During our recent stay at The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa in Bath, we visited The Dower House Restaurant, which offers a luxurious in-hotel dining experience I’d recommend you try.
Located at the back of the hotel gardens, the views in summer – when the flowers and plants are in full bloom – I imagine, are beautiful. There’s a patio area in front of the restaurant which is perfect for al fresco afternoon teas, yet during winter, we discovered the restaurant is equally charming and offers a luxe evening out ‘pour deux’.
If you read the full hotel review of The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa, you’ll have spotted the boldly coloured cocktails that I sipped on pre-dinner in The Montagu Bar, which was a brilliant way to start the evening.
Once inside the Dower House restaurant, we were seated right in front of the window with maybe three or four other tables occupied around us. They seated us all together, which I guess was to help bring more ambience to what was a quiet evening. People spoke in hushed tones and there was a rather formal vibe to the place. So head sommelier, Jean Marc Leitao brought a brilliant balance to this otherwise conservative setting. He was jovial, funny, and spoke with a strong and lingering French accent which made me smile at every word. Having grown up in Brittany, he was as interested in our wine tastes as he was in where we’d come from and our personal stories. The result was a carefully-selected collection of wines to suit our personal tastes which impressed us no end.
For starters, BC had the ballotine of partridge with duck liver, spiced fruit, celeriac and bitter chocolate. It was a plate of dainty yet boldly coloured morsels that gave way to concentrations of punchy flavour. The accompanying Chateau La Croix Bellevue from Bordeaux was smooth and delicious.
The cured and smoked sea trout was supposed to be blow torched, and served with an oyster yoghurt soup, but we were told the equipment wasn’t working, so there was a lack of smokiness to this dish when I tried it. And instead, I believe, it was served with a champagne-based sauce, which was pleasant, and the Cornish caviar and fragrant samphire added depth to the dish. With this, I enjoyed a glass of Petit Chablis wine from Burgundy which was slightly oaky, but still light and fresh.
The mains were the standout dishes for us. The perfectly cooked salt marsh lamb was served with some novel flavours that I don’t think either of us had tasted in a fine-dining setting before. Think hints of curry oil accompanied with sweet carrot and subtle yet fiery hints of ginger. With a bed of quinoa and slightly salty baked feta, it had the gorgeous flavour combinations you’d perhaps get from Middle Eastern cooking fused with a Morrocan tagine. The Spanish Rioja Crianza worked fantastically with this dish.
The flavours were equally, if not more, exciting in my Roast Cornish stone bass. I’d gone for this option based on one of the staff’s recommendations and it was delicious through and through. For those who believe that cheese and fish should never meet on a menu, The Dower House restaurant will rapidly change your mind. While the gorgeous crisp-skinned stone bass sat alone on the plate, next to it was a medley of deconstructed cauliflower cheese and mussel scampi. On its own it looked like a delicated accompaniment but the super strong cheese flavours and comforting crisp of the scampi proved to be a winning combination with the fish and delicate parsley sauce on the side. I wish I could eat this dish again and again. The wine which Jean Marc paired with this dish was the Alamos Chardonnay from Argentina which had a smooth vanilla-like quality to it. Delicious.
After such an extraordinary main, I asked for the lightest and fruitiest dessert and the waiter’s suggestion of the poached Yorkshire rhubarb was ideal. It was served with a rhubarb sorbet and three variations of ginger: a ginger cake, ginger custard and pickled ginger. The pink and orange colours were gorgeous and the sharp and tangy notes were a welcome contrast after the rich main.
Like the partridge starter, the concentration of flavour in the Valrhona chocolate fondant was impressive. The fondant didn’t quite have the oozy nature we expected, but served artistically with various little morsels of chocolate, milk sorbet and tart cherry, it was a delectable and standout dessert.
We weakened to the suggestion of a couple of dessert wines at the end of the night. One a muscat, and the other a sweet glass of what I can only describe in very non-technical terms as liquid marmalade. It was the perfect end to a delicious evening at The Dower House Restaurant.
The service here is friendly and personalised and each and every customer is made to feel welcome. We had high expectations of The Dower House Restaurant, especially as it’s a member of the Relais & Chateaux group – and it has that special quality you can only get from a smaller hotel, helped by Jean Marc’s wonderful cheer.