Customers at Clayton's Kitchen in Bath enjoy a journey through Robert Clayton's past, combining stints in Michelin-starred establishments and pubs. Janet Harmer went to visit
There is no doubt that the launch 18 months ago of Clayton's Kitchen at the Porter in Bath has tapped into the current demand for good food in a laid-back environment. So much so, that the ground-floor restaurant has just expanded onto the first floor and now has a total of 150 covers, including private dining space.
Robert Clayton, previously the holder of a Michelin star at both Hunstrete House and the Bath Priory, heads the kitchen in what is the first restaurant venture to carry his own name.
He is delighted that customers are enjoying the food he is cooking, which clearly has its roots in those years spent within a refined, classical environment, combined with the more relaxed approach he picked up in his latter role as executive group chef for the six-strong Merchant Inns.
The main menu, available at both lunch and dinner, is where Clayton's creativity shines through. For instance, a starter of Little Haven crab - with the sweet white meat surrounded by a pool of sauce enhanced by the richness of the dark meat - is perfectly judged, with some pickled lemon and pickled pear providing
a welcome hint of acidity (£12/£24). Thinly rolled out Lavosh crackers - traditionally from Armenia - provide some texture.
Among the 13 main course dishes is a selection of Kitchen Classics, which are particularly popular at lunchtime or with customers who call in during the evening for just one dish. The choice here includes the likes of Mr Parson's sausages with mashed potato and vegetables, shallot sauce (£15), chicken breast salad with roast butternut squash, sun blushed tomatoes and pine nuts (£15) and venison steak in a toasted bun with tarragon mayonnaise, chips and red onion marmalade (£15).
Reflecting Clayton's classical background, honey roast duck breast, initially fried to crisp the skin before being finished in the oven for four minutes, is served with pak choi, potatoes sautéd in duck fat and a cassis sauce (£20).
"I like to use Creedy Carver duck from Crediton, Devon as they produce meat which is both tender and flavoursome," he says.
Sourcing ingredients with exceptional flavour is essentially Clayton's approach, as highlighted by the different varieties of rare pork he buys direct from Buttle Farm in Compton Bassett, Wiltshire. "We're currently serving Large Black pork with truffle mash potatoes, glazed balsamic shallots and Calvados sauce (£20)," he says. "We also like to use the farm's little-known Mangalitza breed of pig, which has a woolly coat and lovely dark meat, as well as plenty of fat, which renders down beautifully to give a lovely flavour."
For pudding, Clayton's deconstructed version of lemon meringue pie (£8) includes two types of meringue - thin slivers of the traditional kind and a pool of Italian meringue - alongside a trio of lemon flavours (posset, curd and segments). However, the biggest seller is the salted caramel and milk chocolate
mousse with Guinness ice-cream (£8), which the customers won't let Clayton take off the menu.
The selection of six mostly organic British cheeses (£12) are all from the locality and include the semi-hard Wyfe of Bath, the soft Kelston Park and Bath Blue.
The restaurant regularly serves 140 covers every Friday and Saturday evening, when spend on food is an average of £35 per head. At lunch, average food spend is £20.
Clayton's Kitchen is part of the Halcyon Group, owned by property developer Giles Thompson, which also incorporates the 21-bedroom Halcyon hotel in Bath, the Halcyon apartments and Porter's cocktail bar.
From the menu
- Ewe's curd and lemon zest mousse, roast and pickled beetroots, walnuts, balsamic jelly £8
- Crispy rillettes of braised duck leg, sultana purée, apple and pine nuts £10
- Roast saddle of fallow venison with goats' cheese crushed potatoes, January King cabbage, port wine sauce £24
- Market fish of the day, langoustine fregola pasta, butternut squash, fish velouté £20
- Vanilla panna cotta with Yorkshire rhubarb, rhubarb sorbet £7
- Praline parfait, poached pear, caramel sauce £7
Clayton's Kitchen at the Porter
15A George Street
Bath BA1 2EN