Food review: Montagu’s Mews at the Royal Crescent Hotel
Melissa Blease visits the recently refurbished and relaunched bar and dining experience at the Royal Crescent Hotel
Rich in fascinating history and cultural heritage, renowned across the globe for iconic architectural status and subtly exuding the kind of discreetly luxurious red carpet glamour rarely experienced outside of a handful of London’s grand old dames of the 5-star hotel scene, the Royal Crescent Hotel and Spa has to be one of the most sparkling jewels in Bath’s ornate crown. But precious gems need a little TLC from time to time – and recently, the Royal Crescent has taken TLC to a whole new level, refurbishing its bar and dining experience and relaunching as Montagu’s Mews, named after Elizabeth Montagu, the original resident of number 16 Royal Crescent, host of the Blue Stockings Society, writer, salonière and advocate for women’s education.
There’s no doubt that Ms Montagu would adore her old home’s new look, complete with a brand new heated, partially covered terrace in the hotel’s breathtakingly pretty garden. But it’s in the reception area twixt alluring bar and invitingly elegant dining room that the full impact of the refurbishment wraps itself around you: the soft, skilfully sensual hues (dark rose, burnt orange, crème brûlée); the combination of plush sofa, funky bucket, banquette or bistro seating covering all dining moods and modes; the intelligently seductive, harmonious mood lighting; the subtly convivial ambience… it’s all, quite simply, an oasis of modern luxury. What hasn’t changed recently, however, is the chef at the helm in the kitchen – and for that none-change, we have yet another reason to be cheerful.
Martin Blake joined the RCH Team in 2021, bringing over 12 years of experience at some of the south west’s best hotels and restaurants with him and today maintaining the hotel’s bouquet of 3 AA rosettes. Martin and his team focus on creating classic modern British dishes which are clean, elegant and perfectly executed – perfectly suited, then, to his new environment. Within that new environment, we took to a table in what could be called the inside/outside conservatory area of the dining room where a team of super-welcoming, well-informed staff danced from table to table making sure that all-comers’ expectations are exceeded. Following our pre-dinner cocktails (an absolute must) and shared Shokupan – a Japanese version of brioche – served with a tidy heap of taramasalata and proper butter, we started our voyage around Martin’s menus, which waltz from our à la carte choices to a range of tantalising Tasting Menus including both vegetarian and vegan options.
To begin, a deceptively complex Beef Tartare wrought from neat cubes of Dry Aged Herefordshire Beef topped with a smooth, rich Bath Ale Hollandaise and lightened with citrussy/sweet IP8 vinegar, and a second plate of smooth, aromatic Wild Garlic Velouté topped with a Crispy Hen’s Egg, with silky, semi-translucent slithers of Dorset Guanciale (think, a deeply flavoursome Dorset version of Pancetta) ‘hidden’ underneath the whole combination – stunning starters indeed.
For mains, sweet, tender poussin accompanied by the first of the new season’s Wye Valley asparagus in both spear and ravioli format, the ravioli embracing an almond uplift, the addition of an almond pesto dotted hither and thither bringing the whole theme together and a deeply flavoursome chicken jus rôti, adding deeply umami undertones without detracting from the overall delicacy of the dish. Across the table, a classic combination of succulent ribeye steak elegantly slathered with intensely savoury Café de Paris butter and accompanied by charred hispi cabbage, plump, roasted vine tomatoes and beautifully seasoned rosemary salted chips – ‘steak and chips’, elevated to stellar heights.
Even after all that, we couldn’t resist the prospect of Valrhona Kalingo – Kalingo being one of the most extraordinary chocolates in the whole Valrhona range, here cleverly partnered with caramelised banana and hazelnut, resulting in a sort of very upper-crust version of a Double Decker bar. But we didn’t overlook the Amalfi Lemon Tart either: a lighter yet no less sophisticated dessert served with rich, tangy crème fraîche, a touch of fresh basil adding further foodie flair.
Martin is a Master of the Art of technique, presentation and inspiration that cleverly avoids that over-cheffy habit of straying away from the realms of common sense. Like Montagu’s Mews itself, his menus gently challenge your perceptions of familiarity but make you feel right at home; the new old jewel in Bath’s ornate crown sparkles very brightly indeed.
Our meal for two at Montagu’s Mews, without drinks, totalled £122.
Montagu’s Mews, The Royal Cresent, 16 Royal Crescent, Bath BA1 2LS; Tel: 01225 823333; royalcrescent.co.uk