Johann Lafer at the Gainsborough - Bath
The highly anticipated Gainsborough Bath Spa Hotel finally opened its doors on Wednesday 1st of July 2015 after building developments postponed its grand opening last Spring and then again in Christmas 2014 too. Offering Bath luxury five star accommodation and the only 'Spa Village' in Britain that sources natural, mineral-rich thermal waters, this 'Leading Hotel of the World' has had Bathonian's and those further afield very intrigued for some time now. The Gainsborough Bath Spa can be recognized world-wide as a member of the reputable 'YTL' chain, and is the first to be introduced in the UK.
The hotel restaurant has partnered up with one of Germany's Michelin starred chef's and TV personalities; Johann Lafer. The philosophy he carries at his new restaurant; 'Dining Without Borders,' is based on sourcing local English ingredients and jazzing them up with Asian flavours. He then executes his dishes in exciting and innovative ways. Scott and I were excited to try out one of Bath's newest restaurants, so were delighted when we found ourselves dining there for supper on the second day of opening!
When we arrived close to 7:30pm the restaurant had one couple dining and a large party seated for supper too. We were surprised that the restaurant wasn't heaving with new diners, so the atmosphere wasn't exactly buzzing at first glance. So we opted for pre-dinner drinks at the hotel's snug bar before taking our seats for supper.
The bar overlooks a central atrium which boasts a dazzling pool and spa, held up by impressive honey-coloured columns. I went for 'The Gin Joint' (£16), a long and refreshing take on your classic G&T; fresh, muddled ginger blended with Tanqueray gin, apple liquor and lemon juice, topped with fizzy lemonade. It was sweet yet sharp and easy to drink.
Our drinks arrived with a terracotta plant pot stuffed with wasabi peanuts.
After about 20 minutes, we were taken to our seats at Johann Lafer's restaurant next door. Our table was quite small so if you like lots of elbow space, then you may find it a bit of tight squeeze here. The table was dressed with smart cutlery, art deco china and a quenelle of rich, golden butter topped with a herb waiting to be slathered onto thick, crusty brown soda bread.
After our orders had been taken, we were surprised with a delicious amuse bouche. A wafer thin cone filled with a sweet pork rillette stuffing presented on what looked like reindeer antlers to us!
Scott began with a 'Light Cream Of Chicken Essence' (£9.50) which came accompanied with shitake mushrooms and crispy chicken skin. Unfortunately, when it arrived, he couldn't taste the chicken essence at all, instead it was remarked that the dish tasted strongly of fish. We soon realised that there must have been some mix up over dishes at the kitchen passe. We mentioned this to a member of staff who happily replaced his dish with the correct broth, and, here it is!
I chose the 'Slow Cooked Pork Belly In Honey And Soy' (£12) which was served with a mango salad and sesame cream. Succulent, caramelized pork belly married with a sweet, fruity salad; it was delicious.
Onto the mains; I fancied the 'Roasted Sea Bass' (£30) that was served with macadamia nut gnocci, cauliflower couscous and curried potato fond. The fish was perfectly cooked and well seasoned, and the pink cauliflower couscous added a nice crunch and textural comparison to the smoothness of the fish. However, I couldn't help but think that the dish was a little overpriced.
Scott tried the tender 'Aged Aberdeen Angus Prime Rib Of Beef' (£30) which came with stuffed onions, yuzu cream, and roasted vegetables. Artfully executed and packed full of flavour, but also quite steeply priced.
After our drinks, starters and mains we could only make room for one pudding to share. We couldn't resist digging our spoons into the 'Mango Roulade' (£10.50) which arrived with a banana mousseline and peanut croquant. It was sweet, sticky, creamy, fruity and nutty; an interesting flavour combination.
Overall, we had a lovely, relaxing evening filled with good food and attentive, friendly staff. However, an evening here doesn't come cheap. Starters range from £9.50-£21, mains from £24-£30 and puds priced from £10.50-£11.50.
With all the confusion over one of our starters, we found ourselves eating our first course separately which wasn't ideal. Our pudding was taken off of our bill at the end of the evening for the inconvenience this caused us. The atmosphere in the venue also didn't improve much during the evening. However, this may have just been bad luck or bad timing on our part. However, given it was the second night of opening, we were expecting hoards of hungry, intrigued diners to be filling the otherwise empty seats beside us. But, I am sure this will have improved since the restaurant's opening in July.
The venue is smart, elegant and chic, so if you fancy an evening of fine dining in Bath then I recommend booking a table at Johann Lafer's 'Dining without Borders' restaurant.