Category Archives: Food

Food heaven in the heart of Bath

Right in the heart of Bath is a magical world. You can wander into this special place via a normal unassuming door in the middle of the Royal Crescent. Once you pass the threshold you are transported into an oasis of calm that feels a million miles away and seems so unlikely in one of the UK’s top tourism hotspots.

The Royal Crescent Hotel is an important part of my life – its the hotel that I stayed in with my new wife on the night of the day that we were married. I can still remember it as though it was yesterday. And here I am again twelve years later, sampling a newly prepared taster menu to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Royal Crescent.

For me food is always elevated to the next level by the experience of eating. The setting, service and company really does matter and adds to the feeling of well-being when trying beautifully crafted food and wine that massages your taste buds.

Sat in the lovely and carefully managed hotel garden sipping on a glass of martini chatting to my fellow diners, made the stresses and strains of the day melt away. Birdsong filled the warm evening air and the sunlight glowed as I intensely studied the taster menu.

When you look at a menu you’re seeing the chef’s passion and knowledge come through in black and white. Hours of trying and testing new ideas, getting the right combinations together and thinking about the diners experience. The outcome of this careful attention to detail is like an artist working on their canvass, creating a masterpiece that art lovers will devour: with the Executive Chef, David Campbell, as the brains behind this captivating menu.

This was going to be an evening of fine dining – full of new experiences for the taste buds.

With a martini filled mellowness we moved into the classy dining room for the main event. Each course of lovingly created food was to be accompanied by a champagne or wine and the choreography of the service added to the real sense of occasion.

We began the meal with Cucumber Soup with Earl Grey Tea and Cured Salmon, combined with Lime and Nasturtium Leaf. This was a clean and refreshing way to start a deep dive into a wonderful food experience. Freshly made bread, something that makes me very happy, was an additional treat; especially the beetroot bread.

Next came a modern twist on the classic Bath Chaps, a traditional and once locally very popular Bath dish that used a 65-day dry aged middle white pork. This melt in the mouth food was delicious.

Mackerel Tartar with Gentleman’s Relish, Leek Ash and English Sorrel’ followed and was a superb combination of British cooking: clean on the palate and very satisfying.

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I have to declare an interest: I love lamb. For me its the king of meat and I never tire of its taste and texture and always get a large dose of satisfaction and mellowness when its on the menu. So seeing that salt marsh lamb was heading my way created a real sense of anticipation; and I wouldn’t be disappointed. The salt marsh lamb with garden peas and bacon, mint sauce and lamb broth was the sensational star of the evening for me with is luxuriant feeling, each mouthful creating pure and simple pleasure.

Growing up in the 1980s gooseberries were a real favourite and it was so nice to see a classic ingredient, loved by generations, combined with the all round crowd-pleasing and comfort food, the crumble. The gooseberry and elderflower crumble’ didn’t disappoint and was the perfect pud to warm the heart and create that all-round sense of well-being.

We finished the meal with Eves pudding with Somerset Apples, which for me seemed very appropriate, as its my daughters name and I’m a huge fan of English apples. I never used to have a sweet tooth but I have recently got into my deserts and these two, to complete a lovely evening, hit the spot and made me smile inside.

This was an evening of food taken to the next level by a passionate team with a real attention to detail and passion for their craft. The experience of the evening was elevated to something pretty special by the story-telling and love of wine conveyed by the Hotel’s wonderful Head Sommelier, Jean-Marc Leitao. These couple of hours will stay in my food memory bank for a long-time and demonstrates why food is so much more than just the eating.

Available until the end of October this year, The Taittinger Tasting Menu, is £125.00 per person and includes a six-course tasting menu paired with wines and Taittinger Champagnes (the menu is subject to change to incorporate seasonal produce). For more information visit www.royalcrescent.co.uk

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The joy of baking: making and reliving memories

There is something special about baking. The flour covered surfaces, the satisfaction of seeing your creation gradually rise and the smell of them cooking in the oven. It gets me every time.

I’m always amazed by the simple chemistry of flour, salt, warm water and yeast working together to create the most simple and wonderful thing: bread. There has been a real boom in homebaking in recent years, in part fulled by the popularity of programmes on TV such as the Great British Bake Off which has led to a huge national appetite for baking.

Baking is also intrinsically linked to memories. I’ve just made some rock cakes on a day of baking (cakes, bread and pizza). As I mixed the ingredients I was transported back to my childhood; the smells of the mixed spice, the crumbly texture of the cakes and the smell of the cooking. And the taste: nothing has changed in 30 years and it gave me a great sense of happiness as I munched away.

And then there was the pizza; something which I’ve only come too in recent years. Though I do have some distant memories of cooking disasters at school involving uncooked dough and something that can loosely be described as a pizza. Its about getting the texture and the springiness of the dough just right so that it will create a good crunchy base when cooked. Cooked at a high temperature this simple dish reminds me that the simple things in life can taste so good.

Last but no least is the bread. This can be a fairly quick process or an all day adventure. For me today its been the later experimenting with a new technique that even involved a black bin liner. The smell of the yeast infused dough is intoxicating and I just hope that the final loaf works out once its been baked and cooled down.

Baking gives you that sense of satisfaction, a warm glow when things go well and can unlock a lifetime of memories. Food has always been important to me and spending time baking and creating is something that I relish.

Making bread can change your life

You probably have most of the ingredients to make your own loaf of bread. Next time you go shopping pop a bag of bread flour and some yeast in your basket or trolley. And then you are ready to go: once you start it will be a love affair for life.

Making bread is special. It really is one of life’s great pleasures. Seeing your own creation grow and the smell of a loaf baking always make me smile.

I was lucky; my Mum always baked bread. I can still remember the smell and taste. It didn’t automatically mean that I’d take up baking. But it’s something that has gripped me and is part of my soul. When ever I bake I think of my late Mum and my kids devouring a slice of ‘daddy bread’.

For me it captures the simple pleasure of life: bringing fairly mundane ingredients together to make something so delicious. And the memory of holidays in France devouring French bread with salted butter and fruity jams.

Yet we as a nation accept the plastic bread that is piled high on supermarket shelves. Yes, artisan style bread can be a bit pricey; but with flour, yeast, sugar, salt, some oil and warm water we can indulge in the pure delight of a freshly baked loaf.

And making bread should become part of all our lives. In a technologically rich life full of digital distractions the wonder of mixing simple things together to create a loaf is magical. So, go one give it a go. You will never look back.