|Sourdough, olive oil and dukkah|
As you might remember from my review of the Green Rocket Café, I recently resolved to find out more about the vegetarian restaurant culture in Bath – and with that in mind I knew I couldn’t possibly neglect Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen (formerly Demuth’s). Acorn is a pocket-sized eatery tucked into a tall, narrow building on North Parade Passage, in the busy pedestrian heart of Bath. The interior is cosy, but not cramped – the best table is snuggled into an alcove lined with book cases – and filled with cute touches, like the tiny terrarium gardens in jars on each table. The view to the rear is of Bath Abbey, handsome, dramatic, starkly floodlit against the sky – is there a better view in Bath?
My dining companion was a vegetarian, and instantly went into raptures over the idea of being able to choose from anything on the menu – a luxury I had never properly appreciated before! While we deliberated, a friendly waitress brought us a couple of thick doorstops of sourdough bread, with olive oil and dukkah for dipping, which we washed down with a glass of Vouvray Brüt, Didier Champalou sparkling wine – delightful. I’ve had dukkah before but I particularly liked this blend because it was so well flavoured with cumin – highly recommended. We also nibbled on an amuse-bouche that came to all of the tables compliments of the chef (a nice touch) – the most delicious combination of cashew puree, leeks and wild mushrooms cooked in white wine and thyme.
|Chioggia beetroot slivers|
To start, I chose a smoked parsnip risotto with sage and hazelnut pesto. I’m utterly devoted to parsnips, which are my favourite winter vegetable, and I also really love a good risotto and a good pesto, so this was the perfect dish for me. The smokiness brought a fabulous umami flavour to the whole dish that was almost meaty – perfectly balanced by the sweetness of parsnip and quince. My dining companion chose Chioggia beetroot slivers with aged cashew puree and a beetroot lavender vierge – a fabulously flamboyant touch that could easily have overwhelmed the other flavours, if not added with such a skilled hand.
To accompany the main, we moved on to red wine – our waitress recommended an organic Malbec from Bodegas Santa Ana. Acorn offers half-bottles in a carafe which I always think is a nice gesture – it’s great value as far as customers are concerned, so for me it’s a nod to customer satisfaction over profit. For my main course, I ordered a dish called A Few Ways to Cook a Cauliflower (another winter vegetable I absolutely love). My personal favourite was the poached cauliflower core, topped with Old Demdike cheese from local makers Homewood Cheeses, which paired deliciously with homemade Riesling mustard, but I must admit that the accompanying five grain and seed risotto wasn’t to my taste – a bit lacking in flavour. To go with it I ordered some rosemary sautéed potatoes, which I would definitely recommend. My dining companion picked the smoked field mushroom, with rich mushroom demi-glace and salt-baked celeriac puree, which was huge with flavour and pulled off the same umami trick as my starter – you definitely wouldn’t miss the meat in these dishes.
|Salted chocolate tart|
And so to dessert. As an unashamed chocoholic, I couldn’t help but order the salted chocolate tart with peanut butter sorbet – a long knife-sharp sliver of the richest chocolate, accompanied by a beautifully smooth sorbet (a little sweeter, to balance the almost savoury quality of the salted chocolate) and crunchy peanuts. My dining companion chose cinnamon doughnuts with apple sorbet and smoked almonds – a proper autumnal dessert. She insisted I try the smoked almonds, a flavour we both agreed was a huge surprise in a not-unpleasant way, but I must admit cinnamon is not my favourite spice, so I preferred my own choice of dessert. My dining companion, however, cleaned her plate and gave the dish full marks.
All in all, a fantastic meal, bursting with fabulous local ingredients. The menu was full of creativity and exciting ideas, entirely unabashed about making vegetables the star of the show, and throughout the service was excellent. Whether you’re a vegetarian or not, you’ve got to give Acorn a try.