We recently travelled to Bath in the west of Britain to a) road test a couple of the best spas Bath has to offer and in between all that I hit the footpath to get the skinny on the best lunch / dinner / cafes / bars in Bath. You can do as every other person does and Google “Best Bath Restaurants” and get rubbish recommendations dating back to 2010.
You can take this guide as gospel after I visited some of the best places in bath to ask their staff for their personal recommendations. I think this works much better than reading a newspaper website where the writer has been given a ‘famil’ aka being dragged to only where the tourist board wants them to see and write about.
My first point of contact was the amazing barista team at Colonna and Smalls. They explained that every point of interest in Bath is only a 15 minute walk away – so you can get your stomp on and visit everywhere with ease. Lets get straight into it.
Last year we lived a year in Kuala Lumpur before coming back to London from Australia. The hotels of YTL are seriously amazing and once we heard that the Malaysian hotel company has recently opened their first UK hotel we jumped at the chance to stay there.
It’s amazing that for a city like Bath and their influx of tourists there was really only two decent hotels – and of those both were fusty and looking a little worse for wear.
The Gainsborough Spa Bath has now opened up literally in the centre of town in a building that was previously a residence of a doctor in the ‘good old days’ then turned into a hospital before being left in disrepair until YTL Hotel Group came in and put everything back in its rightful place.
Seriously 5 Star, the service from arrving in your car through to the time your keys are handed back to you with your car full of fresh water and mints for the journey home, nothing has been skipped to ensure perfection.
On the food side of things Johann Lafer at The Gainsborough is situated in a beautiful space on the ground floor of the hotel. This restaurant with its coffered ceilings, original artwork and black marble fireplace; presents exquisite cuisine inspired by fresh and locally sourced ingredients.
We were also here to check out the Spa Village. One of the many perks of staying here is that The Gainsborough Spa Village is ONLY open to guests who are staying at the hotel. Well worth your time getting away from the touristy masses and splash out a bit.
Guests “take the waters” in luxury at the Bath House, visiting a circuit of natural thermal pools, saunas, a steam room and an ice alcove.
Seriously – think about treating yourself!
Colonna and Small’s
The current UK Barista Champion and three-time world finalist is the proprietor of Colonna & Smalls, a Bath-based business internationally renowned for the quality of its coffee.
Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood – who won the 2014 UK Barista Championships – has created a wonderland of coffee that’s become a must-visit destination for brew freaks and bean geeks.
The team here know their shit and it’s they who gave me a bulk on the finings you have in this post – so a massive thanks to them all for lending me their collective ears!
You’ll find three espresso beans and three single origin/estate filter coffees on the brew bar on any given day. The coffee is exciting, challenges assumptions about the flavours one would expect to encounter, and of course tastes complex and delicious. The experience is enhanced by tasting notes on the board and flavour notes on what the espresso tastes like on its own, or with steamed milk.
Warm and engaging chat from the knowledgeable baristas completes the experience and visitors can hang out in the cafe area, relax in the shady courtyard in warm weather or simply take a coffee to-go.
Contact: Colonna and Small’s – 6 Chapel Row, Bath, Somerset, BA1 1HN
Coffee is the main fuel for the business at this second outlet of Society Coffee. A sleek, duck egg blue La Marzocco FB-80 machine takes pride of place on the counter, and it’s through this that the experienced baristas pull the house blend or the E6 blend, both from Clifton Coffee. Guest coffees from up-and-coming new roasteries – such as Roundhill from Radstock, near Bath – are also on offer, made with an Aeropress.
Throw into the mix Richard Bertinet pastries and treats from the Bath Cake Company, including the signature chocolate salted caramel cake. It may look like one of many London 3rd wave coffee cafes but these guys have made their mark in this corner of the world.
Contact: Society Cafe – Society Cafe Kingsmead Square, Bath BA1 2AB
Cascara is a brand new multi-roaster coffee shop in the centre of Bath that opened at the beginning of 2016. Ana and Jay (former head barista at Bath’s Society Cafe) are serving speciality coffee from a range of roasters around the UK as well as freshly squeezed juices and homemade cakes.
It’s a little cramped downstairs but have been told that there’s ample room upstairs.
Contact: Cascara – 3 Upper Borough Walls, Bath BA1 1RG.
The furthest cafe from the centre of Bath, the 10 minute walk out to it does give you a nice perspective on the edges of the city and can make for a nice break from the tourist traps and lines of people following a lady with her umbrella up in the air.
After first becoming interested in speciality coffee after visiting Colonna and Smalls in Bath during their early days, John was amazed with the way in which coffee could be made into something much more complex and interesting than he had previously experienced.
Repack is the name of a dirt track in Marin County, California, where the very first mountain bike race took place. Mountain biking has been a hobby of his for more than twenty five years, and wanted a name that reflected his interests and was related to cycling, so Repack Espresso fitted the bill perfectly.
