Traditionally a city of genteel Georgian tearooms, Bath's lively new dining scene offers innovative vegetarian eats, craft beer and plenty of creative young chefs
Take a weekend away in the West Country's most elegant city, for fine dining, hip cocktails and reimagined pub grub at these top gourmet spots.
A favourite of local chefs and civvies alike, this was nominated independent fish & chip restaurant of the year in the 2016 National Fish & Chip Awards. Come here for brilliantly fresh fish, including some of the best haddock & chips I've eaten. Look out for deliciously plump Cornish mussels too. Haddock & chips, £13.95; mussels, £6.
This cosy wine bar, run by local Richard Knighting and endearingly eccentric former acrobat Marty Grant, is a great place to try interesting wines – many of which they import themselves. With 50ml tasting samples on offer, you can try several, fortified by a regularly changing menu of substantial small plates, such as crab on toast. Booking essential. Two course lunch menu £15, small glasses of wine, £4-6.
Menu Gordon Jones
Best for: Special occasions
Menu Gordon Jones, whose chef used to cook at Bath's landmark Royal Crescent Hotel, is a strong contender if you're after innovative food. The no-choice menu won't be for everyone, but it's a real gastronomic experience. Surprise six-course luch menu, £55, seven-course dinner menu £60.
Sit at the counter of this conveyor-belt sushi bar and watch the chefs skilfully wielding their razor-sharp knives. The freshly made maki rolls are particularly good, as is the refreshing seaweed salad. Deep-fried dishes, such as octopus and gyoza, are slightly less successful. Dishes from £2.30.
Best for: Child-friendly
A Bath institution, Woods has been going since 1979 and has a loyal following among locals who love its retro food and decor. Ideal for a light lunch or for cosy get-togethers with family. Mains from £14.25; two-course lunch/early dinner, £19.95.
This stylish restaurant offers beautifully presented, imaginative food, including a full vegan menu. Clever combinations of flavours and textures include a warm chocolate tart with Szechuan custard. A great deal on cava by the glass (£7.50) makes this ideal for a romantic evening out. Mains from £26; four-course tasting menu, £50.
Friendly, Italian-run Dough would be nice enough as a standard pizzeria but delivers far more, including alternative crusts, which range from hemp to nutty Italian grano arso (scorched grain). Not cheap, but four people could easily share three pizzas. Sit near the front to watch the pizzaioli expertly spin the dough. Pizzas from £7.95.
The Pulteney Arms
Best for: Child-friendly, cheap eats, casual dining
There are more beautiful pubs in Bath, but the slightly scruffy Pulteney is a favourite with locals. Sunday roasts are a particular bargain, with hearty portions of roast beef & Yorkshire pudding. Skip the starters and leave room for old-fashioned puds such as apple crumble & cream. Mains from £10.
Best for: Casual dining
You’ll need to book well ahead for this hugely popular Vietnamese supper club run by the diminutive, bubbly Noya Pawlyn. For £40 you get five generous, beautifully cooked courses of vibrant, spicy food. The chicken salad with fish sauce chicken wing is to die for. It’s also BYOB – order your wine ahead from nearby Great Western Wine and they’ll deliver.
Best for: Casual dining
A dark atmospheric cocktail bar of the kind you’d be more likely to find in Shoreditch than Bath. Everything about the place, from the decor to drinks, is sourced from West Country producers, materials and workmen. Cocktails change seasonally, expect cocktails like the Orange Grove (Beefeater gin, clementine liqueur, apricot, fresh lemon, Wild Beer ‘Pogo’, lemon tonic), and Ten Cent Pistol (Wild Turkey Bourbon, banana, lapsang-infused honey, fresh lemon, bitters), at £9.50. Add to this a super-cool soundtrack and it’s clear why Dark Horse was listed among the best new UK bars of 2016. Conveniently central too.
Best for: Casual dining, cheap eats
Not quite as French as the name would suggest, but there’s some good bistro cooking at this cosy little family-run bistro on Argyle Street. While some dishes acknowledge the French influence, others have more of an Italian vibe. Great value set lunch/early evening supper at just £15 for two courses.
Best for: Casual dining, cheap eats, child-friendly
One of Bath’s many institutions, this endearingly retro café is a cheap and friendly place to grab a bite from a hearty English breakfast to a tapas menu later in the day. There are more authentic tapas bars but at £4.50/£5 for a generous dish, this place offers terrifically good value. Try the Cornish sole goujons if they’re on.
Ex-street food trader Niraj Gadher offers delicious vegetarian takeaway food from what is basically a hole in the wall in Monmouth Street. Try his onion bhaji roti wrap, which comes with crisp little bhajis, a crunchy salad, tangy tamarind and mint sauce and a samosa on the side – all for £6. Understandably there are always queues.
Seated over two floors (upstairs is jollier), this popular local restaurant occupies a Georgian house between two great Bath landmarks, the Circus and the Royal Crescent, and offers home-style English dinner party cooking at reasonable prices. Good value house wine at £4.90 a glass, and they source direct from small producers as much as possible. Mains from £13.70.
Bath is spoilt for good coffee places (rivals speak of the trailblazer Colonna & Small’s with reverence), but this cool little coffee shop on Kingsmead Square offering a carefully sourced range of coffees and indulgent hot chocolate is worth a shout-out as a good central meeting place. There are outdoor tables during fine weather.
Best for: Casual dining
A quintessential gastropub, the King William ticks all the boxes when it comes to modern British food. There are hearty plates of King William 'pie of the day' with mash and veg (£19), and more elaborate Michelin-style dishes (they did a gin tasting menu during last year’s Great Bath Feast food festival), plus good craft beers and a decent wine list. The two-course lunch at £15 (£21 on Sundays) is great value.
Even if you’re not staying at this stylish new boutique hotel, find time to drop in for a drink. It’s quite an experience. The cocktail menu, which ranges from the classic to the quirky, is printed on playing cards. If you don’t feel quite strong enough, there’s a good wine list, too.
This popular London Street steakhouse is the place to go in Bath if you’re craving a large hunk of meat. Steaks, which range from flatiron (£18.50) to fillet (£26.50), are aged for a minimum of 35 days. There’s also a towering burger & chips (£14.50), which should please hungry teens.
5 foodie places to try
Bath Farmer's Market
One of the best in the South-West, this Saturday morning market has a great range of produce (don't miss smoked fish from Felce Foods).
The Fine Cheese Co.
Bath has two top-notch cheese shops (the other is Paxton & Whitfield), but Fine Cheese has a more wide-ranging selection, along with fabulous condiments and prepared plates.
Lately downsized from a café to a tiny bakery, Bertinet still remains the place to buy sourdough.
Comins Tea House
A cool, contemporary tea shop offering an astonishing range of authentic Chinese, Japanese and Taiwanese teas. Enjoy dumplings at lunchtime and cakes in the afternoon.
Is there anywhere we've missed? Let us know in the comments below...
All recommendations have been reviewed and approved as of May 2019 and will be checked and updated annually. If you think there is any incorrect or out-of-date information in this guide, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.