A couple of weeks ago, a message dropped into my inbox from The Pig Guide, inviting me along to a special seven-course tasting menu at The Chequers, masterminded by head chef Tony Casey. In case you’re not familiar with The Pig, it’s the ultimate independent guide to what to eat in Bath, so I hesitated not a moment in sending back an enthusiastic yes, and boy, am I glad I did. Summoned to The Chequers on a bone-chillingly cold January evening, to stand by their roaring fire and drink prosecco, I was already convinced of my decision, and the mouth-watering smells in the air only served to confirm it.
I had wondered if ‘seven courses’ might in fact turn out to be a bit misleading, with one consigned to an aperitif and one to a cup of coffee, but of course, I should never have suspected The Chequers of such duplicity. Instead, we were treated to seven small but perfectly formed plates. It’s a cliché but in this case it’s true – each was more delicious than the last.
We started with raw & pickled beetroot, served with truffled goat cheese and walnuts. The combination of textures and the contrast between the earthy richness of the goat cheese and the sharp juiciness of the beetroot was just the thing to wake up the taste buds and kick the meal off. Next up was a selection of duck – smoked breast, parfait, crispy tongue, gizzards and smoked shallots. This might have been my least favourite – I wasn’t terribly keen on the gizzards – but it was still wonderful. The breast was beautifully tender and the tongue was surprisingly tasty too.
With the third course, things really started to hot up. Salmon was served mi-cuit with teriyaki, lotus root, miso mayo and kohlrabi. The salmon was absolutely dreamy – butter soft, and genuinely melt-in-the-mouth – the perfect foil to the more dramatic-tasting accompaniments. For the fourth course, a popular vote on our table as the best dish of the evening, scallops and crispy chicken wing were accompanied by Jerusalem artichoke and hazelnuts. This was a simple, clean plate of food and the flavour pairings were stunning.
Although my dining companions favoured the fourth course, my heart belonged to the fifth – Cornish hake with alliums, cockles and salsa verde, served in the most amazing velvety leek sauce. The fish was cooked to flaky perfection and although I must admit I’ve never had salsa verde with white fish before it was absolutely delicious. The sixth course ended the savoury dishes with a proper crowd-pleaser: nose-to-tail pork, featuring belly, cheek, black pudding and tail, as well as some gorgeous brassicas (steady). The belly and cheek were as succulent and flavoursome as you’d expect, but for me the black pudding was the star of this dish.
Throughout we had the option of a wine flight, which I declined because I never drink fast enough for those things, but I did try one of the recommended white wines which was a lovely surprise – Yealands Estate Pinot Gris, delicately floral and perfumed with daffodils, a really beautiful and unusual wine.
Normally, by this stage you’d expect my belt to be under considerable strain, but actually the portion sizes were so well calculated that I felt satisfied without being over-stuffed, and was more than equal to the challenge of dessert. First we were presented with lemon sorbet in the form of beautiful little ice cream cones, each filled with lemon curd, a lemon cream, and a scoop of the sorbet on top – absolutely adorable, and just the thing to cleanse the palate before the chocolate meringue with burnt white chocolate, honey, and milk. It was just as good as you’d imagine, but I must confess that the savoury dishes had rather stolen the show for me.
What more can I say? I think I may have run out of adjectives. Consider that the highest recommendation I can give, and get yourself down to The Chequers pronto.