Melissa Blease arrives in Brock Street to revel in a Circus feast. Elizabeth David is quoted and high expectations are abundantly met, from mussels to banoffee pie
Situated on the gorgeous little thoroughfare that links two of Bath’s most famous architectural landmarks (that’ll be The Circus and The Royal Crescent, then), The Circus Restaurant is perfectly situated to attract both visitors to the city and those in the ’hood alike. And indeed, it offers broad appeal to both: tourists swoon over the location while locals view this long-standing foodie institution as their very own, with neither tribe finding reason to impinge on the perceptions of the other.
The modern brasserie-style, street level dining room could almost be described as cosy, albeit in a bright’n’breezy, contemporary way: subtly glamorous; stylish rather than snug. If you head downstairs, meanwhile, you’re transported into the kind of warmly welcoming environment that gently envelopes you in a soft, seductive comforter of bonhomie. This is not, however, a restaurant of two halves; wherever you choose to sit (including the alfresco tables that offer a distinctly Parisian street café vibe to an already appealing range of options), you’ll find yourself feeling as though you’re in exactly the right place at exactly the right time, from the moment you walk through the door.
The Circus is a restaurant with a great big heart at its epicentre, on multiple levels
As the esteemed food writer Elizabeth David once said, “real cooking implies a sense of immediacy, a capacity to capture the essence of the fleeting moment” – and The Circus menus reflect that glorious sense of immediacy in the very best possible way. Dishes change on a very regular basis to represent the very best of the season resulting in a broad selection of carefully considered, imaginative options as beautifully, meticulously described on the menu as they translate to the plate, sans pretension, conceit or charade. Vegetarian, vegan, dairy- and gluten-free diets are exceedingly well catered for, the characterful wine list is a joy to behold in its own right, and ingredients sourced from a roll call of our very best local suppliers and producers further up the ‘real food’ vibe – and that vibe resonated throughout our Circus feast from the get-go.
A dish of huge, glistening River Fowey mussels, their distinctively sweet, briny personality perfectly complemented by a softly fiery chorizo and red onion cream sauce, combined flavours of the British seaside with Iberian flair; on the other side of the table, sweet, moist salt cod tartare exhilarated by a cheerfully piquant medley of gherkins, capers, lemon and dill – enticing combinations indeed, with flavours and textures presented in perfect harmony.
For mains, rich, full-flavoured Creedy Carver duck was given a Char Siu makeover, the breast served soft and pink, the leg transformed into Korean jeon fritter, with kimchi slaw and cucumber in both roasted and ketchup format (yes, cucumber ketchup – it’s a thing) adding beautifully-balanced sweet/salt/spice hits at every turn. But fish – always sustainable; always super-fresh, of-the-moment – goes large at The Circus, hence our Fish of the Day choice: soft, silky rolled fillets of Cornish plaice served on an elegant puddle of mildly spiced, smoky/sweet aloo tikka masala sauce and topped with an elegant tumble of punchy fennel and kohlrabi slaw that bought further texture, flavour and fascination to the plate.
We did dessert at The Circus too because, at The Circus, they do dessert properly… like this: a sophisticated version of Banoffee Pie made with Dulce de Leche (think, caramelised condensed milk) with glazed bananas, and a Yorkshire rhubarb crème brûlée topped with a shimmering, dark amber burnt sugar ‘lid’ and served with a buttery, crumbly ginger sablé.
To quote Ms David again, “there are people who take the heart out of you, and there are people who put it back”. The Circus is a restaurant with a great big heart at its epicentre, on multiple levels; you’d be a clown not to roll up at your earliest opportunity.
This meal for two at The Circus Restaurant, without drinks, totalled £89 34 Brock Street, Bath BA1 2LN | Tel: 01225 466020 | thecircusrestaurant.co.uk