And so we finally did it. I dug the tunnel, the missus rode the motorbike over the barbed wire fence, and we did it. We escaped. Escaped to victory aka the Regency city of Bath.
It has been three years since we’d last spent a night together without our three children and we chose Bath because we fancied a dirty weekend. Lame joke, but it made me laugh!
We’d been saving up for months, cutting down here, trimming there. And so what if the kids had to survive on woodchips and cheap sausages. It was worth it.
We chose Bath’s historic Royal Crescent Hotel, a quintessentially English place, with super-polite waiters and forelock-tugging concierges, because we wanted to feel special. Pampered. After years of putting the children first, we wanted to put ourselves first. And we weren’t disappointed.
The hotel has a spa and all the facilities that goes with that, but we weren’t there for that. We wanted to wander at leisure, drink with pleasure and fill our boots with so much fine food that we’d be happy to wait another three years before doing it again.
Did we make the right choice to splash our £500-plus on? Well, if endorsement were needed it was right there in the breakfast room the very next morning when we spotted Northern legend and music journalist Stuart Maconie tucking into a truly magnificent Full English accompanied by (we assumed) his wife and a couple of old folks who were either his mum and dad or his lady’s.
If it was good enough for Stuart Maconie, it was damned good enough for us!
Anyway, I will spare the gory romantic details (after all, some things should be reserved for man and wife) but suffice to say, after a year of role-swap-induced stress, the Successful Other Half and I re-connected. And some. And before you ask, we went halves on the bill. I may be a Kept Man, but I still have my pride!
And so to the review….
We arrived just after lunch, after a steering wheel-gnashing 45 minutes trying to negotiate the hell of Bath’s one-way system on a busy Saturday afternoon, to be greeted by an old-school concierge, dressed in stripey bib ‘n’ tucker. He took the keys to our car, ensuring we didn’t have the stress of trying to find a place to park.
After we’d checked into our very lovely room in the suites in the Dower House at the back of the hotel, we went for a wander around the city, getting back in time for the football results before getting dressed for dinner.
The quiet bar area had an interesting mix of other residents, but they were united by the common bond of having a few quid and being quite Tweedy. Two men and a woman waxed lyrical about the virtues of La Boheme vs Die Fledermaus, while complaining that one of their daughter’s could only afford one skiing holiday this year because of the recession. A couple at the table next to us were either ignorant or were taking some kind of perverse pleasure in regaling the lowly-waged Eastern European waiter with tales of the best Mersault they’d ever drunk – and only £100-plus a bottle.
But who were we to get all snobby on a rare occasion like this? If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, so we each ordered a cocktail (a white peach Bellini for the wife; something that tasted like a white chocolate milkshake for me) expertly shaken by a cocktail barman called Michael, and pretended we were rich for the evening.
On the dot of 8.30pm, we were invited into the dining room, a very formal space with not a hint of modernity about it. Just the way we expected – and wanted – it to be. There was a slight hiccup at first, because we were seated right in between two other tables. I don’t mind shoulder-to-shoulder dining, but on this occasion, I wanted what I wanted: perfection, so I asked to be moved to another, more spacious space, and we were shifted without a hint of chagrin. The customer is always right – even if he’s an awkward bugger – but it was a great start on the service, though perhaps facilitated by my plea that it was our wedding anniversary, which it kind of was.
And it continued that way. Our waiter was attentive without being in-yer-face. Our wine glasses were never empty of the £44 bottle of Sancerre we’d ordered and we were given loads of time between courses to chat and appraise and, every now and again, mention the kids
We were given a complimentary amuse bouche to start. A thick, foamy mushroom spuma, which was delicious, though a touch salty.
For her starter, my wife had a slow-cooked duck egg, which had the texture of cream and the richness of a chocolate truffle. I went for roasted scallops with an apple jelly. I’m simplifying here, but if you’d like to see the full menu, it’s here. Anyway, both were glorious.
Our mains were both meaty. I chose squab pigeon, which had been cooked in a sous vide (chef’s water bath) before the breasts were removed and then pan-fried. It was served with a sublime smoked potato mash, beetroot puree and chocolate lentils. Chocolate?? The dirty b******ds. But it was sensational. Textures, flavours, mouth-feel. Everything worked.
My wife went for rump of marsh lamb, with what looked like a lamb sausage roll, which was also fabulous. Although I am pleased to report that on this occasion I didn’t get Plate Envy and was happy with what I’d chosen.
For dessert, my wife had pistachio cake with a citrus sorbet while I defaulted to type and chose a cheeseboard of the strongest cheeses in the humidor, including an upper palate-stinging aged Epoisses, which was sensational.
Sated and full of love for life and each other, we retired to our room, where my wife promptly fell asleep while I watched Match of the Day. A perfect end to a perfect day!