If you have any sort of interest in coffee – grab a brew and get him to chew your ear off. The lad knows what he’s talking about!
Contact: Repack Espresso – 2 Cork St, Bath, Avon BA1 3BB.
Colonna & Hunter
The UK’s 2014 Barista Champion Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood recently opened a new craft beer and speciality coffee venture in Bath with James Hunter. You mar recognise Max’s name as owner of Colonna and Small’s in our coffee section. After asking everyone I met about where to drink craft beer in Bath – they basically all pointed here and said that this was pretty much it.
Colonna & Hunter’s intention to present flavourful, interesting beer from some of the best breweries to be found, alongside an equally changing range of coffees managed by a top flight UK coffee company.
The divide of beverages is made clear within the space. At the back, a long metal bar, tarnished for purpose into an intricate pattern of gunmetal distress, sits across the two rooms. To the left, a Victoria Arduino Black Eagle espresso machine hunkers down offering two types of espresso, joined by two batch-brew options behind. To the right of the casual partition there are five black beer taps offering a selection of craft, often local, beers such as Wiper & True and Wild Beer Co., alongside a range of chilled bottles from both near and farther-flung breweries.
I have heard whispers that Maxwell will be leaving this partnership and there may be a change in name due to this but my insiders didn’t want to give to much away – so watch this space…
Contact: Milsom Place, Milsom St, Bath BA1 1BZ
The Hop Pole
Into your Real Ales rather than your craft beer? Then this pub from the brewers of Bath Ales should be on your list. This pub has one foot in the 21st century and the other in around 1805. It has blazed a trail as a modern gastropub, but boasts a pared down, dark-panelled interior that wouldn’t look out of place in a Jane Austen adaptation. Outback lies the prize: a secluded beer garden alive with vines, perfect for summer drinking. What’s more, it’s but a hop away from the glorious Royal Victoria park just over the road.
Owner Tim Wilkins is man with a conscience. The coffee is fair trade, food miles are minimal and profits from bottled water are ploughed back into developing countries. So pull up a stool and discuss the finer points of cask conditioning with students and workers.
Good luck fining anything about this place online. But bloody hell what a find it is. If you spot Burger and Lobster in Milsom Place – then it’s worth looking at the doorway beneath it and trying to get a door to open into a crypt that’s turned itself into a hidden bar.
Had I not been told about this, there was no way I or you were going to stumble upon it. They have a tiny selection of dishes or cheese plates available at lunch – and they could be the only people doing brisket in Bath so if you’re in need of food this may well be worth your time.
Contact: Directly Beneath Burger and Lobster (inside Milsom Place) – Octagon Chapel, 28 Milsom St, Bath BA1 1BZ.
The Dark Horse can be found on Kingsmead Square serves beers and ciders from the south-west, cocktails created from locally foraged ingredients, and English wines and liqueurs.
It’s very cosy with lots of little nooks and crannies to hide in, and there’s a really personal touch with lots of the furnishings apparently made by the new owner.
Contact: Dark Horse – 7-9 Kingsmead Square, Bath BA1 2AB
The Gainsborough Bar
The Gainsborough Bar is chic, modern and fun; a brilliant social hub and the perfect venue for a refreshing drink, pre-dinner cocktail or after dinner liqueur.
Contact: The Gainsborough Bar – Beau St, Bath BA1 1QY
The Bath Gin Company @ The Canary Gin Bar
Spread over two floors, the Canary Gin and Wine Bar is the go-to destination in Bath for gin lovers. Home of the Bath Gin Company, established in March 2014. The recipe for the eponymous spirit was developed in Bath and derives from the combination of Kaffir lime leaf, wormwood and liquorice. This ‘gin of a different persuasion’ is used to create The Canary’s signature cocktails.
Start in ground floor Gin Bar before heading upstairs to the Martini bar to sip on a concoction by master mixolologist Tom Pople. Never fear if gin is not your tipple, the well stocked bars have alternative spirits, wines and beers to sip on
Contact: The Canary Gin and Wine Bar – 2/3 Queen Street, Bath
Need to transport some liquid memories with you?
Independent Spirit Bottle Shop
Independent Spirit of Bath is a very well run, independent off licence that shies away from the commercial mass produced to favour the well made and the small and to champion the excellent over the banal or over hyped. Expect one of the best selections of craft spirits and craft beer – and will probably rival what your home town can do for you.
Electric Bear Brewing Co.
Electric Bear Brewing Co.’s new craft brewery is based in the heart of Bath, and incorporates a brewery taproom and shop to try and buy beers fresh from the source. check out their shop and Tap Room opening times to save you hassle.
Contact: Electric Bear Brewing Co. – Unit 12, The Maltings, Bath, BA1 3JL
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Anywhere we missed? Let us know below!