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22nd October 2011
Historical Bath is fast becoming a popular destination for food lovers. Renowned food blogger Kavita Favelle lists her must-visit attractions
Within the Roman Baths complex is the Pump Room restaurant, a grand and elegant space serving breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea, often to the sound of live classical music.
I heartily recommend the Beau Nash Brunch (£12.95) – two generous and delicious eggs Benedict, a pot of tea, a small glass of fresh orange juice and then, when you can barely eat another mouthful, toast and jam! If you're feeling more restrained, the Tompian Treat (£6.25) offers a more manageable pair of hot-buttered crumpets with blackcurrant jam, a pot of coffee and an apple juice.
The Pump Room has its own entrance, and entrance is free to diners.
You can also access it via the Roman Baths – one of the key attractions of the city.
Chocolate lovers should make a visit to Minerva Chocolate, founded and run by Philippe Wall. This charming and jovial Belgian chocolatier offers wonderfully rich hot chocolate to drink-in or take away. Of course, you can buy beautiful hand-made chocolates. And if you're really into your chocolate, why not learn more about the chocolate making process and try your hand at crafting your own, on one of Philippe's Chocolate Initiation Workshops.
Paxton & Whitfield is a cheesemonger with a heritage. Sam Cullen first set up a cheese stall in London's Aldwych Market back in 1742. As his business grew, he moved to the more affluent Jermyn Street and took on two new partners, Harry Paxton and Charles Whitfield. I'm not entirely sure why the business now carries only their names and not Cullen's, but today Paxton and Whitfield has four shops including the original in London's Jermyn Street, and three more in Stratford-upon-Avon, Bourton-on-the-Water and Bath.
Martin, the Bath store manager, and his team can talk you through their wide range of top quality cheeses and can help everyone from novices to aficionados learn more about cheese and find the right ones for your cheese board.
Paxton & Whitfield's truffled brie is the best example of its type that I've yet come across, not only heady with the aroma of this exclusive funghi but rich with the taste of it too.
Make time to intersperse the eating with some retail therapy at the wonderful Kitchen Cookshop on Quiet Street. It's a paradise for cooks, stuffed chockablock with all manner of kitchen equipment and I defy any cook to leave empty handed!
Lovers of real ale are spoilt for choice in Bath...
The Star Inn is a small and welcoming traditional pub dating back to the 16th century and is also the brewery tap of Abbey Ales, the only still physically located within Bath itself. Try a pint of Bellringer, a dry hoppy ale with a hint of bitter citrus finish.
The Raven is another attractive establishment serving decent real ale including a few beers brewed especially for them by Blindman's Brewery. Likewise, they are well known for delicious pies, made for them by Pieminister.
My pick of the bunch, however, is Bath Ale's The Salamander, a warm and welcoming pub offering a range of beers from popular Bath Ales. Their well-priced lunch menu offers deftly-cooked hot food as well as a range of sandwiches and I can definitely attest to the tastiness of their scotch eggs!
Sally Lunn's is not the only provider of Bath buns in Bath. But it's probably the best known.
The cafe's website relates their version of the history of the Bath bun: Sally Lunn was a Huguenot refugee (better known as Solange Luyon) who came to Bath in 1680 via Bristol, after escaping persecution in France. Finding work with a local baker, she introduced the light and delicate sweet bun to the town. The bun quickly became popular and its fame spread far and wide. Apparently, the original and secret recipe is passed on with the deeds to the house and still made there by hand. Strong insistence is made that their true Bath bun differs greatly to the London copycat version which is also called a Bath bun.
On the other hand, I have found reference to the claim that the Bath bun descended from the 18th century Bath cake, devised by one William Oliver, a doctor treating visitors who came to Bath for the famous spa waters.
Whatever the truth of its history, I recommend that you make a stop to sample the famous buns at this most famous purveyor.
The buns are available with a range of toppings including butter and strawberry or blackcurrant jam, cinnamon butter, traditional thick cut orange marmalade, rich raspberry topping, lemon curd, coffee and walnut butter, chocolate butter, ginger butter or brandy butter, most of which are homemade.
The menu also offers a wide range of savoury and sweet snacks including sandwiches, soups, rarebits, pâtés, a small range of full hot meals and sweet cakes, pies and tarts.
The buns look huge but they're lighter than we expected and the homemade toppings are good.
As an added attraction, the kitchen museum at the same site shows the actual kitchen used by Sally Lunn back in the 1600s. Entry is 30 pence.
If you have time to spend an extra day or two in the city, do check out the classes on offer at Richard Bertinet's cookery school. I've watched Richard's demonstrations and talks at food festivals such as Abergavenny and am determined to learn the best baking tips and tricks from the master baker as soon as I get the chance.
Bath is awash with great coffee shops. Asking for recommendations, resulted in a flurry of shout outs for the Colonna and Smalls Espresso Room, a tiny little place offering a small but regularly changing range of top quality single origin and blended coffees. The idea is to encourage customers to explore the way in which origin, variety, processing and brewing can affect the flavour of the finished drink.
Of course, you will also find other excellent food mongers, pubs and cafes, not to mention highly recommended delis and a wide range of restaurants. Those will have to wait till the next visit!
Kavita Favelle loves to eat, travel and take photos. Find recipes, restaurant reviews, cookery books and travel-eating at her food blog, Kavey Eats.
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