I know we’re supposed to be all sad that summer is over, but to be completely honest with you, I love autumn – crisp, frosty days, the smell of fallen leaves, cosy comfort food dishes and pubs with roaring fires, it’s all good stuff. And there’s one more reason that autumn is one of my favourite seasons: the Great Bath Feast, Bath’s annual celebration of food and drink and the absolute highlight of my year. The feast begins this weekend, the 23rd of September, but last week I was lucky enough to be invited along on a special preview tour featuring six delicious highlights of the upcoming festival – which is, quite frankly, my idea of the perfect day. I couldn’t say yes quickly enough.
|Cheers! Man, I love my job…|
Bertinet Kitchen: Cookery Masterclass
We started out at the Bertinet Kitchen cookery school, for a delicious breakfast of coffee, pastries and patisseries (including the Bertinet Kitchen’s legendary almond croissants, and dodos, tiny light sponges bursting with fresh raspberries). Suitably fuelled up, we got stuck in making fougasse, a beautiful leaf-shaped bread that cooks fast and hot to create a fabulously crispy crust with a soft fluffy interior. The fresh bread was served up with homemade rillettes (my absolute favourite – Richard gave me his recipe and I can’t wait to make it) and little crunchy cornichons, the perfect picnic lunch. During this year’s Great Bath Feast, the Bertinet Kitchen will be hosting a masterclass with Great British Menu winner, chef Emily Watkins – a brilliant one-off event that’s sure to sell out fast, so get in quick if you want a place.
Savouring Bath: Tasting Tour
Our next activity was a Savouring Bath tour, a mini version of the Flavours of Bath: Historical Tasting Tour you can take during this year’s Great Bath Feast. Making our way down to the Guildhall Market, we stopped at the original market ‘nail’, a low pillar where payment would have been counted out to forestall accusations of swindling (hence the phrase ‘payment on the nail’), to try Bath Chaps from the Guildhall Deli, a traditional regional speciality involving cooked, cured pork cheeks and tongue. Then we visited Bath’s smallest but most perfectly formed cheesemongers, Nibbles Cheese, for Bath Oliver Biscuits, a famous Bathonian health food dating back to 1750, and Wyfe of Bath Cheese, made by the multiple-award-winning Bath Soft Cheese Company. The cheese wasn’t quite part of Dr Oliver’s original diet plan, but the combination is delicious enough to excuse a little cheating…
Chez Dominique: Tenner Treat
Next up was lunchtime pitstop at Chez Dominique, one of my favourite restaurants in the city, just across Pulteney Bridge with a view over the weir to the beautiful Parade Gardens. We washed down mussels cooked in a mouth-watering leek and bacon broth with glasses of crisp, chilled Jean de Laroche Sauvignon Blanc – a simple, stunning combination that you can try as part of this year’s Tenner Treat, a whole banquet of different £10 offers from restaurants and cafes all over the city. It’s always one of my favourite features and a brilliant excuse to try a few new places – check out the full list here, and keep an eye out for a brilliant series on my blog coming next week, the Ten Second Guide to the Tenner Treat!
|Incredible mussels at Chez Dominique|
Apex Hotel: Tenner Treat, Tasting Menus & more!
For dessert, we crossed the city centre to visit a Bath newcomer, the Apex Hotel. The Apex is targeted mainly at business visitors, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect – I feared it might lack a little personality but I’m happy to say I was completely wrong. In the bar, a beautiful airy space decorated in cool greys with splashes of turquoise and gold, we sampled desserts created by head chef Ben Abercrombie, which were all as delicious as they were beautiful. My absolute favourite was a sensational ice cream sandwich, combining tonka bean ice cream, ginger snaps and roasted plums (top image) – I’m definitely going to be back to try more of the menu here. You can find the Apex Hotel on the Tenner Treat menu as well, serving up a Gentlemen’s Afternoon Tea, and they’ll also be hosting several other fabulous foodie events – visit the Great Bath Feast website to find out more.
|Chocolate cremeux with chocolate tuile, macarons and malted milk ice cream, at The Apex Hotel|
Brigit’s Afternoon Tea Bus: Afternoon Tea On A Bus, Mate
I knew that unbelievable ice cream sandwich was going to be hard to follow, but our next treat was so unique, I’ve been telling people about it ever since. Heading back towards Pulteney Bridge, we stopped on Grand Parade to board Brigit’s Afternoon Tea Bus, for a tour of the city accompanied by tea and scones! Inside the old red double-decker, the seats have been rearranged to create booths around small tables, each set with a proper china cake stand laden with sandwiches and dainties. Tea is served in sippy cups, to avoid any accidents as the bus moves slowly around the city, with brief but informative recordings as you pass each of the sights, and once the sandwiches have been polished off, warm scones are served with cream and jam. To be honest, with something like this you might not expect the tea itself to be quite as good, but it was actually I was pretty impressed. Tours depart daily from Grand Parade – book online here.
|The Afternoon Tea Bus!|
Sub 13: Bath Bartender of the Year Competition
Starting to feel just a teeny bit full, we headed for our last stop of the day, Sub 13, one of Bath’s best cocktail bars. During this year’s Great Bath Feast, they’re playing host to the Bath Bartender of the Year Competition, so resident barman Dan Crook created a round of delicious G&Ts from their brilliant gin cocktail menu (if you’re a gin fan, you’ve got to check it out), featuring Hendricks Gin with Fevertree Elderflower Tonic, fresh basil, cucumber and crushed rose petals. It was the perfect way to round off a perfect day.
|Dan in action – good luck for the competition!|
The programme for this year’s Great Bath Feast is stuffed full of fabulous things, of which these are just a fraction – so make sure you click here to scout out what’s going on (and don’t leave it too late – some events may be sold out already). And it’s not all incredible tasting menus which cost an arm and a leg too (although there are some of those, and they’re very tempting) – if you’re keeping an eye on your wallet, do check out the Tenner Treat and some of the brilliant free events coming up, including some amazing markets with lots of tastings at Green Park Station. See you there!