I firmly believe that brunch is one of the hallmarks of civilisation. What could be more civilised than having a lovely long lie-in of a weekend (ideally after a brilliant night out the evening before), then in the company of good friends, lazily making your way through a feast of gorgeous breakfast dishes with pots of fragrant coffee, freshly-squeezed orange juice and chilled glasses of prosecco? To round it off perfectly, follow with a long nap and an evening of great films in your PJs. Voila: the perfect Sunday.
I was lucky enough to have that exact Sunday last weekend, when The Abbey Hotel invited me to check out the new brunch menu in their Allium Restaurant. There are lots of great brunch options in Bath and I was keen to see how Allium measured up – so after the aforementioned lie-in, we sauntered into town with our stomachs rumbling.
|Orange juice, prosecco & a latte – Sunday morning survival kit|
Allium Restaurant is a cosy little space, with tall sash windows looking out across a bustling plaza (the hotel’s al fresco terrace is the perfect spot for people-watching in the summer). When brunch is afoot, a long buffet takes up the whole of one wall, laden with everything from fresh pastries, a whole range of cereals and muesli (including the chef’s own creations), and continental meats and cheeses, to pancakes, a waffle station where they’re cooked to order in front of you, and that hangover essential, a Bloody Mary bar. And that’s not all, either – once you’ve exhausted the buffet, you can also order a dish from the brunch menu, featuring classic brunch superstars such as avo toast, huevos rancheros and kedgeree alongside several different styles of Full English (including veggie and vegan options). All of this comes in at £25 per head, or £19.95 if you don’t fancy the prosecco, which for all-you-can-eat is a pretty good deal.
|Utterly gorgeous waffles|
We started slow, with coffees, orange juice and pain au chocolat – personally, there’s something about the combination of chocolate and orange that I can never resist. Having woken up our tastebuds, we got a little more adventurous – my dining companion piled his plate with a stack of pancakes drizzled in maple syrup, while I chose a fresh waffle with homemade cherry jam on top. It was absolutely gorgeous – having the waffles cooked then and there makes all the difference, as the texture was perfectly light and fluffy. Although I was a little disappointed that the Chantilly cream promised by the menu had been replaced by crème fraiche (which tastes far too healthy) the cherry jam was a gorgeous accompaniment.
Next, we just had to try the chef’s own French toast, so we ordered one to share between us, served with peanut butter and caramelised banana. The peanut butter comes on the side, which is a nice touch (I like the stuff but you can definitely have too much), and the caramelised banana was an inspired addition – crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, I could have eaten it twice over. The actual French toast itself was just a little too soggy in the middle for me, so the waffles were my winner from the hot buffet.
|French toast (with incredible caramelised banana)|
By this stage we’d already eaten rather a lot, so restrained ourselves from exploring the cold buffet much more (come on, who’s having muesli when there are pancakes and waffles?) but I couldn’t resist having a little taste of the oak-smoked salmon with a buttered granary roll – exquisite.
Switching our cafetiere for a teapot, we ordered the main event, from the brunch menu – my dining companion went for the classic smashed avocado on toast, but I was in the mood to keep things old-school, so I chose a Full English. The Full English breakfast is a tricky beast: with so many greasy elements going on, it’s very easy to get it horribly wrong, but I’m happy to report that Allium’s Full English is one of the best I’ve had. It’s all about the quality of the ingredients (the sausage and bacon were both particularly excellent, hearty and full of flavour) and the cooking (the poached eggs were absolutely perfect, with velvety golden yolks). I enjoyed every single bite.
|Is it really brunch if it doesn’t feature an avocado?|
Utterly stuffed by this point, I think I can say with some certainty that you definitely get your money’s worth from this brunch menu. I also really liked that this was a celebration of breakfast dishes, rather than the more American style where you might also encounter burgers, club sandwiches, steaks and so on. I know it’s supposed to be a combination of breakfast and lunch, but I think there’s something really luxurious about focusing on breakfast (especially when for most of us, it’s usually the most hurried meal of the day).
The range of dishes on offer is splendidly indulgent, the food is gorgeous, and the staff are friendly, obliging and attentive. If you’re planning the perfect Sunday, I have no hesitation in recommending that you start it with The Abbey Hotel’s brunch.