Since taking over the Abbey hotel in Bath, Ian and Christa Taylor have relaunched the restaurant as the Allium Brasserie, where head chef Chris Staines has created an Asian-influenced menu. Janet Harmer reports
A major transformation has taken place in the eating space at the Abbey hotel in Bath, with the previous dark decor replaced by the fresh design of the newly launched Allium Brasserie. Oak flooring, plush purple seating and vibrant modern art on the walls have replaced the dark blue carpet and fake Georgian panelling of old to create a space that is inviting and attractive.
Relaunching the restaurant was one of the first tasks Ian and Christa Taylor took on after they bought the 60-bedroom hotel at the beginning of the year. They intend to invest £1.5m in transforming the three-star property into a mid-market boutique hotel and have the track record to do so, having won three Cateys - Independent Hotel of the Year in 2005 and Best Independent Marketing Campaign in 2005 and 2007 - at Cotswold House in Chipping Campden, a property they later sold.
Central to the launch of the Allium Brasserie in June has been the recruitment of Chris Staines as head chef and F&B director. Staines achieved widespread success heading the kitchen brigade at Foliage at the Mandarin Oriental, London, where he held a Michelin star for seven years, after previously working as chef de cuisine at Marco Pierre White's three-Michelin-starred Oak Room.
Located in the city centre close to the 16th-century abbey, Allium Brasserie benefits from a wide expanse of pavement outside, providing space for 45 diners in addition to the 54 covers inside.
The all-day eaterie offers a relaxed, friendly vibe and a menu that provides something for everyone, whether they want to linger over a three-course meal or just enjoy a quick a drink and one of the delicious nibbles such as wasabi peas with salted cashews and smoked almonds (£3), whitebait with smoked paprika and garlic mayonnaise (£4) or quail scotch eggs with apple chutney (£3.50/£6.50).
Staines changes two to three dishes on the set-price menu (£14.94 for two courses and £19 for three courses) and à la carte menu each week to ensure that regular diners always have something different to try.
A big seller among the starters is the salad of beetroot, radicchio, goats' cheese and hazelnut dressing (£7.50), while the miso-cured salmon with oyster fritter, cucumber and wasabi (£8.50) is one of many dishes which reflect Staines's love of Asian food.
"There are so many exciting flavours found in Asian cookery that when refined and used properly provide a wonderful balance and harmony in a dish," he says. "It's a cuisine that intrigues me."
The most popular main course, for instance, is the slow-cooked belly of pork with aubergine sambal and cured shrimp omelette (£18.50) which involves the pork being soaked in brine overnight before being vacuum-packed with soya sauce and aromatics and cooked gently in a water bath.
The accompanying deep-fried aubergine is combined with tamarind, tomatoes, fried garlic, fish sauce, a smattering of chillies and chilli oil, while the omelette incorporates what Staines calls "flavour bombs" of shrimp, which have been marinated in lime juice, palm sugar and fish sugar.
To round off a meal, diners can select the weekly changing selection of British and European cheeses served with grape chutney, celery and biscuits (£7.50) or one of four desserts such as lychee panna cotta with pineapple, mango and lemon grass granita or summer berries, orange mascarpone and vanilla ice-cream.
North Parade, Bath,
Somerset BA1 1LF
Sample dishes from the menu
Celeriac soup, cured pork, king prawns, apple and chestnuts £7.50
Quail glazed in chilli caramel, Chinese cabbage, hearts of palm, lychee and coriander £9.50/£14
Flame-grilled mackerel, pickled vegetables, rocket and warm salt cod brandade £9.50
Fillet of Cornish hake, parsley quinoa, chestnut mushrooms, grapes and roast chicken jus £17.95
8oz rib-eye steak served with roast garlic, parsley salad, bone marrow and triple cooked chips £23
Herb and Parmesan gnocchi, new season peas, broad beans and gem lettuce £14.50
Strawberry cheesecake, strawberry sorbet and fresh strawberry salad £7.65
Poached peach, lemon thyme ice cream, sugared almonds and Amaretti biscuits £6.65
Pistachio sable, lemon curd, raspberries and pistachio meringue £6.96