In recent years, the South West of England has gained attention because of its so called ‘comedy’ accents epitomised by Kerry Mucklowe, Vicky Pollard and Hot Fuzz. Of course, those of us who live here know that there is so much more to us than being gurt lush. So does Discover England who has just launched The Great West Way, a new 500 mile network of road, rail, river, canal and paths joining London to Bristol which encourages visitors to get off the beaten track and to explore just how much there is to offer outside of the capital. No doubt, one of the most popular destinations will be the World Heritage Site of Bath, made famous by its Georgian architecture, Roman-era baths and now, the home to two culinary giants: Pierre Koffmann and Marco Pierre White.
The two chefs, who hold six Michelin stars between them, have recently opened their first restaurant, which marries the French and British cuisine they are both known for. Koffmann & Mr White’s opened at the tail end of this summer at the Abbey Hotel Bath, marking not only the first step in a revival of the hotel which has just been bought by KE Hotels but also gives Bath another restaurant to rival it’s foodie neighbour, Bristol.
Naturally then the next time we visited Bath we dropped in for lunch. For those who visited when the restaurant was Rupert Taylor’s Allium Brasserie you’ll be pleased to know that the boudoir pink and chi-chi draped curtains have been replaced by muted bottled greens, dark polished wood flooring, banquettes and soft orb lighting. The walls are adorned with an eclectic mix of pictures and portraits and come the evenings candles sit on the tables. It’s got an understated elegance to it with a French brasserie feel.
On the menu you’ll find humble, comforting dishes which have been given the Koffmann and Mr White touch, such as Mr. Lamb’s shepherd’s pie, smoked sardines on toast and a sherry trifle for pudding. We started with warm sourdough from Richard Bertinet, (a Breton baker who now resides in Bath, you’ll find his cafe, kitchen and bakery all in the city) before following up with our starters. Rillettes of duck which came under a thick, hard layer of fat (we didn’t dare try this not wanting to miss Christmas due to clogged arteries) with green pickles and toasted sourdough. Our other starter of eggs Maxim mushroom duxelle brought together boiled eggs with golden yolks, earthy mushrooms with a rich, creamy hollandaise sauce.
Despite reading contradicting reviews we found that the fillet steak au poirve was perfectly cooked to medium rare accompanied by a stack of thick, beef fat chips and peppery sauce. For those looking for something a little lighter I recommend The Connaught’s coq and shrimp curry with sweet fresh mango, fiery ginger and buttered rice. We finished with one of my favourite puddings, Pain perdu (lost bread), not dissimilar to bread and butter pudding, it was served with toasted almonds and whilst the bread was warm the custard was cold. Whether it was intentionally cold or not, it’s not exactly going to warm your cockles on a bleak December day. We rounded off by sharing the Alex James cheese board which featured an excellent blue cheese.
To drink we went for the Coates and Seely Brut Reserve NV, an English sparkling wine, the vineyards of which lie on the farm that belonged to my great Grandfather in Whitchurch. The chalky soils and northernly climate makes the area of north Hampshire ideal for producing wine and the result is a dry, crisp, tangy bordering on steely, sparkling wine.
The only thing now is to get more people through the doors, I noticed that the reservation list looked longer for the evening service but for the majority of our lunch we were the only people in the restaurant. Hopefully once the hotel itself has had a much needed update it’ll encourage visitors and locals to venture further from Milsom Street (where you’ll find The Ivy Bath Brasserie) as Koffmann + Mr White’s is well worth it.
Koffmann & Mr White’s can be found at The Abbey Hotel, North Parade, Bath, Somerset, BA1 1LF