I love a good small plates menu. First off, I’m firmly of the opinion that when it comes to food, the best things come in small packages – the starters are my favourite course, and I reckon that a small but perfectly formed dish (with nowhere to hide) is often where you’ll see a chef’s best work. Then, of course, there’s the fact that I always find it incredibly hard to choose, so a small plates menu means I can try everything I’ve got my eye on. And finally, although the dishes are smaller, the meals tend to be bigger – with a really good small plates menu you can have a proper banquet, unrestricted by such boring conventions as ‘only having three courses’ or ‘ordering a sensible number of sides’. What’s not to love? So without further ado (and in no particular order), here are five of my favourite places in Bath to get a fantastic fun-sized feast…
We’ll start with the big guns – the inclusion of Corkage on this list is unlikely to surprise anyone, since it’s possibly Bath’s most legendary small plates restaurant (with food critic Jay Rayner amongst its fans, no less, and numerous awards on the mantelpiece). For all that though, simplicity is part of the charm at Corkage – the menu, inspired by gorgeous British seasonal ingredients, usually features around ten dishes, each represented by a single word chalked on a blackboard. And while the wine collection is a huge part of the draw, there’s no such thing as a wine list – instead, your waiter will talk you through the menu and what you like to drink, and then produce the perfect tipple as if by magic. The aim at Corkage is to make food and wine accessible, and it’s incredibly easy to sit back, relax and while away a few hours here in a luxuriously leisurely fashion.
Comptoir + Cuisine
The French are surely undisputed masters of the long lunch, and Comptoir + Cuisine is the ideal place for such an indulgence, with a menu of delectable miniature dishes inspired by the most wonderful regional cuisine from all over France. It’s a really fresh take on small plates, so if you’re looking for something a bit different, I think you’ll definitely want to check this place out. Particular favourites of mine from the menu include crispy deep-fried celeriac with black truffle mayo, beautifully tender squid dressed with chilli, garlic and parsley, and Gratin of Crozet – which is a little bit like a fantastically souped-up French version of macaroni cheese. Add to this an irresistible menu of champagnes by the glass and a quirky, creative space (half bistro, half boutique) and you’ve got the makings of a midday escape to Paris. Read my full review of Comptoir + Cuisine here.
Pintxo de Bath
Continuing our tour of the continent, let’s head to the Basque Country now for a few pintxos and a glass of sherry. I don’t mind admitting that Pintxo de Bath is one of my favourite places to eat in the city when I’m off-duty, especially in the summer when their stunning courtyard garden is open. I’m a particular fan of their seafood – king prawns drowning in incredible chilli and garlic butter (extra bread is a must to mop this up, you won’t want to leave a drop behind) and crispy calamari with proper aioli are two highlights – and their white sangria, which is quite simply unbeatable on a really hot summer’s day.
The Beckford Bottle Shop
The newest addition to Bath’s small plates scene is the Beckford Bottle Shop, a beautiful and elegant space at the top of town – they’ve been in Bath less than a year, but already they’re one of my favourite places to recommend for date night. The menu changes frequently but it’s always full of intriguing and original dishes inspired by British cuisine, and every time I’ve been I’ve tried at least one standout small plate that I couldn’t resist raving about afterwards – most recently, an exquisite Cornish sole with dill butter and brown shrimps that I could have eaten twice over. Read my full review of the Beckford Bottle Shop here.
Last but by no means least, a mention for Le Vignoble in Milsom Place. The food menu is simple and delicious, with sharing boards of cheese and charcuterie, and a tempting selection of classic French tartines (that’s delicious things on toast, by the way, but as always it sounds – and tastes – better in French), but the real reason I want to include Le Vignoble in this list is that they’ve created a brilliant way to apply the small plates approach to wine as well as food – the walls are lined with high-tech wine-dispensing machines so that you can serve yourself to a little of whatever you fancy trying, and explore the world of wine on your own terms. It’s a great concept and makes for a really fun evening with friends – read more about Le Vignoble on my blog here.
What do you think? Do you agree with me that good things come in (plenty of) small packages? Which is your favourite? Leave me a comment and let me know!