When people hear that I review restaurants, they pretty much always ask me the same question – which is your favourite? We’re so spoilt for choice in Bath that I can never just give one answer, but lately, The Chequers has most definitely been on my list of recommendations. Back in January, I was absolutely blown away by their winter supper club, and so when I was invited to sample the spring version, my answer was an immediate yes.
The Chequers is always lovely and cosy in the winter, and on warmer days has tables on the pavement and space for drinkers to spill outside (no pun intended) into the sunshine. We started outdoors with glasses of a lovely English sparkling wine from Furleigh Estate (top tip – I’ve been told by several experts lately that English sparkling wine is really good at the moment and well worth trying), before taking our places at the tables indoors for the feast. With our glasses topped up with Bear Wit beer from Electric Bear Brewing (a lovely local tipple) we started out with a few fabulous little nibbles delivered to the table in fine style – tiny wafer cornets of duck liver pate, arranged along sunbleached sticks of driftwood, shots of warm duck consommé, little skewers of duck in a nest of fluffy pine needles, and warm Scotch eggs lounging on a bed of hay. I must admit I’m not really a massive liver pate person, but I loved the duck and the Scotch eggs were absolutely outstanding, a sentiment heartily echoed by the rest of the table. We also tried beef dripping candles, with bread to dip in the dripping as it melted – this rather split the vote, but it was certainly a showstopping piece of presentation!
Next up was something a little lighter – a beautiful tomato dish, the first of several really impressive veggie dishes for the evening. Crisp heirloom tomatoes, radishes and goat cheese, along with a beautifully crafted tomato mousse – that’s it in the middle of the picture, disguised as a tomato – were all washed down by a Bloody Mary with home-infused chilli vodka. I’ve never been a Bloody Mary fan but I really liked this, possibly because it just went so well with the dish. Our third course was another vegetarian dish, and a close contender for my favourite of the evening – a pretty little plate of asparagus (above), speltotto made with spelt from nearby Sharpham Park, wild garlic, mushrooms and foraged jack-by-the-hedge. The flavours were fresh and bright, and the speltotto was gorgeously creamy, especially with a glass of fruity Leonora’s 2014, from Oatley’s Vineyard (another English winemaker).
For our fourth course, we moved on to seafood, with a plump pan-friend scallop, pressed chicken wing and crispy chicken skin, and carrot puree and microfennel from everybody’s favourite family greengrocer, Eades of Bath. I loved the flavours here but thought it could have had a little more oomph – still fabulous though. Course number five (stay with me now) brought lamb cooked to absolute perfection, with a rich, dark lamb jus, broad bean puree and broad bean flowers, and more microveg from Eades. This dish rivalled course number three for my absolute favourite – the flavours were huge and rich, with a few really creative surprises, like the broad bean flowers, which I’d never tried before but really enjoyed. I also loved the drink pairing for this one – not a red wine as you might expect, but instead a glass of cider from local producers Honeys Midford, which worked beautifully.
Our last two (!) courses were both dessert, and I must say that even though I’d cleaned my plate on every round so far, I wasn’t feeling unpleasantly stuffed – it might sound like we ate a lot of food (and we did) but the portions were very well judged! We started the sweet courses with something light and delicate, just the thing after the rich lamb dish – hay-infused pannacotta with rhubarb and granola on top. The hay infusion was incredible – bringing a smoky cinnamon flavor to the pannacotta – and the crunchy granola and sharp rhubarb served as a lovely contrast.
Our second dessert course came with a beautiful English Garden cocktail (above) – gin, apple juice and elderflower – served over ice with frozen edible flowers. The dish itself brought together an elderflower jelly, strawberry ice cream, and dandelion parfait – a bouquet of beautiful English flavours that looked as lovely as they tasted.
Entirely satisfied, our final treat was a cross between a tipple and a treat – shots of Electric Bear milk stout poured over homemade vanilla ice cream in the style of an Italian affogato (below), which was a nice twist on the usual postprandial coffee. Phew – feeling jealous? I have some amazing news for you: The Chequers enjoy serving their tasting menu so much that they’re now offering it on a regular basis from Monday to Friday. You can enjoy seven exquisite courses for just £49 per person, and to be honest, I can’t recommend it highly enough – booking is essential, make sure you don’t miss out.