Welcome to a new series of blog posts on Sal’s Kitchen! In this series, I’m going to be taking a closer look at a few of my favourite streets and areas in Bath, and letting you, dear reader, in on all the best things to be discovered there. For my first exploration, I headed down to Widcombe Parade, a lovely little street of shops that’s hidden away on the other side of the river, behind the station. Once upon a time I lived on Widcombe Parade and I’ve always enjoyed popping back, as it feels like suddenly stepping out of the city and into the high street of a small village – which, of course, is probably what it once was.
My first stop was the Widcombe Deli, which has recently moved a few doors down into a much more spacious set of rooms. I absolutely love what they’ve done with the place – the first space you enter feels like the cosy, friendly kitchen of a serious foodie, with a counter laden with delicious salads, pies and quiches, and shelves and cupboards on the walls holding all sorts of local delicacies. You can take away, but if you’re sitting in there are scrubbed wooden tables, colourful cushions, and a row of stools along the counter in the window, for people-watching as you eat. Exploring a little further, you find a bright and colourful dining room at the back, with lots of little tables and an irresistibly squashy sofa in the corner (plus an amazing installation of lampshades on the ceiling, which I can’t adequately explain but which is seriously cool in a bohemian way), and another room that faces onto the street with a big round table and tall windows to let in the sunshine. I ordered a delicious filo pie which was stuffed with roasted vegetables and melted goat cheese, and a selection of the Widcombe Deli’s famous salads (everything from a fabulous creamy potato salad with black olives – an inspired touch – to a lovely pesto pasta with fresh tomatoes), and spent a leisurely half hour reading my book in the sun.
Next, I crossed the street to visit Flamingo, which is one of those great shops that you can’t categorise because it’s just full of beautiful and interesting things, from original artwork (including pieces by owner Amanda), to brilliant cards and gifts, to gorgeous home décor. Their bestsellers include the ‘Destination’ prints, a gorgeously bright print which can be customised as a list of Bath locations, Bath pubs, or even stands at the Bath Rec (for the serious fan) – or, of course, to any list or location – and which comes on tea towels, cards and canvasses. I was also taken with their selection of deliciously aromatic scented candles, sweet treats from lollipops with edible flowers to cocktail pastilles in fabulously funky packaging, and lots of little bits and pieces for gift-wrapping, including a whole rainbow of washi tapes. If you need a gift or a card with a difference (ooh, I nearly forgot, look out for cards by the amazing Bath-based FLAB Design) then this is the place.
Having exhausted myself with shopping, I needed a pick-me-up, so I nipped round the corner to the newly-established Bath Botanical Gin, a distillery with a wonderful old-world apothecary feeling to their small shop and showroom. Behind the counter, wooden shelves and drawers hold bottles of gin in different flavours and colours, sealed with green wax, clay flasks of herbal tonics, and fat-bellied glass jars filled with teas and infusions, which are measured out on an old-fashioned set of brass scales. On the opposite wall, a huge blackboard explains the properties of their many elixirs, and below it a table is set out with carefully-labelled tasters. The crowning glory is the vast, gleaming copper still at the far end, bedecked with gauges and levers like some fantastical steam-powered time engine from an H.G. Wells novel. This is a fascinating little place to discover, and whether you’re a gin drinker or not will have something interesting to tickle your taste buds.
Finally, on my way home, I discovered something that was completely new to me – gentlemen’s barbers Fine and Dandy. Obviously I’m not quite in their target market, but walking past I was drawn in by this gorgeous little space – owner Robbie has carefully filled it with vintage finds, from tins and bottles of classic gentlemen’s grooming products, to a shiny Route 66 petrol pump, to the archetypal red leather barber’s chairs. A bar made from reclaimed wooden pallets serves coffee in one corner, while a little record player spins vinyl in another. Gents, if you want a little class with your haircut, you absolutely must check this place out – their prices are seriously good too.
Of course, there’s plenty more to discover in Widcombe than I have space to cover here – so you’re just going to have to get down there and check it out for yourselves. Have you got a favourite street or shop in Bath? Leave me a comment and let me know!