast too, so our full veggie breakfasts with silky scrambled eggs, homemade potato cakes, herb-laden tomatoes, gently sautéed oyster and chestnut mushrooms and wilted spinach, is freshly cooked to order and really impressive. The extensive tea and coffee menu, too, is a nice touch.
Any other food experiences I shouldn’t miss?
Wine tasting evenings, we’re told, are coming soon and, judging by the quality of the wine on offer at dinner (there are a couple of pairing suggestions with each course – the peppery Mandrarossa syrah with the beef was a particular hit), they will definitely be worth popping along to.
What can I do in the local area?
For those who want to gen up on their culinary skills, alongside seeing the city’s World Heritage-status sights, there are plenty of cookery schools in the vicinity. Join a plant-based course just around the corner at Demuths, learn about the culture and customs of Azerbaijan at Simi’s Kitchen or discover how to make Viennoiserie like a pro, with baker Richard Bertinet.
Don’t turn your nose up at the small rooms at the top of the house, as they’re also in possession of the best views out across neighbouring Bath Abbey. However, for those sensitive to noise, it’s worth bearing in mind that weekly bell-ringing practice takes place between 7.30-9pm on a Monday night.
A standard double at Eight starts from £105, with breakfast included.
www.eightinbath.co.uk, November 2018
Words by Kate Authers