Review: The Bath Priory

This guest post was written by: Maureen

“Sam is suffering from a leg injury, sustained while training for a cycling event”, said our waitress. “We’ve persuaded him to stay home the last couple of days but he insisted on coming in today for your kitchen visit”. So he did. And patiently answered our questions. And posed for a photo. Sam Moody is the obliging head chef of the Bath Priory and unwitting object of much feminine sympathy. “Don’t you just want to give him a hug?” whispered one of my companions who shall, of course, remain nameless.

I should explain. We six ladies were in Bath for a hen party and one of the highlights of the weekend was to be lunch at the Bath Priory. Having not been since the days of Chris Horridge, I was keen to see how the restaurant had changed with Michael Caines at the helm.

Murmurs of appreciation as we were seated in a private room lined with racks of tantalising wine. Just right for a rowdy hen party! Though of course we were on our best behaviour. The wine list was a worthy tome with a sprinkling of less pricey entries. Service was flawless and charming throughout. But what about the food?

I started with Bath chaps, deemed too scary by my dining companions but described in such loving detail by our waitress that was impossible to resist, at least by me. If only they’d made a pig’s ear of the dish, I could have entertained you with a well-placed pun. But it turned out to be flavoursome and combined well with the crispy crackling, sweet apricot chutney and neat cubes of deeply porcine jelly.

For my main course, a slab of beef cheek the colour and consistency of treacle, swimming happily in braising jus. The rich, sticky coating concealed a perfectly cooked melty interior, a very good example of its kind. Yum. If I have one criticism, it would be the pedestrian nature of the rest of the plate. This gustatory heavyweight deserved a better supporting cast than a smear of mash potatoes, a shallot and a stick of asparagus. Think Freddie Mercury without Queen: even a maestro needs good backup.

Now, pudding and an outpouring of superlatives as the other ladies tucked into their caramel and banana souffle. Clearly a winner! I didn’t taste the souffle, but can report that the paired sorbet was free of the cloying note often present in a banana dessert. But my own dish of coconut parfait with mango and pineapple salsa was no failure. It conjured up a gentle exotic flavour reminiscent of walking barefoot on a beach with hibiscus blossom in your hair.

The petit-fours are worth a brief mention: they were good.

So overall a profoundly satisfying experience. It didn’t have Chris Horridge’s light touch or his genius with presentation. There was nothing remotely health-conscious about the meal we enjoyed! On the contrary, it was very much in the style of Gidleigh Park: rich, indulgent, perfect for a treat. Good value too at £35pp excluding wine.

The kitchen visit was a bonus. Thanks Sam!

PS. The restaurant doesn’t as a matter of course allow the general public into its kitchen – they kindly agreed to a request made weeks in advance. Please don’t presume!

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