The Apex City of Bath Hotel is Bath’s newest, well, hotel – and given that it’s very much targeting the business market, with a gleaming conference centre and lots of meeting space, I think I wasn’t the only one expecting it to be a little bit corporate and buttoned-up, but I’m happy to admit I was wrong. The exterior is rather smart, a sweeping curve in pale stone, with clean lines and polished golden lettering, and the inside is elegant but vibrant, with plenty of personality. There’s a long bar in shades of charcoal with sudden splashes of bright turquoise, and hanging light fittings in deep ochre-coloured glass, and the restaurant is unexpectedly warm, in rich orange and pale grey, with slender gold pen-lamps lighting the tables. Having visited a few weeks ago for the Great Bath Feast preview, when chef Ben Abercrombie’s desserts made a big impression on our gang of snap-happy Instagrammers, I was really excited to try the full menu.
|The legendary ice cream sandwich from my last visit|
I found it very hard to pick a starter, which is always a good sign, but eventually chose the in-house smoked salmon, with crab, cucumber and tomatoes, and a slice of buttered soda bread. It was beautifully presented, like a little pool with a swirl of sea herbs underneath the salmon, which was butter-soft and perfectly cooked, and the flavours were great, but I must admit the whole thing was a little too chilled for my taste. To wash it down, restaurant manager Anna recommended a crisp Sauvignon Blanc which paired extremely well. My dining companion, meanwhile, picked the crispy pork cheek with burnt apple, fennel slaw and crackling – the crispy pork cheek was gorgeously rich with a lovely texture, although we both agreed that the fennel slaw with raw onion was a little bit overpowering.
|A little river pool with salmon & sea herbs|
I struggled to choose again for the main course, but couldn’t resist a deliciously autumnal-sounding saddle of Wiltshire venison with smoked sausage, shallots, salsify and potato terrine. The venison was just right, tender and deep pink in the middle, and the potato terrine was fabulously crispy with lots of black pepper, but the stand-out element for me was the smoked venison sausage, which was full of flavour. You don’t often come across salsify (a root vegetable a little bit like a parsnip) these days – it was a bit of a favourite with the Victorians – and while it’s easy to overcook, I thought it was rather underdone in this case, making it tough to eat. Anna recommended a glass of Malbec to go with this dish, which was velvety and full of dark fruit – just what you want on a cold winter evening. My dining companion chose the Apex ground rib burger, with bacon jam, smoked ketchup and fries (the menu has a great range from more expensive ‘cuisine’ to classic steaks, burgers and grill salads, so there’s something for everyone) and pronounced the patty particularly good.
|Venison: gorgeous autumn comfort food|
We were pretty stuffed by now but having already tried the desserts I knew that we absolutely couldn’t miss this course, so we split a tonka bean ice cream sandwich with ginger snaps, plum sorbet and roasted plums, accompanied by a glass of fresh, light Muscat. I have to confess I was a little bit disappointed – although the flavours were gorgeous (particularly the plum sorbet), and I love the idea of poshing up an ice cream sandwich, it was almost impossible to eat because the ice cream itself was absolutely rock-hard, and when attacked with spoon or fork had an alarming tendency to lunge across the plate and make a break for the spotless white tablecloth. When we visited for the Great Bath Feast tour, by the time eight of us had photographed it to our satisfaction the ice cream had just the right texture, so I think all it needs is a little longer out of the freezer before serving, but considering we had waited quite a long time for the dessert to arrive it was a shame.
Generally though, the service was very good – Anna’s wine recommendations in particular were excellent – and I’d definitely like to try a few more of the dishes on the menu (I’ve got my eye on the afternoon tea menu as well, which mentions both doughnuts and marshmallows). This is a restaurant with lots of potential, and I’ll definitely be going again.