As you may have realised, I spend a lot of time eating and drinking. The majority of my evenings and weekends are normally spent scoffing and stuffing my face in various spots around Bristol, preferably washed down with a large glass of Malbec (or 20). So I quite often forget that the gorgeous city of Bath and all its food offerings is a mere stone’s throw away. I think now is the time to get acquainted with the food and drink scene there, and could there be a better starting point than with The Pig Guide for their supper club at the Combe Grove hotel and spa? I think not.
Combe Grove Hotel and Spa is situated just on the edge of the city of Bath, nestled amongst the trees and greenery; it reminded me of being at home in Devon. As I pulled up outside I was excited to see the interior, as it has recently had a bit of a facelift.
It was incredibly impressive. The hotel is simply gorgeous; decadent with eclectic furnishings and art adorning the walls, there are also plenty of small hidden details which you might miss if you do not have a keen eye – although for me, this was all part and parcel of discovering the different ornaments and decoration that I liked, you had to look a little bit closer and take your time. I felt a bit like Alice in Wonderland, going from room to room which each had its own personality. The only word to describe the view from the rear of the hotel is to say it was breath-taking. Unspoilt woodland that you could see for miles, I can only imagine how beautiful it must be in the summertime.
After a warm greeting from Melissa and Nigel from the Pig Guide (and a glass of fizz, darling) I was introduced to my other dinner companions for the evening who were all wonderful (I also made a new drinking buddy for life in the wonderful Bob Smith @Schmiffy12) The dining room was opulent with dim lighting and candles and I was already entranced.
The supper club was a showcase of head Chef Leigh Evans’ (@LeighEvans_chef) new autumn tasting menu. Five courses all accompanied with a cocktail made by our mixologist Shane Turner. This was a fantastic way to spend a Wednesday evening and the menu made me salivate just by looking at it.
First course was Tuna Tartar; cured tuna, watermelon, cucumber, radish and wasabi served with a frozen shot of Bristol’s Red Light’s own Dee Davies’ ‘Jinzu’ Gin. The tartar was splendid and I particularly enjoyed the combination of watermelon and wasabi in this dish, the smoothness of the watermelon along with the crunch from the wasabi and cucumber was a nice sensation and the neat gin was a fantastic accompaniment, incredibly smooth with hints of sake coming through afterwards.
The next course was my personal favourite of the evening, wood pigeon with black pudding, granola, orange, caramel, peas and chicory. A contradictory mix of ingredients that on paper didn’t look like they would work but it was just fantastic. This course was served with a Black Manhattan cocktail; Rye Whisky, Bourbon, cognac, Amaro and orange bitters. Quite punchy, the aromas from the bitters provided a nice aftertaste and the cocktail matched the dish well. The wood pigeon was soft and pink, paired with the black pudding and granola it tasted sensational. I would return again just to eat this dish alone.
The evening progressed with lots of chatter about plans for the hotel and how hopefully the restaurant itself will stand out alone as a talking point. This is a venue where you could come just for dinner, regardless of whether you are a guest or not, the food was on par with some of best restaurants I have visited and the hotel is easily accessible not being too far out in the sticks. It also feels extremely private, tucked away in the woods; like a secret you place you’d hear about through word of mouth, it feels exclusive.
Course three was stone bass with a BBQ chicken leg, sweetcorn, polenta and leeks. We were all a bit surprised to be served fish with chicken but it was sumptuous, with the fleshy fish falling apart beautifully. The cocktail that arrived with this dish was a Pepino Fumar; tequila, mezcal, cucumber juice, fresh line and ancho reyes. I really loved this drink (big fan of mescal) and although it was quite strong, the tequila and mescal did not overpower the flavour at all. Hic.
Followed by venison, I was starting to wonder whether the evening could get much better; served with red cabbage, smoked garlic dauphinoise, blackberries and onion ash – these ingredients complimented each other really well, with the onion ash lingering as a delicious aftertaste. The spiced Cuban beets that we had to go alongside the venison was interesting as this cocktail was made with beetroot juice – not your usual cocktail ingredient but it tasted lovely and went down very well with the group. It looked pretty as well and I like pretty cocktails.
We were spoilt for choice when it came to dessert as we were given two (you can just imagine my fat smug little face can’t you?!) first up was a passion fruit brulee with mango salsa and crisp coconut served with a basil colada which ingredients included basil infused coconut rum, pineapple juice, basil leaves and honey and black pepper syrup. The second dessert was apple, blackberry and liquorice which made up of a concoction of iced apple parfait, blackberry and liquorice beignet and tonka bean panna cotta. This came with cardamom lemonade, similar to the basil colada but mixed with vodka, cardamom, lemon juice and saffron bitters. Although both desserts were beautifully presented, I personally enjoyed the apple parfait more out of the two, which surprised me as when it comes to liquorice I am not a great fan. However, it was not overpowering as I picked up more of the apple through the smooth parfait and the flavour was amazing, really punchy and lingering in my mouth after I had finished.
So six courses and six cocktails down (and still coherent) I can only reflect on what was a glorious evening of culinary delights and drinks at Combe Grove. Beautiful surroundings and an elegant place to dine, it definitely feels a bit special. People don’t always flock to restaurants attached to hotels but let me assure you that the chefs and restaurant here are in a league of their own, and definitely worth checking out. I bet after seeing how stunning the place is you might just want to stay there as well.