City Guide: Bath, UK
Bath is best-known for bathing and beautiful buildings, but it’s not all hot springs and sightseeing – this riverside city is full of cool places to eat, drink and discover
By Tom Powell
Published: Tuesday 21st March 2017
For a quick, light bite (or huge bag of picnic essentials to walk up to nearby Victoria Park with), try Chandos Deli at the top of George Street. Or for similar deli bites, Sam’s Kitchen, which is nearer the Avon on the indie-trader’s haven of Walcot Street.
Around the corner from Chandos Deli, Hall & Woodhouse is exactly what happens when you strip a 235-year-old auction house, plant a palm tree in the middle, fit an open-air roof terrace and fill it with shabby-chic furniture. The quirky yet glamorous gastropub, owned by Dorset brewers, Badger, has been a stately outpost for beers and Sunday roasts on Old King Street by Queen Square since 2010.
A short hop across Queen Square on the quaint and narrow Monmouth Place you’ll find the The Scallop Shell, where the delightfully crunchy cod and chips comes with the tag of 2016’s ‘best in the country’. Beyond the top-notch fast food, there’s a loose nautical theme in place that involves bathtubs full of seasonal fish (including oysters) on ice. Done.
Sometimes the best things in life surprise you, and the fresh-cooked grub served at Menu Gordon Jones is full of it. OK, so the six-course, £55 blind-tasting menu isn’t one for fussy eaters (every day’s a new set of off-piste surprises), but it offers one of the most intimate high-end dining experiences in the city. And just minutes from Alexandra Park, you’re really close to some of the best views across the Avon to Bath’s main slog.
For serious veggie nosh concocted from the best of local growers, check out Acorn Vegetarian, where the slow-cooked squash might have you wondering why we ever bothered to eat meat in the first place.
Stepping from high-end gourmet to eat-in-the-street takeaway, if the city gets the best of you, Bath’s budget alternative to a greasy kebab or a (dare we say) high street burger is legendary local frying shop Schwartz Bros, which has two shops conveniently placed opposite Theatre Royal and down Walcot Street past Waitrose.
Start your day at Colonna & Smalls, Bath’s go-to Scandi-style café for coffee lovers. Complete with exposed walls and a laid-back vibe, the shop’s award-winning baristas are on hand to eke the best out of specialty beans from all over the world. You’re unlikely get a better cup of joe in town.
Come lunch, you’ll probably fancy something a little stiffer than a jug of java, so try Hunter & Sons, a bar and coffee shop that serves the best of the UK craft crop, as well as all your usual hot bevvies supplied from the best West Country roasters.
For a more Hogarthian twist on things, skip afternoon tea (although vintage tea rooms like Bea’s on Saville Row are great) and knock your way down to Queen Street stalwart Canary Gin Bar, which is run by city distillers Bath Gin. There are more than 200 gins on the menu, taking everything from classic cocktails to spirits with a splash and botanical gems, but the jewel is the earl grey negroni – perfect for an aromatic afternoon tipple on a spring day. If you’re really into the science of spirits, Saturday is distillery day, where £30 will buy you a whistle-stop tour and a taster or two.
Down the hill you’ll find Bath Brew House, home to St James Street brewery. Head to the brushed-up boozer to fill up on tons of top brews with on-pump tasting notes to save time (and awkwardness). You can also tour the basement brewery for the princely sum of £7.50.
If wine’s more your thing, try Walcot Street’s Corkage, an indie wine shop that also serves small plates to help soak up the sauce. By popular demand, they serve 50ml tasting measures and carafes, as well as the regular glasses and full-sized bottles of wine that you can sip in the cosy wood-clad bar, or just take back to your hotel.
At the top of town, there’s, er, Topping Books, an eccentric but excellently curated bookshop where you’ll easily lose an hour browsing the floor-to-ceiling shelves.
Five minutes away in a corridor between Milsom Street and one of the centre’s car parks is Vintage to Vogue, a vintage clothes emporium with everything from flapper dresses to 1970s shirts.
Meanwhile, for local artisan trinkets, antiques and nibbles head to Green Park Station at the bottom of town – the former railway station is bustling every weekend, and the restaurant next door hosts live jazz.
Brush up on your knowledge of Bath’s namesake with a trip to the Roman Baths just by the Abbey – or just hit up Thermae Bath Spa if you prefer hot springs and rooftop views to history lessons. For outrageous regent architecture and a taste of the high life, amble across The Circus and up to Royal Crescent to take in some serious Jane Austen vibes.
Sports fans will enjoy the ruggedly intimate setting of Bath’s rugby ground, where the boys in black, white and blue will give you a weekend schooling in hard knocks (and hooped socks).
For an evening out, meanwhile, there’s the Ustinov – a simple, studio cousin to the neighbouring Theatre Royal where you can see small shows with impressive pedigree.
If you’re in the area for longer, you might want to hop on the train to the quaint nearby town of Bradford-upon-Avon, which is great for a pub lunch and stroll along the canal.
Opening this summer, Apex’s impeccably modern new City of Bath Hotel sits just seconds from Bath Brew House and Green Park Station at the bottom of town on James Street West, making it the perfect bolthole for city-centre shopping, sights and crashing overnight after the theatre. Prices start from £159 per night.
The nearest you’ll get to that Roman vibe in the city is by staying at the Gainsborough Bath Spa, a sumptuous five-star hotel that comes complete with Roman columns; rich, indulgent feasts; and access to the thermal springs that make for a pretty luxurious bathing sesh. Prices from £242.
If you’ve ever dreamed of living like a wealthy Victorian, new bolthole No.15 Great Pulteney is just for you. Inside the antique facade, you can expect camped-up parlours complete with quirky clocks and a doll’s house, while rooms all take a unique spin
on modern regent style.