Melissa Blease predicts warmer days ahead and chooses half a dozen places where you can eat alfresco this summer…
Readers of a certain age will fondly recall the BBC’s Tales of the Riverbank series, from the late 1960s/early 1970s which opened with scenes of real live animals such as Hammy the Hamster, Roderick the Water Rat, Wise Old Frog and assorted buddies pootling around their waterfront houses to a folksy, acoustic guitar accompaniment.
But even if such fond memories aren’t part of your childhood, The Boathouse will give you a taste of the riverside vibe I’m fondly reminiscing. Featuring acres of alfresco seating either on the pub patio or the lawns that roll all the way down to the banks of the River Avon, we’re in pastoral pub paradise even though we’re less than a ten minute drive from the centre of Bath.
Crowd-pleasing, flexible menus are served all day long (the Mediterranean sharing platters, Moroccan lamb cakes and steak burgers are all recommended), and prix fixe prices (two/three courses £10.95/£13.95 Monday – Friday, noon – 5pm) make the prospect of an impromptu staycation lunch an affordable treat.
Service can be a little slow during peak times on sunny days, so arrive prepared to go with the flow and expect to leave feeling thoroughly chilled out.
The Boathouse, Newbridge Road, Bath BA1 3NB. Tel: 01225 482584
As fabulous as the Olive Tree restaurant is (and it really is!), dining at the Queensberry isn’t only about head chef Christopher Cleghorn’s culinary wizardry. And while many of us will have already experienced the delights of the Old Q Bar before or after a Cleghorn feast, there’s much more to this seductive little cocktail hotspot than first meets the eye.
Venture outside and you’ll find yourself in possibly one of the coolest back gardens in town: a walled oasis rich in well-maintained, scented foliage and strewn with chunky, funky furniture that cleverly straddles the bridge twixt LA’s Chateau Marmont hotel circa 1973 and the kind of alfresco fittings from the Heals collection.
While you can’t take Chris C’s menus) outside, you’re welcome to select from a bar food selection, from smart nibbles to the hotel’s acclaimed burger by way of glamorous butties – when the sun comes out to play, the Queensberry rules.
Queensberry Hotel, Russel Street, Bath BA1 2QF. Tel: 01225 447928; web: thequeensberry.co.uk
Making the very most of the acres of greenery that surrounds it, Bailbrook House – formerly an 18th century mansion which looks back at Bath from its splendid vantage point, today the recent recipient of a £10m refurbishment courtesy of Hand Picked Hotels – brings a glamorous twist to the notion of informal and/or celebratory eating and drinking throughout the summer.
The Conservatory Bar features an alfresco patio offering views across impeccably-manicured woodland and hosts afternoon teas that segue into a light bite bar menu from 5pm everyday, while the Cloisters Restaurant – set in the original Bailbrook Mansion House itself – presents us with yet more spectacular views from a choice of vantage points including the characterful loggia (beneath ancient stone-vaulted ceilings adjacent to the restaurant), the thoroughly charming patio and a secluded, romantic little hideaway under the trees. Gorgeous? You’ve got it!
There’s parking too, which is always a bonus in Bath. Top tip: apply for free membership of the Bailbrook House Diners Club and max out on bargain benefits, all year round.
Bailbrook House, Eveleigh Avenue, London Road West, Bath BA1 7JD. Tel: 01225 855100; web: bailbrookhouse.co.uk
BISTRO LA BARRIQUE
It amazes me that many people still aren’t aware that Bistro La Barrique – one of Bath’s most creative, original, local independent restaurants – has a pretty, secluded courtyard garden, perfect for dining out on balmy days.
This sublime location offers the perfect spot to indulge in some petits plats, courtesy of Gallic charmer (and head chef) Michel Lemoine, who will tantalise your tastebuds with a selection from a seasonal menu that includes fabulous fresh dishes including warm ricotta, spinach and mushroom tart, lentil tagine, and mussels with pesto, white wine and cream sauce, all mingling happily with classics such as terrines, seafood pancakes and, of course, les escargots.
The set lunchtime menu (£10.95) and pre-theatre menu (£12.95) offer value for money, while a well-considered wine list complements the joie de vivre, guaranteeing to add a waft of cool French chic to those hot summer nights ahead.
Bistro La Barrique, 31 Barton Street, Bath BA1 1HG. Tel: 01225 463861; web: bistrolabarrique.co.uk
HOLBURNE MUSEUM GARDEN CAFÉ
The Victoria and Albert Museum was famously promoted as ‘an ace caff with a quite nice museum attached’ and one is reminded of that as you sit in the light Eric Parry extension at the Holburne which houses the museum’s café. Work, at the time of writing, is in progress on improving the garden space outside, and this is a lovely spot to sit among the trees to enjoy a fresh salad or delicious slice of cake.
During the summer the Holburne runs a series of Up Late events (on Friday 3 June, 29 July, 26 August and 30 September) when the museum and café stay open after 5pm until 9pm. For £10 entrance price visitors get a cocktail and admission to the main exhibition.
A lovely, sociable addition to Bath’s just-after-work scene, we think you’ll agree and for those couples looking for that potentially awkward second date scenario, a mix of art and conversation, with a tasty little glass of something, may take you on to a third date.
Holburne Museum Garden Café, Great Pulteney Street, Bath BA2 4DB. Tel: 01225 388572; web: holburne.org
There’s a lovely sense of urban sanctuary offered by Côte Brasserie’s prime position in Milsom Place. This elegant chill out zone makes the very most of this sheltered courtyard setting and on sunny days it’s the place to be seen sporting the latest in designer shades.
Meanwhile, the subtly glamorous upper-level terrace adds an extra dimension to what’s probably one of Bath’s chicest ‘see and be seen’ hotspots, and sliding doors opening onto a smaller, covered patio at street level cleverly incorporate an indoor/outdoor experience that ensures rain doesn’t stop play.
The Côte USP of ‘simple, freshly prepared French food at value for money prices’ served in Parisian inspired style means Bathonians can push the cross-Channel ferry out whenever the sun comes out without feeling as though we’ve travelled too far away from the down-to-earth price zone. Santé!
Côte Brasserie, 27 Milsom Place, Bath BA1 1BZ Tel: 01225 335509; web: cote-restaurants.co.uk