Head chef Daniel Moon has taken over the reins at this grand hotel in Bath to create food that shows his love for local produce with an Asian flourish, says Katherine Price
When the 99-bedroom Gainsborough Bath Spa hotel was opened in July 2015 by YTL Hotels, Austrian consultant chef Johann Lafer launched the hotel restaurant with an Asian-fusion, ‘dining without borders’ concept. However, over the past year, West Country-born head chef Daniel Moon has quietly been taking the menu back to basics with a focus on classical flavours.
You can’t argue over whether Moon knows his market – he’s been working in Bath establishments since 2002. He was previously head chef at Hunstrete House and was awarded three AA rosettes at Homewood Park in 2010 before three years at Ston Easton Park. He was also an Acorn Award winner in 2011.
“Bath’s beautiful. You’ve got loads of great products on your doorstep,” Moon says. With the city’s increasing portfolio of high-end offerings, it’s a hard market to crack, but his experience of the market and knowledge of local suppliers stand him in good stead. Although there are nods to Asian influences still on the menu (sautéed scallop with yuzu caviar and a duck spring roll) and Lafer’s name is still on the door, Moon has made seasonal, local produce the top priority. “It’s basically all my menu, all my food, all my guys,” he says.
The restaurant gets its vegetables from Bath Bus Station Fruiterers, which buys from the Bristol markets every morning and has a stall two minutes’ walk from the hotel, and its meat is from Walter Rose & Son butchers, just down the road in Devizes, Wiltshire. Although, he adds, they don’t mind going further afield for the best, such as Stornoway black pudding.
The menu’s Creedy Carver duck with spring roll, plum purée and sesame is a signature dish and harks back to Moon’s formative years in Exeter. “Creedy Carver duck from Exeter is one of the best ducks on the market,” he says.
The ducks are salted for a day and confited for another half day. A sour plum purée, cooked down to a jam-like consistency, balances the sweetness of the duck. “The key is to make sure the ducks have rendered down to perfection so you’ve got nice crisp, crunchy fat. Then I turn them over and let them rest just to make sure the meat is really tender,” he adds.
Another favourite is a starter of sautéed diver scallop with Pink Fir potatoes. The potatoes are diced and buttered and served with baby carrots that are roasted with sugar to bring out their natural sweetness, paired with leeks, rosemary salt and yuzu caviar and finished off with a rich haddock chowder.
“Rosemary salt gives a really nice little salt burst, and the yuzu bulbs cut through all the richness,” says Moon – and it’s creative additions such as these that keep the classical pairings surprising.
Moon sees cooking as a way of expressing his creativity. He had a flair for art at school and nearly pursued a career in architecture, but luckily, at the time, he had a part-time job in a kitchen, which led him down the path of gastronomy. “Food is art; your plates are your picture frame,” he says. He’s an enthusiastic social media user (he has 5,700 followers on Twitter) and he’s reading up on how to market himself on social media more effectively.
And thanks to Moon’s creative menu overhaul and some well-marketed lunch offers, it’s not just his social media numbers that speak for themselves. Moon says that when he arrived at the Gainsborough an average lunch service was two to four in the 50-cover restaurant – now his 10-strong brigade can do anything between 30 and 40 lunch covers each day.
He has plans to collaborate with students from Bath College and has the potential to take on trainees full-time. That’s another thing he loves about social media: it allows him to reach out to young people – “they see what you’re doing and they want to be part of it,” he says.
Whether it’s working on his menu, his social media profiles or engaging with young talent, Moon makes it his mission to never stand still. “We’ll always be raising that bar a little bit. When you stand still people overtake you, so we’re always trying to push on,” he says.
“We’ve had some real positive feedback from the AA and had Michelin in a couple of times [but] we don’t want to count our chickens. As long as we’ve got a busy restaurant and people are happy, that’s the main thing.”
From the menu
Cured loin of Mendip venison with beetroot quinoa, goat’s curd and pickled pear £12.50
Sautéed scallop with smoked haddock chowder, yuzu caviar and Parmesan crackling £13.50
Roast Creedy Carver duck with confit leg spring roll, plum purée and sesame
Loin of Wiltshire pork, braised cheek, salt-baked celeriac, Stornoway black pudding and cassoulet £28
Azélia Valrhona chocolate dome with chocolate ganache, hazelnut purée and salted caramel ice-cream
Apple cheesecake with prune purée, cinnamon doughnut and apple sorbet
The Gainsborough Bath Spa, Beau Street, Bath BA1 1QY