I felt as if we consumed a series of paintings that night. The dishes on Chris Cleghorn’s tasting menus at the 3 AA Rosette Olive Tree Restaurant, you see, are beautifully crafted, visually outstanding food creations. Each one has a striking design artistry – and they certainly deliver on taste.
One of the dishes on my seasonal tasting menu saw a glistening fillet of cured trout to the left, a circular daub of horseradish sauce to the right garnished with a detail of pink grapefruit and a delicate frill of dill, these connected by clusters of horseradish and a trailing pale green dill jus. The food composition sat within the pale grey centre plate, surrounded by the wide rim of a charcoal grey glaze scratched chalkily with light grey. The flavours were deep, alluring, harmonious, stirring the palate into tuneful appreciation.
The Olive Tree Restaurant, located in the basement of the Queensberry Hotel, is low-lit and sober and carries a polished finesse. There is a sense of history within the walls that goes beyond the Georgian fabric – there’s an old-fashioned formality in the service, an appreciation of the customer, an awareness of fine wines luxuriating in the cellar waiting for their outing, and, ultimately, a traditional, exclusive eating experience undiluted by technology.The Olive Tree restaurant
The restaurant manager, Román, who was from Seville, surveyed the waitress’s delivery of the plates to our table and her detailed explanation of their content. Then, for each dish, he introduced a bottle of wine, pouring out a glass, summarising its qualities and telling us why it worked with the course. We didn’t share the wine. Oh no. Each tasting menu – mine the seasonal one with five courses and Rob’s the signature one with seven courses – was served with individually selected glasses of wine to suit the dishes. (The wines accompany each tasting menu for an additional price, but certainly heighten the gastronomic experience, so don’t skimp on this.)
Another of my dishes was lamb rump with aubergine, wild garlic, curd and mint. Once again a statement with visual impact, two medium-rare portions of succulent lamb in the centre, nestling in between a curd sauce and a lozenge of ingredients defined by aubergine, and extended dark green shoots of wild garlic steeping in the meat juices. Each dish – each part of each dish, in fact – was an intense, one-of-a-kind flavour experience.
If I had to choose a favourite dish, it would be the middle course, monkfish with purple sprouting broccoli, onion and mussels cream. The fleshy leaves of the onion were left intact, the sweet crunch balancing the clean taste of the monkfish and the mini-heads of broccoli, all absorbed by the salty depths of the mussels cream.Veal and asparagus
My dessert (there was a choice of two on my menu) – egg custard tart with rhubarb, blood orange and vanilla – was creamy, sweet and divine, the underlying citrus and rhubarb tang accenting the experience. Rob’s dark chocolate parfait with yoghurt sorbet and (we marvelled) green olive was unexpected, inspirational, uplifting.
Each dish is the result of many expert investigative hours by the head chef Chris Cleghorn who has worked with Michelin-starred chefs Heston Blumenthal, Michael Caines and Adam Simmonds. His experimention with fresh, local ingredients from the very best suppliers results in a composition of textures and tastes that – in our humble estimation – touched perfection, again and again.
I had plenty of room for my five-course menu as well as an appetizer, portions of homemade rye and treacle bread with clotted cream butter, and some tiny but packed-with-potency petit fours to finish, as they were all delicate servings, but there was a richness there that needed time to savour. The waitress invited us to walk around, stretch even, between dishes, to give everything room to settle. While we did not feel the need to do this, it still took us over three hours to complete our meal. And there was no fidgeting or toe-tapping involved – that was just how the gastronomic experience flowed.The drawing room
So, at a few minutes past eleven we made our way to our deluxe fourth floor suite within the Queensberry Hotel. There is a lift, but we wanted to climb the Esher-like meanders of period staircase, twisting up and along and down and around in a plush, eccentric style. There was no visual illusion in the way the stairways took their path, but there were either/or ascent options and some concentration was required to reach our destination. This impression of meandering stairs is created by the hotel having been created from four town houses on a hill, so each staircase has its own level.
We had settled into our top-floor Georgian eyrie earlier, but arriving once again made us freshly delighted with the interior. There was a spacious sofa, a magazine-filled coffee table, a flatscreen TV, a walk-in luggage room and wardrobe (so luggage can be completely hidden from view), an ensuite with twin basins (Rob allocated the left-hand one as mine) and fresh white towelling dressing gowns hanging on the door. Oh, and a selection of complementary chocolates. The bed itself I had already established was deliciously soft, and so the scene was set for the sweetest of dreams. The deluxe bedroom suite
Breakfast the next morning offered a generous buffet of continental-style choices – homemade granola and cereals, freshly baked breads, pastries, sweet apricots in syrup with poached Argen prunes, charcuterie, cheese and a choice of four fresh juices or a morning smoothie. Cooked breakfast options included grilled kipper served with butter and lemon and Westcombe Cheddar cheese omelette. I wished I had more room to enjoy it all.
Staying at the Queensberry Hotel, and its magnificent Olive Tree Restaurant, which has just been awarded four AA stars, is a boutique hotel experience that shouldn’t be underestimated. Here you’ll find contemporary comfort, plush interiors, period character, an attentive service, and a restaurant with an exclusive, no-holds-barred modern menu all of its own. And, whenever you choose to start your day, the city of Bath is right on your doorstep.
A midweek overnight stay, on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday with a five-course seasonal tasting menu and breakfast starts from £149.50 per person, based on two people sharing.
If you are eating at the restaurant only, the five-course seasonal tasting menu is £68, with five individualy selected glasses of wine at £47.50; the seven-course signature tasting menu is £82, with six individually selected glasses of wine at £57.50.