All too often, I find myself being indecisive about where to eat. I wonder to myself; should I go back to one of my favourite restaurants? I know I will enjoy it, I can try something different from the menu and I don’t want to neglect the things I love. Yes? Good, that’s settled then.
But no, wait a minute.
Then my brain stops me and says, ‘why don’t you try somewhere new’. I then proceed to conjure up my long list of new openings and places I haven’t yet got round to visiting and then struggle to choose where I fancy. I know – first world problems right?
So when an email dropped into my inbox about me taking a trip out to The Bath Arms to do a review, I was well up for it. I haven’t done a review piece in a while and I all too often get consumed by the brilliant Bristol bubble and the many places to visit, that I forget to spread my wings and travel a little further afield.
The Baths Arms is a country pub and B&B situated on the edge of the Longleat Estate in Horningsham, Wiltshire and if travelling by car, takes roughly 40 minutes to get there from Bristol.
The pub is an impressive and charming building, encompassed by lush greenery and landscape. The stillness of the surroundings and fresh country air was a welcome change of scenery from the hustle and bustle of the city. Ivy leaves have crawled and settled on the pubs front wall leaving it looking rustic and autumnal, whilst just the sound of nature alongside crunching leaves underfoot could be heard amongst the sleepy village the pub stands in. The picturesque setting made the venue even more inviting and one twinkling lamp hung over the front door, enticing us to come in.
Inside, the décor and interior had all the trappings of a traditional pub; low slung doorways, sounds of glasses clinking and people chatting, plus that comforting smell of home-cooked food. It was very busy considering it feels as though it is in the middle of nowhere; I presumed it was a mixture of locals who live nearby and families or couples that were staying at the accommodation also offered here and took it as a good sign. The building has a few separate areas, the main bar meets you on arrival and has some high stools to perch on and smaller tables, it’s fairly casual and I spotted some lovely cosy corners and also took a peek out of the patio doors to a large beer garden out the back. There is another room to enjoy some drinks tucked away to the side of the pub, with a separate bar and then there is the restaurant, a grand and much bigger space, filled with antiques, large pictures mounted on the walls and impressive chandeliers.
The Bath Arms have recently welcomed a new head chef, Brian Hall. Brian has worked with the likes of Rob Clayton and Nathan Outlaw throughout his culinary career, and his cooking style is one of humble elegance. He enjoys working with the freshest seasonal ingredients and hand in hand with local suppliers, to create dishes he believes people will want to eat, whilst incorporating his own subtle twists or different takes on classics.
Brian’s current menu at the pub is full of simple yet hearty plates with a variety of red meat, game and fish to choose from. The produce is all sourced locally from the surrounding farmers and suppliers, whilst the game has been sought out from the plentiful grounds in the area. There is a children’s menu available and a few vegetarian choices within the main menu too.
Starters included choices such as free range poached duck egg with samphire Florentine, grilled scallops with chorizo and smoked chicken, bacon pistachio and apricot terrine. We went for the Oak smoked bacon, bubble squeak with hollandaise and a free range poached egg and the pan-fried local wood pigeon with blueberry salad. We also ordered the sharing breads with slow roasted garlic and balsamic oil, because you know, you can never have too much food.
My first dish was the wood pigeon. It was generous in size and presented well, the pigeon was a deep colour of pink and fairly chunky. I personally really enjoy the complex, earthy taste of this bird and it was cooked wonderfully; succulent, tender and rich. I have never tried the combination of blueberries with game but it worked really well, with the sweetness of the fruit balancing out the spicy, bold flavours of the meat. The mixed salad added a nice crunchy texture to the elements on the plate and we choose a delicious and quaffable Cotes Du Rhone to have with dinner which complimented the starter nicely. My fella is a bit like Joey from friends in that he’s normally eaten his food before thinking to offer me a taste, so I missed the boat on that one but his starter looked equally as impressive.
Choosing from the mains on the menu proved to be a little more difficult, as there were so many tempting dishes on offer here as well. Pub classics such as ruby red steak with triple cooked chips and the burger of the day offered simple, unfussy cooking whilst the stone sea bass with samphire, mussels and smoked roast potato or the pork porchetta with mustard mash provided choices which I thought steered away from traditional pub plates. We opted for the twice cooked guinea fowl with petit pois and caramelised shallots and fennel and the Wiltshire pork loin with pig’s cheek, parmesan and polenta cake finished off with apple puree and a sage jus.
Again, our portions were healthy and presented well, and we never waited more than fifteen or twenty minutes for each course. I was served a generous amount of guinea fowl, which was moist and meaty, there was a subtle hint of that rich game flavour I’ve often found when eating a different type of bird, mainly pheasant, and the fennel worked well to cut through everything nicely. I also tried the pork dish and I must say the pig’s cheek was fantastic; it fell apart and melted in the mouth beautifully. It was just delicious.
We managed to find space for dessert (don’t I always?!) so I chose a chocolate tart with coconut charcoal ice-cream. I am a chocolate fiend, so this was the perfect ending. Whilst the dish itself is quite classic, the charcoal ice-cream was a wonderfully different addition. It certainly added some edge to the plating and a faint coconut flavour and it was enjoyable having a soft accompaniment to the tart.
We thoroughly enjoyed our meal at The Bath Arms and I’ve got to make a special mention to the team of staff at the pub; nothing was too much trouble for them, they were all warm and friendly and our server Agnes was particularly wonderful. She was interested to see what we had ordered and gave us advice with the menu and she seemed genuinely passionate about food; she was very knowledgeable about how the pub works with sourcing ingredients. The whole experience was a pleasant one but everyone working that evening made it even more enjoyable.
This is a cosy, atmospheric and picturesque gem of a pub, which is modern in its offerings but still has heaps of rustic charm and has kept its original features. Ideal for families, groups and couples, I’d recommend visiting here if you are in the area or fancy taking a scenic drive somewhere a bit different. If you want a special treat you can take advantage of the guest rooms which range in price from £50 to £110. Sunday roasts are available too and on a nice day I imagine there’s not much that can beat a great feed followed by a stroll on the gorgeous surrounding grounds.
I was offered my meal for free as part of this review; however it has in no way influenced what was written. The Bath Arms had not seen this write up before it was published.