Accommodation for our stay was the Bath Priory Hotel leading Mrs criticalcouple to remark that finally, she was taking the overwhelming advice of her friends and checking into the Priory. Fortunately the regime is somewhat less austere and the promise of the evening dinner in the restaurant under the direction of Executive Head Chef Michael Caine MBE promised for a suitably indulgent evening. The hotel is indeed nice and is in the Bath style. An early glass of champagne on the garden terrace with the last of the afternoon sun followed by a nice cup of tea in an old school sitting room took us nicely to our evening booking.
The staff bless them were friendly, perhaps too much so, where quiet efficiency would have been better suited for what they are trying to achieve, but the wines were duly replaced and the starter then followed. The langoustine, sadly, proved to be the precursor of much of the food that night, under seasoned and essentially tasteless. The real comedy though came after the first course was finished when the kitchen by way of apology for our wait sent two complimentary plates of foie gras to our table for us. While the gesture of course was appreciated, that no one on the service staff figured that I had already just eaten a plate of foie gras highlighted the absence of experienced or senior over-sight that night. The main courses were sadly bland leaving us feeling that Michael Caines needs to spend a lot more time ensuring that what goes out in his name is worthy of doing so.
The wine for note was a Comtesse de Lalande though it lacked the power of another great second wine, Clos du Marquis which was on the wine list at a similar price. An octet of Macallan 10 year old whisky provided at least a comfortable end to the evening and ensured a good night of sleep.
Bath itself the following day was nice, even from under an umbrella. The Roman Baths themselves were a touch pricey but a must (and I guess that warm comfortable glow that your entry fee is helping sustain a genuine world heritage site), but it was Bath's narrow streets, pubs and eateries that were so charming. With most town High Streets so widely dominated by generic chains, it was nice to find individual shops with character including a lovely cheese shop (where a purchased Brillat-Savarin and Highland Blue would that evening grace our supper table paired with a Penfold Bin 707, 2004). A few doors down was The Salamander Bath ale house serving the local brew including the Barnstormer, Gem and Wild Hare, a must for ale fans.
The Streets were a delight and the people friendly. We look forward to returning to the city, leaving the car keys behind and getting to know the hospitality of Bath better.